Meeting Goals through Visualization

“It is a psychological law that whatever we wish to accomplish we must impress on the subconscious mind.” ~ Dr. Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924) physician, writer

The power of our thoughts and the effect they have on us is well documented. We now know why and how our thoughts influence our feelings which, in turn, influence our actions and create our results.  

By understanding and applying the metaphor of the conscious mind as the ‘rider’ sitting atop a massive ‘elephant’ (subconscious mind), we can more easily meet our goals in any area of life we choose.

We can meet our goals more efficiently when we learn and use tools to manage our thinking.  One of the tools that can help manage our thinking is visualization. The elephant represents what is often referred to as the ‘reptilian’ brain or our subconscious. But it is the conscious mind, represented by the rider, that gives us the power to visualize.  

Brain science proves that visualization is a very important tool that is readily available to us to influence our subconscious. It’s important to remember that the rider does not and cannot control the elephant. The rider can only influence the elephant.

Below is a brief summary of the important characteristics of the elephant and the rider and the reason why visualization, a clear mental image of our goal – being already completed – has such an impact.

Subconscious Elephant:

  1. Does not think, contemplate or reflect, but instead reacts in extremes such as ‘right or wrong,’ ‘good or bad,’ ‘fight or flight.’
  2. Is the ego and reacts strongly to emotions and feelings, especially fear and love.
  3. Cannot tell the difference between a real or an imagined experience by the rider.

Conscious Rider:

  1. Is the visionary who considers alternative choices and is good at crafting mental images of what is possible.
  2. Is our ‘self-talk’ or ‘mind-chatter’
  3. Has the unique ability to use visualization and repetition to influence the elephant.

Using the rider to influence the elephant gives us the ability to set, plan, visualize and successfully achieve our goals.  Here are 2 powerful strategies to help us use the rider as leverage.

~ Practice becoming aware of and reframing self-talk

This is a major key to success in reaching our goals. When we pay attention to our self-talk, we discover that it contains a lot of negativity – self-criticism, guilt, blame, and fear. When we notice negative thinking, we can stop, breathe and say to ourself, “Isn’t that interesting?” During that moment of noticing a negative fear-based thought, we give ourself a chance to reframe or change it to a positive. This tool, when practiced diligently, gives us an extraordinary power to change and ultimately influence our thinking.

~ Focus on the intended outcome or goal

Don’t think of a pink elephant! It is impossible not to. That is because the unconscious elephant cannot take in a negative suggestion. It only reacts to the pictures and images it receives. For example, the elephant interprets ‘don’t fail’ as ‘fail’ or ‘don’t be late’ as ‘be late.’ When we are clear and positive in our communication, we create a distinct image of our intended outcome or goal ‘as if’ it was already achieved. In other words, focus on what we want, not on what we don’t want.

We move in the direction of our thoughts.  It’s up to us to make them count.

adapted from James Mapes

Jack, his gum, and the power of the mind

As I am washing the dishes one evening after dinner, my mind begins to wander.
I remember it like it was yesterday.

All of a sudden, I am back in Mr. Hamilton’s class in the 4th grade. Jack, one of my classmates, is chewing gum in class. Mr. Hamilton didn’t allow us to chew gum in class. While he is teaching, Mr. Hamilton notices Jack and stops his lesson. He directs everyone’s attention to Jack, who has now been asked to stand.

Jack’s punishment is to take the gum out of his mouth and wear it on his nose for the rest of the school day.

My heart sinks through the floor. I watch in agony as Jack takes the gum out of his mouth and balls it up with his fingers. Then he squishes it onto his nose, where it sticks for the rest of the afternoon.

I’m not sure how I processed what was going on in my mind back then, but looking back as an adult, I now know that I felt humiliated, bullied, victimized, and deeply offended; all on Jack’s behalf.

As I stand there washing dishes at the sink, I am fully immersed in my 9 year old body, experiencing all those emotions, like they’re happening for the first time, right now, in this moment.

The power of the mind is amazing.

A couple months later, I come across an old high school friend on FaceBook. I tell him this story. Unbeknownst to me, he still sees Jack on occasion and relays my story.
I get a message back from my FaceBook friend a couple weeks later. Jack has no recollection of that day in Mr. Hamilton’s class. He can’t remember the gum on the nose incident and had a good laugh at my story.

Ummm . . . . what??!!! How can this possibly be? I am devastated.

What happened? I was only a bystander in the gum incident. How could this have been such a heavy drag on my soul all these decades later, while Jack, the recipient of the humiliation, never thought of it again?

How could Jack be oblivious to something so painful that happened to him, while I’ve been holding onto it for decades???

That day when my FaceBook friend relayed Jack’s response to my story, I had a huge “a-Ha” moment. I realized that my mind held onto that story for all those years because of what I made it mean.

The real eye-opener was that it didn’t mean the same thing to Jack. In fact, he never thought about it again!

This idea was so incredibly freeing to me and was the turning point that got me started on my path to personal development. I specifically wanted to learn about my mind and how it worked so that I could move forward faster in my life.

Here’s the backstory: For a long time, I’ve felt that I was supposed to do something bigger with my life. I never knew what that meant, or how it’d play out, but the day I heard Jack’s response to what I had thought was a humiliating experience, I realized that my mind was creating my experience of life, not me.

I held onto that 4th grade experience and made it mean something; whether it be the importance of following rules, how to treat children, how to handle conflict, etc.

I threw myself into my inner work. I read lots of books, took online workshops and attended trainings. I dug deeper and uncovered many stories I was holding onto. Jack’s gum chewing story was only a small piece of the puzzle. All the stories went back to my youth. I started to track them. I figured out how they all connected and began to process where these ideas showed up in my adult life, and very importantly, what I was still making them mean.

The mere fact that I was an adult washing dishes at the sink while my mind was focusing on 4th grade was a huge neon flashing sign that I was stuck in what I made that story mean.

The real moment of “a-Ha-ness,” true liberation actually, was when I realized my stories were a choice. I could choose to carry them around with me and live my life from that place. Or, I could what I now affectionately call “pull a Jack” and release them . . .
It was totally my choice.

Jack has no idea the impact that his gum chewing and subsequent lack of meaning he gave it, has had on me.

Ultimately, this story isn’t really about Jack at all. It’s about the mind and how it works.
I’ve sought out many coaches, trainers and mentors in my life who have helped me get to this emotionally healthy, confident and empowered place that I am now. Although I occasionally hit road blocks in life, I can now more easily identify and maneuver around them on my own.

Watching my thoughts and choosing which to believe has been the best gift I’ve given myself.

One thing that I know for sure is that a great life coach models all this for his/her clients: how to unravel what we are making our stories mean, and choosing to believe them, challenge them, or let them go.

I am a certified life coach now, and for the past 4 years have specialized in the area of mindset. My clients come to me with issues ranging from relationships, confidence, self-esteem, overwhelm, procrastination, healthy habits, lack of direction, goal setting and accountability, etc.

All these things live inside the mind.

I get so much satisfaction and fulfillment by supporting them on their journey of self-discovery and choosing which of their stories serve them, and which do not. I realize now that “the bigger” thing I was supposed to be doing in my life was serving others in this way.

Freeing myself from the confines of my own mind, has enabled me to live the life I was meant to live. I am now supporting others in their liberation from what is holding them back.

It all begins and ends in the mind.

I’d love to support you too! If you’re curious about coaching, and want to discover the difference it could make in your life, I’d love to offer you this opportunity for reading this entire post:

1 month of life coaching (3 sessions) for the price of $400. With the coupon code, you get it for 10% off, by using the discount code gum. Here is the registration link:

I invite you to experience the process that helped me fulfill my calling to do something bigger and more meaningful with my life.

What are you meant to do with your life? I invite you to try life coaching so you can move obstacles out of your way and get where you’re going faster!