To Achieve What You Want, You Have to Imagine You’ve Already Done it
What do 15-year-old boys, The Secret, and 1988 Mustangs have in common?
“So, according to the guy on TV, if I believe I’m going to earn enough money to buy a car, the money will just show up ... automatically. But if I don’t believe it, I’ll never be able to buy a car. Is that true?”
A friend’s son, Tony, asked me that question.
At first, I thought he was joking, making fun of the idea of manifesting your future. He’d just watched a motivational video on the internet and from what I could tell, he wasn’t completely convinced he could change his life simply by changing his thoughts.
Before I could answer, Tony asked a second question.
“And if I just sit here on this couch and believe with all my heart that someone will deposit a mountain of cash on my doorstep, will it really happen?”
As I said, I thought he was being facetious, making fun of the TV guru. But he wasn’t. He was dead serious.
At fifteen, Tony was working weekends and after school to save enough money to buy a car — a 1988 Mustang his cousin had promised to sell him. And in eight months, when he turned sixteen, he hoped to have enough cash to buy the 22-year-old car.
The vehicle had over two hundred thousand miles on the odometer and needed a little bodywork. But Tony didn’t care. He wanted the independence it would give him to drive to school, to use on dates, and for the bragging rights that would come from having his own set of wheels.
I thought long and hard before I answered.
Tony wasn’t asking for a dissertation on theoretical metaphysics. He wanted practical advice on how to apply the law of attraction.
As I thought about how to begin, I was worried he would dismiss what I had to say, believing I was placating him with a watered-down version of a subject usually reserved for someone older.
But I gave it my best shot.
Here’s what I told him …
“The idea of manifesting a future is not magic, but the process can be very powerful. It’s about using your mind to keep your actions focused on the goal you want to achieve.
“Think of it as mentally lining up all your abilities and talents so they work together to keep you on track, motivating you to take steps toward what you want. And that’s what makes the difference — taking small steps every day to ensure you achieve your goal within a realistic time period.”
Tony’s face turned quizzical. He wanted more.
“Okay,” I continued, “answer this question for me. Who do you think has a better chance of winning the hundred-yard dash — the guy who is full of confidence because he runs every day and sees himself crossing the finish line ahead of everyone else? Or the guy who doesn’t believe he has a chance in hell, is constantly distracted by a hundred other things, and seldom shows up for practice?”
“Sure, I get that,” Tony said. “But the guy on TV said all I have to do is believe it’s possible and my brain will start working on a solution to achieve it.”
“That’s true,” I said. “He was talking about what psychologists call the frequency illusion. When you begin thinking about something specific, especially something you want, you start seeing examples of it more frequently. It’s the result of your brain recognizing examples of whatever you’ve set your sights on.
“I’m sure since you decided to buy that Mustang, you’ve been seeing Mustangs all over the road, right?”
“You’re being reminded of the priority you’ve set, so your attention remains focused on the goal.”
Tony thought for a moment. “Well,” he began, “I’ve been thinking about that car really hard. In fact, it’s all I think about. But the money isn’t coming any faster. What am I doing wrong?”
He was trying to make the act of “believing” the exclusive causation to the external act of creation — just as many have erroneously attempted to do after reading The Secret. And just like those who hoped to manipulate the universe in real-time by simply using their mind, he didn’t understand the concept.
I tried a different approach.
“We all have tremendous capability,” I began. “And when we identify and focus on exactly what we want to achieve, we can direct all that energy into the specific actions necessary to accomplish our goal. It’s similar to using a magnifying glass to start a fire. We use the lens to concentrate the sun’s energy on a single spot, making the light far more powerful.”
“So we’re not creating stuff with our minds?” he asked.
“Not exactly. We’re using our minds to prioritize our actions, to keep our attention focused on what’s important, on what we want to achieve. That way, we put the energy and the action where it’s most needed.”
Tony thought for a moment. “That sounds simple enough.”
I saw a glimmer of hope. Maybe he was beginning to understand. Now it was time to tell him about the second part of the process.
Focus is the first step, visualisation is the second
“You’re right,” I said. “it is simple. But getting your mind to focus on what you want is only the first step. The second is to imagine having already accomplished your goal, and that the car you want is parked out front in the driveway.”
“You want me to pretend I’ve already bought the car?” Tony asked. “What good will that do?”
“It creates a discrepancy. Think of it as purposely creating an imbalance, a conflict in your thinking process.”
I could tell by Tony’s expression that all the progress we’d made was about to go down the drain — if I didn’t follow through with a reasonable explanation.
“Think of it like this,” I said. “As you imagine what it will be like to drive the car, you’re telling your subconscious that you already own it. And your subconscious will believe you. Rather than ask for proof, it automatically assumes your thoughts about the car — even when they’re nothing more than constructed fantasies — are true.”
“So you want me to lie to myself?”
I shook my head. “No, not exactly. It’s more about visualizing yourself behind the wheel as you pick up a friend on the way to school, or driving to a concert on the weekend. It’s creating thoughts that are consistent with someone who already owns a car. And because your conscious brain knows you don’t, both sides of your brain — the conscious and the subconscious — will begin working together to provide ideas, solutions, and opportunities that will resolve the discrepancy. In other words, to bring the car — through your actions — into reality.”
“Okay,” he said. “I think I get what you’re saying.”
I decided to backtrack a step or two.
“Remember the example I used about the two guys running the hundred-yard dash?” I asked. “It’s the same situation as buying that car. Let’s say there’s someone else interested in the Mustang, but instead of seeing themselves enjoying the car and the new freedom it will bring them, they tell themselves it’s a pipe-dream.
“For them, the idea of saving enough money to buy it seems impossible. And they’re also worried that your cousin will become impatient and sell the car to someone else. Based on those negative thoughts, how likely is it that this guy is going to put forth the extra effort to save enough money to buy the car?”
Tony nodded. “That makes sense. You’re saying a positive attitude is always better than being negative.”
His response was a bit generic, clichéd, and almost placating. But I took it as a good sign we were back on track.
“I think I’m okay with telling myself the car is on the way,” he said. “I’m just not sure I can convince myself that I already own it.”
“You don’t need to. Just imagine what it would be like to drive it, to park it in the driveway. That’s all your subconscious needs to start the process.”
“To create the conflict?”
“Yes, exactly. When you can imagine yourself writing the check to your cousin, sliding under the wheel, putting the keys into the ignition and driving away, the process of saving your money will become automatic. And you’ll likely see additional opportunities to make even more money, which will accelerate the process of buying the car.”
The Takeaway . . .
If Tony shows more interest, I’ll loan him my copy of Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, who suggested that seeing yourself at the finish line and creating a mental picture of winning the race is a vital part of the process.
According to Maltz, it’s impossible to accomplish anything of significance without first forming a mental picture of possibility, seeing it clearly, and believing it can happen.
Later on, after Tony has been driving his newly-acquired car for a few weeks, I’ll ask him if he remembers our conversation, and if he thinks creating a “mindset of possibility” had anything to do with putting him behind the wheel.
Hopefully, he’ll have learned to appreciate the importance of using the power of our unconscious mind in making us more aware of opportunities that can move us closer to our goals.
Thanks for reading,
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Roger A. Reid, Ph.D. is a certified NLP trainer with degrees in engineering and business. Roger is the author of Better Mondays and Speak Up, and host of Success Point 360 Podcast, offering tips and strategies for achieving higher levels of career success and personal fulfillment in the real world.
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