“Visualize this thing that you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint, and begin to build.”
How I discovered creative visualization
My journey of discovery of creative visualization began when I was about 16 or 17 years old in a basketball camp of all places. It was a very competitive atmosphere and there was not all that much meditation and spiritual activity going on at the time in this place. Not that I would have recognized what that was if it had hit me square in the face at that age and time in my life but my friends and I were there to compete and get better at the game we all loved. It just so happened that at one of the scheduled sessions we had to attend was being put on by a coach who took a different approach to the game, a mental approach. This was in the late ’70s when sports psychology and mental preparation was not any more mainstream and practiced than jumping up and down in a team huddle getting pumped up for the tip-off. No one visualized their shot going in the hoop or how they would guard a certain player. It just wasn’t quite yet incorporated into sports like it is so second nature today. It wasn’t until the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles where a skinny white kid, Dwight Stones made a big splash with his mental prep technique before every jump. This coach was way before his time.
This was all going to change for me this day because I not only attended the session I volunteered to showcase exactly what the coach was showing us and teaching us. I did it because it interested me and because I figured this was all on him, I couldn’t fail so I had no fear. Because I made this decision to volunteer, I had one of the biggest paradigm shifts in my life. One that would change the way I thought about anything I ever wanted to accomplish.
So I am a 6’2″ white kid, skinny and with very average jumping ability. What this coach was about to teach me was how I could mentally add 2 inches or more to my vertical jumping ability. Now if you are a high school basketball player, this is a dream possibility. I thought about it for a minute and humored the coach as he told me what to do. First I had to set a benchmark which was how far up on the rim could my hand touch. After a couple of qualifying jumps, he put a black sharpie mark across my fingers about a quarter of an inch below the tips. Not great but like I said I was not a great jumper. After he marked my hand he had me go through a breathing exercise to calm my heart rate. He then told me to not only see my whole journey to the basket but imagine myself lifting off like a rocket but then transforming the concept of my flight into that of a bird, light as a feather.
Here I am at the ripe old age of 16 and I am looking at this guy like, “Are you serious with this stuff?” But, I did everything he asked to the best of my understanding and ability and took off for another jump. This time there was a bit of improvement but not anything to write home to my parents about (the best thing about these camps was that we got to live away from home for a week and feel a little grown-up but the truth was I always missed my mom and dad).
Finally, on the last try, the coach pulled me aside and coached me through my visualization. He walked me through the approach, the liftoff, and the propelling of my body up through the rim of the basket. That’s right he wanted me to imagine going straight up through the rim and knocking it out with my head as if it were nothing more than a paper tear away. I took a little bit of extra time and then I took off. I felt unusually confident that I would go higher than I had before but was shocked to see that when I reached the apex of my jump I completely grabbed the rim and rose about 4 inches higher than my first jump. It was an amazing feeling and I could see, hear, and even feel the cumulative gasp from all the guys in the audience as if I had defied nature.
It was a pretty exhilarating feeling but most of all it was a lasting one and one as I said before, would create such a paradigm shift that it completely changed the way I looked at any accomplishment I would go after in my future. So much so that I have been practicing creative visualization ever since. This works for anyone who chooses to employ its skillset but it takes time. Below are some of the concepts that helped me get started and grow with the discipline.
The Basic Visualization
The first concept you must understand before it will make sense to practice the following exercises and acquire a level of skill in them worth pursuing is that creative visualization is a basic human activity. It is used almost continually in your life and to an extent without you even realizing it. If you do not have much of an imagination, never really liked Disneyland or you think all this stuff is a bit fantastical then you might want to rethink your interest in this skill. At your peril of course.
When you think about it we visualize almost everything we do before we do it. How do you think we do it? If we didn’t think of it and then see or imagine ourselves doing the very thing we were thinking of doing then we would never do it or anything else for that matter. Even if you are just going to the store and getting some gas in your car, you see yourself doing those things before you do them, or else how would we even know how to get there? If we are doing something for the first time like taking a trip to London or Hawaii our imagination runs wild with ideas of how amazing it is going to be. The Golden Gate Bridge didn’t build itself out of the blue, it was Joseph Strauss’s vision that propelled its ultimate construction. Everything ever accomplished by any human being was first visualized in that person’s mind. So before we move on we have to understand that not only is creative visualization a powerful skill to learn but it is essential in going about our lives in a meaningful and purposeful way.
We think in pictures so why not look at pictures
Creative visualization is a concept and a skill of the imagination and abstract thought process designed to fixate our ambitions and intentions in our minds so that we can make them manifest in our lives. This is not always the easiest skill to learn even if you have been at it for a while. So why not get a little help and simply find some pictures that coincide with what it is we would like to visualize. There is a practice called Vision Boarding that incorporates the idea of creative visualization using images from magazines and the like or online images. What this process helps you do is get a more concrete image in your mind of what you would like to visualize. The images might not be exactly what you are looking for but the concepts will start to grow your imagination and if you work with these images long enough, pretty soon you will get very adept at doing it on your own.
Focusing on a concept and your vision will evolve
When I was in my twenties I was new to all this. even though I had that experience in basketball camp, life, as it so often does, got in the way a bit and I didn’t get to practice this principle as much as I could have to develop the skill. However, I did always have it in the back of my mind and I ended up having one experience that solidified what this power could do for someone if it was cultivated and attention was given to it regularly.
For some reason, I was always enamored with lofts in my youth. I just thought they were cool and given the financial ceiling of my income, it was also a good option for my living quarters. The other quality I wanted in my living space was to be up against some kind of water. I didn’t focus and meditate on this with any enthusiasm or consistency but it was always in the back of my mind. At one point in my life, I moved about 300 miles to be with a woman I was involved with which seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t and inevitably we broke up leaving me 300 miles from friends and family looking for a place to live. Less than a couple of miles away from where I was staying with her, I found a small condominium. it was a studio with a loft and on a man-made creek that ran through the whole complex. It was a very cool place. I stayed there for a couple of years with my son but it wasn’t until I had been there for a while that I realized this was almost exactly the concept I had been visualizing for quite some time and without even consciously giving it my attention I was living there. For years this blew me away and I began to realize two things. Understand what it is you are content and at peace with and it will come in time. My concept of peace at that time was a loft and a creek. It came in time and I didn’t even realize that it had until I was there for a while.
Once you see it happen you can never go back to old thinking
After this experience, I realized my home had been a direct result of not only passive thinking or creative visualization but it seemingly found me. I was not out that day apartment hunting for a loft with a creek. It just appeared during my journey. It has been from then on that I imagined a world that could be if I decided to practice this skill and get good at it. Over the years I have had many similar experiences to bear witness to the authenticity of creative visualization. Its power is so astounding that even when you experience it is hard to believe. It is hard to make the connection that your thoughts brought into manifestation are real and much more than any coincidence. However, it is also hard to let the possibility go. Since then I have adopted a sort of blind faith regarding this phenomenon. For the rest of my life, I decided it is really how life works and my paradigm will forever be one that says, be cognizant of your thoughts for they are what you live.
Creative visualization and the plan to “Keep Life Moving”
If you have read this blog before you will probably see me reference the phrase, “Keep Life Moving.” It is the essence of what Cognitive Momentum stands for. Create momentum, be aware that you have momentum, and with your momentum, keep life moving. My morning routine reflects this belief and sets the tone every day. In that routine creative visualization helps me clear out the morass of life and cut through to my purpose and objective. Sometimes this is a thing that I want and sometimes it is a state of being or attitude I would like to cultivate or evolve. Whatever it is, it never becomes a reality until I can consistently see it in my mind. If it is work I want to accomplish it is the vision of me doing that job. If it is a material thing that I want, like a house or car or vacation, I see me living in it, driving it, or on it. I do this day in and day out considering a basic concept of how I would like to see my life evolve and no matter what negative thoughts creep in, I send that packing with another creative visualization.