Perhaps the most important skill you’ll learn on the road to your utmost life is visualization. Like any other skill, you’ll become better at it the more you use it, but it can be difficult at the beginning. I’ll give you a series of exercises that can help you train yourself for the more difficult tasks later.
1. The easiest way to begin is to start with something that you’re familiar with. For instance, imagine what you will be doing later today, or this evening. I’m not suggesting that you try to invent anything-just think of what you usually do, step by step. You might think, Well I’ll go home, have dinner, watch some television, read a little, and then go to bed. Wait a minute-you didn’t visualize everything. Go back-would you change your clothes, look through the mail, look in the refrigerator? What clothes would you put on? What television shows are you going to watch? What are you going to read? See how detailed you can make your visualization. (Warning: this can be a sobering exercise-but don’t be hard on yourself, just accept your life as it is.)
2. When you feel comfortable about visualizing your usual routine, visualize some activity that you enjoy but don’t do every day. If you like painting, for instance, think about what you would like to paint. Try to feel how it feels when you’re doing it. Think about the satisfaction you feel when that piece of work is finished. Even if you’re just imagining watching television, you can visualize what you might be watching, how often your mind wanders, whether you grab a snack at the commercial, and so forth.
3. Now chat you’ve practiced things you know, it’s time to move on to something you don’t know. Imagine one of your favorite activities, but on an occasion when it’s as wonderful and satisfying as it could possibly be. If you jog, for instance, imagine how it would be if your legs weren’t stiff and if your lungs felt as though they could expand forever. Imagine the swing of your legs, the smoothness of your stride, the pleasure you feel at doing something as well as you can.
Focus, like imagination, can be trained. Think of those times when you were so involved with something that time flew by. What were those activities? What made them so engrossing? Keep a log of them.
Focus can also be a refreshing exercise in itself Meditation is a well known exercise of religion, but it’s not just for devotional purposes. Meditation is really nothing more than focused thinking. Take five minutes to focus on something simple-your breathing, or a favorite image, or the memory of a favorite person. Set a timer so that you don’t have to think about whether you’ve spent five minutes, and try just to think about the thing you’ve decided to focus on. If your mind starts to wander, don’t feel bad-just bring it back to the subject. As you feel more comfortable and in control of your thoughts, focus on something in your life that you would like to change.
You may feel that courage is something you have to get from the Wizard of Oz, as the Cowardly Lion did. But remember what the Wizard said to the lion-all he needed was a testimonial. Of course, it’s an amusing scene, but maybe it’s closer to the truth than it initially seems. I’m sure there have been times in your life when you did something that took courage-you took a physical risk, perhaps, or stood up to someone in authority. Think about those incidents, even if they happened long ago. What was it that allowed you to face down your fears? Was it your own belief in yourself? Your excitement about accomplishing something? The encouragement of friends? The point is that you’ve done it before and you can do it again-all you need is the right situation.