Tell me, where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years? This has got to be one of the most annoying interview questions ever posed, right? Sheesh, I dunno?
Well stop for a minute and really imagine… imagine you achieved one of your most precious and ambitious goals? What emotions are you feeling? Who are you with? What do you hear? What are you wearing? Is there a smell in the air? What does this future look and feel like from all senses?
Billions of neurons communicate in rapid fire via tiny electrochemical impulses in the brain when we activate our imagination. In fact, the brain uses the same neural circuits for tangible perception as it does for imagination. The process of imagination takes place across a network of interconnected neurons ranging from areas in the visual cortex to areas related to attention and executive function.
These areas are activated together as the ‘mental workspace’ of imagination – a space where the mind consciously constructs images, symbols, and concepts that give rise to new ideas. Just like physical real-world practice, the mental practice of imagination can enhance confidence and increase performance, priming your brain for success.
Scottish scientist and expert on mind-body connections, Dr. David Hamilton, has authored a number of books on ways that kindness changes the brain, how habits and attitudes shape behavior, and even how the power of positive thinking improves our health. His blog cites a fascinating Harvard study showing equal brain activity in participants who practiced the piano as compared to those who only imagined practicing.
Other studies have demonstrated the ability to gain strength simply by mental exercise. With a background in the pharmaceutical industry, Hamilton has also studied the placebo effect and why some patients in the placebo control often improve as well. Can the mind learn to respond to a placebo?
Although the research is still out…there’s mounting evidence that imagination is a powerful tool.
Preeminent scientist, Albert Einstein knew it when he said, “Imagination is the preview of life’s coming attraction.”
His words make my heart sing! Several years ago, I began a practice of visualizing my own goals and desires by creating a vision board. I’ve always been a visual person. As a young girl, before the advent of digital photography, I would sit and scrapbook for HOURS!
My first vision board was created in very much the same fashion…I clipped words and images from magazines and pinned them on a cork board that hung in a visible place in my home office.
With the advent of Google images, the process has become even easier to search for just the right image, print, cut, and paste my hopes and dreams in a collage of possibility.
This year, for the first time, I put away the cork board and created a digital version of what I now call my “viz board.” It’s so easy to search, copy, paste, crop, manipulate, and voilà, here it is folks:
This ritual of visualization centers me in the moment and a future of possible moments, setting a course to guide my journey. Of course, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” Ben Franklin supposedly said.
I’ve also heard: “whatever you hold in mind, manifests in kind.”
Imagination forms new neural connections, so why not give it a try!
The best way to provoke imagination is to seek out new environments and experiences – take a walk, go to a museum, take a different route to work, let your mind wander in a quiet space.
I highly recommend taking the time to visualize and cultivate what you want in life. You might be surprised, just how the process helps you hone in on your dreams.