The Richard Nicholls Podcast

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Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination

Almost every self help book you read will say something along the lines of "If you can see it, you can be it!"
They tell you about the importance of imagining the end result of your hard work to motivate you to make it happen.
But what if they're all wrong!

As I’ve said before, the brain does not know the difference between fact and fiction.
If you think about something happening then your brain will fire of neurons as if it’s happening for real. Now, this can be a good thing and it can also be a pain in the backside.

If you think about taking the dog for a walk with a cheery smile on your face, then, more than likely, thats what will happen.
Think about dropping your pint on the way back from the bar and, guess what? It’ll probably happen.

So it makes sense to spend more time thinking about all the things that you want to see happen rather than all the things you don’t……doesn’t it?

Well, may be not always.

What if you want to lose some weight, you want to be fitter and healthier.
Imagining being slimmer won’t make it happen and there is no research that shows that it even motivates you to do anything about your current weight. As for the phrase "If you can see it, you can be it!" I agree that when it comes to making changes in life every decision you make starts in your mind.

But ONLY day-dreaming about it?
In fact what people often find is that the excitement of thinking about your end result can actually prevent people from getting started.

An example of this in action was in a study at the University of California.
A group of students were asked to spend a few minutes each day visualising themselves getting a high mark on an important exam that would take place in a few days’ time.
It was quite hypnotic really, they were asked to ‘form a clear image in their mind’s eye and imagine how great it would feel to get a high mark’.

They were also asked to make a note of the number of hours they studied each day, and their final marks were compared to a control group of students, who just carried on as usual and were not asked to visualise anything.

Even though the daydreaming exercise lasted only a few minutes, it had a significant impact on the students’ behaviour, causing them to study less and then get lower marks in the exam.
The exercise may have made them feel better about themselves, but it did not actually help them achieve their goals.

Same thing happened when asking students to imagine their perfect career, they didn’t work so hard at their exams, didn’t apply for as many jobs and long term ended up with lower exam grades and lower salaries.

When it comes to using your imagination to encourage you it’s obvious that just imagining the result is much easier than actually making it happen.

It’s much easier to dream your life than to live your dream. So it’s important to always focus on the steps in-between, not just the end result.

If you want to lose weight think about how you’ll do it, think about the exercises that you’ll be doing, the leaving of food on your plate, the healthier choices.

If you want a great career, think about the phone calls you’ll be making, the work you’re going to put into it and the excitement that doing THAT will create, not just the excitement of already having the job.

That’s how much of an effect our daydreams have on our lives so use them to your advantage.
Also, don’t make an enemy of your imagination either.
Positive thinking may not be the key to getting the life you want but neither is negative thinking!