When I was in my mid-20s, working as an assistant in the marketing department of a large company, I saw the movie Outbreak. I don’t know if you remember it, but it’s about a team of scientists who are fighting an Ebola-like disease that’s accidentally introduced into the US.
The main thing I remember about it is that I was enthralled with the fact that the scientists were involved in life-or-death scenarios that only a select few were qualified to handle. In the movie they worked for the CDC, and I thought how exciting it must be to work for such a prestigious organization that didn’t hire just anyone.
I vividly remember getting lost in a brief daydream in which I became one of those people. I imagined myself on the front lines of the epidemic, wearing a hazmat suit and shouting out orders for more medicine. (Stop laughing.)
The daydream lasted about a minute until I snapped myself back to reality: “Um, yeah, right.”
Fast forward 25 years, and I am now a full-time employee of the CDC as a technical writer and editor. My daydream — minus the hazmat suit — became a reality.
How did that happen?
Realize that I’m in no way suggesting that any number of people couldn’t do my job, nor that it’s the most impressive career of all time. I am far from ground zero of the outbreak of a deadly virus. The point of my story is that it shows how powerful visualization is.
But let’s look at what happened more closely. I didn’t go from daydream to job title. A substantial amount of time passed between that experience and the reality that manifested. And there were a lot of steps that led me from point A to point B.
The most significant thing about it, though, is that I had no intention whatsoever in making that happen. I accidentally used the powerful visualization technique, and it imprinted such a vivid image in my brain that it subconsciously impelled me to keep acting on it.
Here’s how it played out. I developed an serious interest in science that led me to switch careers and pursue a degree in nutrition. While in school I applied for a CDC internship. I got the internship (to my complete bewilderment) and later found out that my resume had just “happened” to land on the desk of a senior editor of a journal that was looking for someone with degrees in both science and English, which I “fortunately” had.
As the one-year internship was wrapping up, I was “lucky” enough to have it extended — which apparently never happened — and I also started getting paid. When I graduated with my degree, I was told that CDC wasn’t hiring, but I applied anyway, got called for an interview, and “somehow” ended up with a full-time job.
It wasn’t until I started reading about the power of visualization — in books like The Secret, among others — that I remembered my long-ago visual and realized how this all happened. And in case you think it’s far-fetched to attribute a complete career to a few minutes of getting lost in a daydream, I have seen this happen over and over in my life.
I’m sure you’ve heard about visualization, but how does it work?
From everything I’ve learned and experienced, when you convert a wish or a goal in your mind into a picture, it has twice the power of the idea alone. And when the vision is vivid and clear enough to generate strong feelings, you’re almost certain to make it happen. That’s because your subconscious goes to work and keeps prompting you to act on it until it has become a reality.
If you want to try it for yourself, here are some strategies to help you:
Fill in the blank. Ask yourself, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if . . .” and answer that question. And don’t limit yourself. Make it something that gives you a feeling of excitement — like real excitement, the kind that gives you a rush or chills. Saying something like “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I lost 15 pounds” isn’t going to work. But saying “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could rock that white string bikini?” will.
Make it a movie. Turn that dream into a picture. Where are you? What are you wearing? Who are you with? What are you doing? Are you giving a TED talk? Are you driving a black Porsche? Are you wearing size 27 white J Brand jeans? Pretend you’re watching a movie of yourself, and see it right down to the smallest detail.
Focus on it. Make it a habit to focus on it every single day. Do it while you’re in the shower, while you’re blow drying your hair, while you’re working out. Enhance it a little more each time. Give yourself a phrase to repeat that prompts you to do it.
Embody it. Every time you focus on it, get the feeling of actually doing it. Walk more confidently, speak more directly, feel more powerful — or feminine, or funny, or whatever matches your visual. Act as if.
The people who write about visualization who can explain it a lot better than I can all insist that you can make any dream, no matter how big, a reality. I believe it.
And the thing is, we keep our dreams so small. How lame is it to dream about losing weight, as if that couldn’t really happen?
Part of what I teach is the importance of having a larger goal in tandem with changing your thoughts and habits around food and eating. That’s because it not only distracts you from the feeling of desperation you have to lose weight and the mindset of trying “not to” and to eliminate (the classic dieting mentality), it also helps you achieve your weight loss goal that much faster.
So if I had a one-minute daydream that I didn’t intentionally focus on and it manifested 25 years later, what could happen if you deliberately create a visual, intensely focus on it, and put enough feeling behind it to cause you to take conscious action toward its fulfillment — every single day?
There really is no limit to what you can do, and you’re so much more powerful than you think you are. I promise that if you stop trying to lose weight, you’ll actually lose it.
I want nothing more than to see you walk out of your diet prison and start really living. So, right now, come up with your own visual — and start making it a reality.