How do we break our harmful patterns of thought or behavior?
We want to stop making the same mistakes. We feel frustrated with ourselves for giving in to our fears or hurting our loved ones. Fear influences our thoughts and actions in all aspects of our lives… our relationships, our work performance.
If you’ve been hurt before, your fear is a defense mechanism to protect you from being hurt again. Even when we know that fear is to blame, we struggle to overcome it and make changes.
I want to share a technique I use with my coaching clients to help them recognize and reframe fear-based actions. I lead clients through a powerful visualization exercise to help them meet their needs for control, security, and approval.
How to Visualize a New Outcome
Visualization is not a “new” technique. Elite athletes, actors, and high performers use visualization exercises to manifest their dreams or goals. It’s about harnessing the power of your mind to change your internal beliefs and mindsets.
Step 1: Visualize a situation that puts you into a defensive, fearful or challenging place.
Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and call the situation to mind in as much detail as you can. Maybe it’s an argument with your partner or a critical performance review with your boss.
As you fully immerse yourself in the scene, it may trigger painful thoughts and emotions. That’s OK.
Step 2: Ask yourself, what could be different?
Once you have been in the scene for a few moments, consider what you’d typically do in this situation. If it’s a memory, visualize the scene exactly as it played out. What might you have done differently?
Step 3: Change just one thing about the scene.
While there may be multiple things you could do differently, the key is to pick just one. Imagine how the scene would play out if you decided to listen, rather than shout. If you were truthful, rather than dishonest. If you spoke up, rather than withdrawing.
How has the scene changed?
Step 4: Imagine changing your actions in the future
The next time that you are in the situation, recall the different outcomes you visualized here. Then take a step forward by taking action on the thought or action you decided to change in this exercise.
Why Visualization Works
This visualization exercise allows you to explore multiple outcomes. And you do so in a safe space. We’re able to think more calmly and rationally when we aren’t in the heat of the moment.
When our emotions run high and fear controls our thoughts, we may see only one way forward. We fall back on the familiar bad habits to protect ourselves from the short-term consequences. We might lie, for example, to avoid confrontation with a friend or partner.
For the most part, we are too familiar with the consequences of our fear-based actions. The visualization exercise, however, allows us to see past the short-term to the long-term consequences. Lying might help avoid confrontation, but you’ve broken trust with someone you care about. You may feel guilty later for causing that person pain.
This visualization technique is meant to help you see new options. You change the scene, and you imagine a different outcome, and you realize it may not be worth fearing after all.
We manifest our fears when we allow them to control our thoughts. This exercise is about shaping your thoughts to create a more positive reality.
Visualization is powerful. Change just one thought or behavior, and you change the outcome.
If you need someone to walk you through this visualization exercise, feel free to get in touch. As an Executive and Life Coach, it’s my mission to help high achievers create balance and discover the power in their choices. Let’s connect so we can work on the visualization of your new reality.