In the past decade, I've transformed my life using the power of visualization. My own journey led me to turn my back on my traditional medical career as a psychiatrist, learning to tune into my deep inner wisdom and intuition, and risk everything to carve out a new career as an executive coach. I realized that the key to creating the life I dreamt of lay within my brain – what I call 'the source'. This is a realization that I have come to as a result of my Ph.D. research in neuroscience, but also as a result of my openness to more esoteric and alternative practices. I believe that visualization is at the heart of autonomous creativity, and I passionately believe that by training yourself to visualize in a focused way, anybody can manifest a more fulfilled, successful, and happy life.
I was still working as a doctor, and was about 30 years old when I stumbled on the concepts of positive thinking and visualization. At the time I was happily married and carefree. It wasn't until my lovingly built life came crashing down around me – the end of my marriage, a massive career change and the challenge of living alone and starting over, that I found myself drawn to the ideas once again. I picked up a book called 'The Master Key System' and was struck in particular by the power of the visualizations. I began the habit of making annual action boards, where I would cut pictures out of magazines to symbolize my goals and aspirations. I would look at my board morning and night, and focus on my dreams becoming a reality (this is the action part). Through the process of working with these boards, I came to understand how through visualization I could harness the power of my brain to help direct my life. The experience of my friends, family, patients and coaching clients all fed into my ideas and again and again demonstrated the power of visualization.
The key for me is not to regard visualization as something that you do, then sit back and wait for the results to roll in. It's a precursor to proactive action in your life. The more you internalize the images on your board and work with them in reality as well as your imagination, the more powerful they will become. For this reason, the less 'literal' and more metaphorical the images you use, the better (this is why the horse worked so well for me). Choose your imagery carefully, and as you look at your board, imagine the aspirations being your reality.
For me, visualization is an active, rather than a passive thing. That's why I use the term 'action boards' rather than 'vision boards.' An effective action board should represent your innermost dreams in pictures that you can then visualize. An action board will help prime your brain to grasp any opportunities that will bring you closer to your dream life. A strong example from my own action board was the beautiful, glossy horse kicking up some water I chose one year to represent my business – strong, stable and disrupting conventional thinking. That was the year I went from being freelance to setting up a limited company. It was also the year I became faculty at MIT Sloan School of Management.
Dr. Tara Swart is the only executive advisor to have a career as an MD, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Find more inspiration on Tara's website, her Forbes blog and follow her on Instagram @drtaraswart and on Twitter @TaraSwart. Tara's book 'The Source' is available to buy on Amazon.co.uk and for order on Amazon.com.
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