How to use your imagination to enhance your life
Whether you think you’ve got a good imagination or not I’ll bet my mortgage that since you’ve become a parent it’s had a certain boost. From risk assessing situations (visualising said child hurtling head first off climbing frame), conjuring images of your little one distraught and alone at nursery to reliving your own experience of school (the bad bits). Now this all serves a purpose – to keep everyone safe – but this super charged skill can become limiting too. It can turn us into risk adverse nervous wrecks and this reduces our perception of choice and possibility.
Ask yourself this, how good are you at using your imagination in a positive way….to help you visualise and achieve your goals, to boost your confidence and self belief? Your response to this may be “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about…what do you mean use your imagination. Isn’t that what my kids do when they’re pretending to be Pepper Pig or Harry Potter?”
Well, as I’ve said many of us are awesome at using our imagination but in ways that aren’t exactly helping us to get where we want to be. Let me explain. We engage our imagination when we assess a situation. We imagine what would happen if we go blank at the job interview or we imagine how bloody great the cake will taste if we eat it. We go to “what if’ thinking and this tends to result in an imagined experience of some description. Now, while this is an effective survival mechanism it unfortunately also makes the things we want to avoid irresistible and allows us to envisage worst case (and often unlikely) scenarios in vivid, graphic, SONY SOUND detail. There’s no balanced argument either – the automatic response can be severely one sided. Unless you learn to actively dispute and direct your imagination in a different direction, diets are broken, job opportunities are missed and certain things in life become rather uncomfortable.
Train your brain
Now it sounds like I’ve got this licked right? Er no. I caught myself this morning (it was 6am granted) allowing my thoughts of “you’re doing HIIT exercise today to generate an imagined ‘experience’ of being in a physical state requiring mouth to mouth resuscitation. Now at that moment I faltered, I began to convince myself that doing the said routine was bad for my knees and that a better plan would be to make another cup of tea. Now this would have been a slippery slope for my health regime so over the years I have trained my brain to experience the positive side of doing the exercise – to experience the benefits. I imagine what it will be like if I don’t do it (I feel bad for the rest of the day) and how I will feel if I reach my goals. This is what gets me in my P.E. kit ready to kick my own arse.
You can change
Our imagination is a pretty powerful thing. If it can trigger severe anxiety, avoidance behaviour and other unwanted stuff can you imagine what it can do if we direct it in a more positive helpful way.
So how can we do this?
It takes conscious effort and practice. When you find yourself conjuring up ‘worst case’ nightmares notice, stop and dispute the thoughts and images. Ask yourself is this view of things balanced? Imagine the other side of the coin – you nailing the interview, running and training effortlessly or whatever it is you want to do.
Understand your negative imagination triggers. Most of us have things that set off the train of thought that sparks the imagination into overdrive. For example, it might be packing your gym kit or when you’re driving to work. Get to know these triggers and override them by actively imagining yourself doing what you want to do (achieving your goals). If you’re consciously doing this regularly then overriding the trigger points will get easier.
One of the things you can do is learn self-hypnosis to engage your imagination and focus your mind on where you want to go rather than where you don’t. Ooooo I hear you say, sounds a bit woowooo. Honestly, it’s actually super straight forward and a normal psychological process. It’s about learning to turn down your inner critical voice, tune out of distractions and hubbub and together with a bit of belief and positive expectancy concentrate on a dominant idea (nailing the interview, feeling confident and relaxed at an event or whatever it is you want to achieve).
I’ll be putting together a self-hypnosis audio that will teach you how to focus your mind in this way and how you can use it. Self-hypnosis doesn’t need to take hours either – a regular 5 -10 minutes can work wonders. Sign up here to get your free guide when it’s available.
Your brain is your friend
Your brain is doing the best it can to keep you ticking along in relative comfort and safety. Sometimes however, the assessment or hypothesis it creates doesn’t take into account the wider implications of certain outcomes and we end up limiting ourselves, our possibilities (and feeling crap to boot). We can train ourselves, our brains, to see the alternative, balanced view. We can train our brains to serve us better.