I am fairly new to the concepts and practices of visualization, meditation, manifestation, all of those magical “woo” things that have always been available.
As I study humans and our brains and the science related to behavior change, I recognize how some of the things I’ve always thought were sort of out-there concepts are so much closer, more powerful, and connected to this work I do in the world with women and their bodies and health goals than I previously recognized.
Planting seeds of change
I emphasize, and I talk a lot about, having a clear picture of our future selves, designing her to be someone that we aspire to be and are working toward. She has some tools and skills that served her life and allowed her to create a different reality than what we currently live.
In imagining and creating an idea of who we want to be in the future, we’re accessing belief in possibilities—planting the seeds of change.
What nourishes that seed is feelings along the way, which is where most of us get tripped up.
It’s not just about imagining what she will look like and do. It’s about visualizing and generating what it will feel like to be her.
Using feelings as fuel
Feelings are the fuel of change. Most of us think we have to wait for the result to feel the feelings, but we need to find a way to generate some of that love and pride, confidence, and peace now to help us get there.
Because the alternative we are trying to use is a cocktail of disgust, regret, frustration, helplessness, is just not doing it. Not effectively. Not long-term.
So, we want to imagine, feel and visualize in detail all the way down to the emotions she will experience. The surge of positive emotion, this feeling ahead of time, will help facilitate the creation process.
Dealing with perfectionism
If you are anything like me, just listening to me say all of that creates some anxiety.
How am I supposed to create feelings I don’t feel and imagine a life I don’t have? How am I supposed to imagine the future me in this amazing life that I can hardly fathom?
In the conversation about manifesting, inviting, attracting, opening up to what we want to create, and envisioning it my tendency toward perfectionism really starts breaking out and getting very loud because it’s just coming at me with how it’s not realistic, possible, or useful.
My brain wants to get into the math, numbers, logistics, the how, when, how much, duration, expectations – all of the obstacles and counterarguments to believing.
I try to envision her. I imagine her life, her day today, and my brain is like, what about this and that? And how can you possibly know what will be happening in two years? Perfectionism wants me to quit before I even start.
Before long you start to believe all you’re creating here is worry and anxiety that is going to repel whatever it is you think you want to attract. You’re ruining it. Stop being anxious. Stop worrying.
This is supposed to be a perfect dream world, and we’re supposed to be imagining a field of daisies and you with your new future life and sensibilities frolicking in it, unmarred by worry and anxiety.
She is loved. She is feeling peaceful. Imagine the peace. Do it, hurry. Get rid of the worry. You’re repelling all the good in the world that is trying to come to you.
This is like a literal transcript of a conversation I have had with myself. That is my brain freaking out.
So, for all of you perfectionists, gold star seeking, expectation meeting, over-thinkers out there like me, you’re not alone.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Visualize the hard things
Here’s a lightbulb moment I want to share. It’s a clarification and, honestly, a breath of fresh air for all of my perfectionist peeps out there.
I was listening to the High Five Habits by Mel Robbins, and there it was. She explains neuroscience research has shown that visualization makes it easier to work on your goals and dreams because it changes your RAS, which she refers to as the bouncer of your brain, which lets in only what you tell is important.
So, it changes your RAS to spot opportunities that match that picture you just created in your head.
But research out of UCLA shows us that in order to make visualization really help you achieve your goals, you need to visualize yourself doing the hard, annoying, small steps along the way to reaching your dreams.
It doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows and positive energy and good vibes to attract and create this future self vision.
It is important to also visualize all of the obstacles. How we’ll feel when they come up, and how we will keep going anyway.
In essence, our visualization should mirror reality.
We should envision our big, beautiful dreams and also all the crappy parts of the journey to get there.
We don’t have to push away concern about mistakes we will inevitably make or the things we’re worried about tripping us up. We want to invite those along and expand our vision to include worry, anxiety, frustration, delays, mistakes, unanticipated issues, and how we plan to show up for those too.
I can’t even tell you how relieved I felt at this news that my brain was kind of right to show me how this is going to be a challenging bumpy road.
Rather than try to push that away in service of only good manifesting vibes, all I needed to do was expand my visualization to how I want to handle the challenges and the bumps in the road, how it will keep going toward my big, beautiful dreams anyway.
A realistic, human vision of my dream.
How to realistically visualize
Here’s an example from the book to illustrate this point.
If you want to manifest the big dream of running the Boston Marathon, for instance, yes, write that dream down every day.
However, to achieve it, don’t visualize yourself crossing the finish line and the crowd’s roaring applause. Visualize yourself lacing up your running shoes when it’s 10 degrees out. Close your eyes and picture what it’s going to feel like to be out there running mile 13 on your own because your earbuds just ran out of batteries.
We want to think about the future you in all her glory, yes with all of the specifics, her emotion, the resilience that has her making friends with stress or overwhelm instead of eating to escape it.
Her sitting in an airplane sits with no seatbelt extender. Her going on vacation or to a restaurant and choosing what feels good in her body because she’s made peace with food. All of that.
But we also want to think about what it will feel like tomorrow when you sit down to eat the salad you have planned, and your brain says, screw it, let’s just eat nachos. Or next week when you’re driving home after a long workday, and your brain desperately wants you to drive through and grab hot donuts from Krispy Kreme.
This is how we really connect to that goal by embracing and envisioning the imperfect parts too. Not only living in the loveliness but in the ugliness too.
Then, when those bumps come, we will be prepared. They will be familiar.
Freedom in imperfection
There’s so much freedom in embracing the inevitable imperfection of our journey to our goal, for those of us who are typically paralyzed by striving for perfection, for those of us who quit before we even start because if it won’t be perfect, why even try.
The imperfection of the journey to any goal is a reflection of the imperfect human trying to accomplish it. Rather than having to pretend perfection, we can use our brains that scan for imperfection anyway to visualize all of the bumps and obstacles that may arise.
We can decide how we want to feel and how we want to show up for them. Educate our brain on what to watch out for and how to handle it ahead of time. .
Our imperfections don’t have to be seen as faults.
My brain’s keen eye for what might go wrong that annoys me half the time can be parlayed into a more clear, complete, and impactful vision of my dreams, and so can yours.
So, let’s get out there and dream about what we want and include in what might go wrong and be empowered and strengthened by it instead of crippled and broken.
All of the facets of the diamond make it shine.
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.