Earlier this week, we brought you the first of four steps for re-patterning your brain. Throughout this process of “spring cleaning” your brain, the goal is to use mindfulness and neuroscience to build healthy brain habits. Re-training your brain is vital for achieving goals successfully and transforming your life. Since actions and habits originate in the brain, the brain has to be the source of change too.
The first step in re-training your brain was “Dream Big; Start Small.” Now that you have mindfully set a goal and created small steps along the way, it is time to lay the groundwork for achieving every step. It is not enough to know where you are going; you need to know how you are going to get there. Even better, you need to see yourself on the journey.
Make a powerful plan and visualize achieving it.
Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, "in preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
Visualizing your new brain habits is not a replacement for taking action, but it is a helpful way to plan and a strong plan is the first step to consistent action. In a UCLA study titled From Thought to Action, people who imagined the process of achieving their goals were more likely to take consistent steps toward that goal. As with backtracking from your big dream to little steps, visualizing yourself performing those steps helps solidify your plan and set you up for success.
If you'd like a wonderful tool to create a modern-day vision board, Mind Movies is a digital vision board that allows you to create a movie of your ideal life. A powerful use of technology that helps you get clear on your desires and anchors a vision of your future self.
Related reading: "5 Ways Brain Fitness and Behavioral Health Are Optimized by Healthy Habits."
Plan Big, then Visualize
Once your big plan is in place, visualization can reduce any anxiety you have about taking those daily steps. Imagine yourself performing each action, however mundane it seems. Feel the sensations this evokes in your body. Make the experience as real as possible. The goal is to feel the enhanced emotions that you would feel if the experience was actually happening. Now your brain is prepped for the actual actions.
When planning and visualizing, check that your goal is SMART, public sociologist Christine Whelan’s acronym for successful life planning. Any new habit must be: Specific, Measurable, Rewardable, and Trackable.
Setting up a SMART plan and visualizing it empowers you to start brain-changing—it’s like buying the closet organizer and painting a mental picture of your newly color-coordinated sock drawer. The goal is now that much more achievable.
Next up: Build Your Own Momentum - why repetition is vital for a healthy brain.