I'm a big believer in the power of visualizations. And so are neuroscientists. Numerous studies have proven how merely imagining positive circumstances sends blood flowing from negative brain regions to positive ones.
In fact, when you visualize doing an action, you stimulate the same brain regions as you do when performing that action. For example, if you visualize lifting your left leg right now, you will stimulate the brain region that gets activated when you truly lift your left leg. Because visualization is so powerful, many professional athletes have trained for events by visualizing successful results, thereby increasing their likelihood of attaining them.
If you're in the midst of flux, and feeling stressed because you're hyper-focused on short-term problems, you can benefit from this proven science of happy future visualizations. Simply take five to 15 minutes to refocus your attentions on attaining your long-term goal.
I believe a lot of what contributes to the sadness and downward-spiraling in our lives is a sense of hopelessness. We become resentful when circumstances aren't unfolding as we want, leading us to doubt whether we will ever get what we want. Unfortunately, if you spend too much time thinking negative thoughts, you simply refuel your hopelessness by sending a surge of blood flowing into brain regions associated with depression and anger. However, if you want to feel happier immediately, you can create a brain environment that supports clarity and solutions by spending time doing happy future visualizations, which sends blood flow to the positivity regions of your brain.
A favorite book of mine, A Course in Miracles, says: "Patience is easy for those who trust." The more you do happy future visualizations, the stronger your patience muscles will become. Basically, fear and emotional pain have a harder time existing when your long-term lens is focused on a confident belief in happiness and success.
Likewise, if you feel overwhelmed by the long road you know you must take to get to your long-term goal, it's time to tap into your bifocal lens and refocus on your short-term vision. Ask yourself: "What I can do right here, right now to feel better right here, right now?" "What are some tiny steps I can do today that will get me closer to my goal?" As the Buddhists say, "The 1,000-mile journey begins with one step."
Keeping with this theme, the Japanese have a wonderful word, kaizen, which means "small habits over time which add up to large results over time." A good example: If you were training for a marathon, you might wake each day and run for small bits of increasing time (10 minutes, then 12, then 15, etc). Eventually, you'll find you can run for marathon levels of time. Ditto for all those different flavors of flux. Each day you can awake and focus on small, easy goals you can accomplish in the short term—goals that, over time, will lead you to your long-term goal. For example, if you're in career flux, you can write three emails to past business colleagues and take one hour to scan job websites. At the end of the day, you should write down your daily progress in an appreciation journal. Whenever you feel weary, repeat the following mantra, "I have it within me right now to get me to where I want to be later."
Why you need to remind yourself to stay focused on the bigger picture