The Only Technique You Need to Live the Life You've Always Wanted

>> Sunday

That's a big title to live up to, but assuming you're willing to do the work, the technique will more than match the title. The method is simple: Clearly and persistently envision your goals. In detail.

That's it. Everything else flows from it — the work you do, the ideas for what to do, the motivation to do it, the insights into how to solve problems — all this springs forth naturally when you clearly envision your goals often.

It's a good idea to set goals and write them down. But deliberately visualizing your goals in detail adds so much power to goal-setting, it'll put you in another league.

"But," you might be thinking, "whenever I set a goal, I already have a picture of what I think it will be like." And I'm sure that's true. But have you closed your eyes and relaxed and imagined your goal in its completeness? Have you envisioned all the details you can come up with? And have you done that many times?

My guess is: Probably not. Visualizing goals is one of those things you often hear successful people mention, but you hear it and ignore it, for one reason or another. I ignored it for a long time because I wasn't very good at visualizing. But making mental pictures is a skill like any other, and I've gotten better with practice.

If you're ready to take your life to a whole new stratosphere, start envisioning your goals. Give it twenty minutes at a time. Sit down, close your eyes and relax as deeply as you can. It's best to sit up so you won't fall asleep. Sitting up rather than lying down also helps you control your visions better. On your back, your images tend to drift.

If you relax first, it will be easier to envision positive outcomes. When you're not relaxed, fears and worries are more likely to pop up in your visualizations (here's one way to relax).

Once you're relaxed, imagine the accomplishment of your goal. See what you would see. Start with how you would know. For example, I envision a million subscribers to Moodraiser.com. When I accomplish the goal, how will I know it happened? I would look at my Feedburner stats and see the number 1,000,000 (or more).

After you've reached your goal, what will you do? Who will you tell? What will you do next? Visualize all these things. See the look on your spouse's face. On your kid's face. How will you feel? See and feel and hear all this and more, in detail. Hear what they would say and how they would say it.

Let yourself become absorbed in the vision.

Doing this regularly has tremendous consequences. First of all, it will put you in a good mood more often. When you have a clear goal, when you know what you want and are working toward it, your mood will rise.

One of the most powerful consequence of envisioning your goals is the way it changes your interpretations of ordinary events. You will find yourself naturally — without trying — reframing the events of your life in a more constructive way. For example, after envisioning my goal of a million subscribers, the next day if a reader writes to me and says, "I'm unsubscribing because your articles are too long," how do I take that?

Normally I might feel bad, at least a little. But with a clear, tangible, envisioned goal, this same comment doesn't bring me down. Instead, it makes me think, "I should look into this because if this is a common opinion, I could get more subscribers by keeping my articles short."

See what happened? My clearly envisioned goal caused me to automatically reframe the criticism in a constructive way.

You'll find this happening a lot. Annoyances or upsetting events are transformed into the perfect lessons to help you get where you want to go.

The most noticeable consequence of regularly envisioning your goals is the way it changes how you think about your goal and how you can make it happen. Solutions and ideas pop into your mind spontaneously. Something about getting a clear mental picture of your goal stimulates your creative powers.

It feels like reverse engineering. When I imagine my goals, it gets me to think about how it happened. What led to the accomplishment? I'm looking back from the future, and I can see things I need to be doing now for that to happen. It's a very natural process, but produces surprising insights and great ideas. I have often thought, "Why didn't I think of that before?" Something about envisioning the goal changes the way you see the space between then and now.

You already set goals. You already work toward them. Now add one more thing: Envision your goals clearly and in detail. It will lead to more accomplishment and better moods. I can see it now. Can you?

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot.

3 comments:

Energy Body Ways 6:00 AM  

Two problems with goal-setting:

1. It doesn't work. Show the evidence that visualization actually works for achieving life-goals beyond just anecdotal reports.

You know the Yale study of the 1950s, quoted by Tony Robbins among many others, supposedly showing those who wrote down their goals and had more success 20 years later -- is a total urban myth! It never happened.

2. The other bigger problem is a spiritual one. By setting goals of this kind you are assuming, wrongly, that you have total control of your life. That is just a way of feeding the ego.

Whether you believe in a larger picture, Fate, Nature, or God, all show that our petty individual desires are nothing compared to a larger plan.

Saying there is X way to live life Y, all in accord with our ego's desires, is simply not true. People don't experience that and nor should they. Life is more about opening up to the larger Story that is playing through us.

You've got good intentions, though, and I respect that!

Adam Khan 1:14 AM  

EnergyBodyWays, that is one of the most interesting comments I’ve gotten in a long time. I have several things to say in response:

1. Physicist Niels Bohr said: "There are trivial truths and great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true." This principle may apply here. It may be true that if you want to accomplish great things, you should set goals. But it also may be true that if you wish to accomplish great things, you should avoid setting goals and instead open yourself to the larger Story playing through you.

2. I liked what Earl Nightingale said about "river people" and "goal people." Some people know what they want to do. They are river people. I’m one of those people, and you may be one too. People like us don’t really need to deliberately set goals. We can accomplish things without setting deadlines and specific, measurable targets. We may spontaneously envision our goals, but we don’t need to make a deliberate exercise out of it.

"Goal people" don’t have an overall sense of purpose, at least not one they know about. They work at a job and try to do well. Setting goals works for them. It helps them accomplish things.

Ari Koinuma makes a similar distinction. He calls it "results-oriented" versus "process-oriented" goal setting.

Maybe for certain activities, setting goals would work for anyone. In a study at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, researchers had subjects do sit-ups for ninety seconds once each day for four days. Those who were given the instruction, "do your best," averaged around 43 sit-ups in the ninety seconds. But those given specific long-term and short-term goals managed 56 sit-ups per ninety seconds by the last day. For example, one of the targets given was, "do ten percent more than you did last time."

So setting goals helped them do more.

Should people set goals or not? I think the best answer is: It depends on whether or not it helps you accomplish your goal.

But I think you have a bigger issue in mind. And maybe the "goal people" are the ones you want to reach with your message. These are people who feel they don't really have a larger purpose.

Adam Khan 1:14 AM  

3. I set goals and yet I don't assume I have total control of my life. TOTAL control is not necessarily or ineluctably implied by envisioning a goal. I realize I'm one water molecule in a very large river. And yet each molecule has the option of trying to make something happen they really want to happen. It's part of the beauty and magic of being alive.

4. You mentioned "ego’s desires." Why does "the life you want" necessarily have to be your ego's desires?

I'm reading a book right now called "Googled." The founders of Google wanted a fast search engine that actually found results relevant to the searcher. They were frustrated with the fact that there is this enormous internet and the only search engines available at the time didn't help you find what you were looking for. It was inefficient. It wasted time.

In other words, they wanted a search engine that helped the searcher find what she was actually looking for. And they were passionate about this purpose. They accomplished great things, driven by their vision. They worked long hours. They gave themselves to the work.

But it wasn’t until a few YEARS of running their company that they figured out how to make money with their great search engine, and even then, the only reason they buckled down and found a way to make money was because their investors DEMANDED they figure it out.

My point is that they were on a mission. They had a purpose. The life they wanted was to make something really good and useful.

I think you and I essentially agree on this point: Purpose is far more important than setting or envisioning goals.

In fact, when I envision a goal, the goal is never the ultimate point. I have a purpose. Envisionable goals are measurements. They are concrete representations of the ongoing fulfillment of my purpose (I want to reduce unnecessary negative emotions in as many people as I can). I feel this is my mission. This is the Story playing through me, to use your ennobling words.

I liked how Elizabeth Gilbert talked about it. She said creativity is something that comes THROUGH you rather than something YOU do. And she says it doesn’t really matter if this is objectively true (it can’t be proven one way or another anyway) because it just works better to think of it that way regardless.

Thank you for your useful, well-articulated, interesting comment. It gave me an opportunity to say something I think is important. And thank you also for your gracious acknowledgment of my good intentions.

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