Embarking on a major life change, in your career or personal life, is daunting. It may involve real, or perceived, risks and decisions that will impact family and friends, as well as you. So it’s no surprise making a change often triggers doubts, fears and negative thoughts.
Questions such as: What if this doesn’t work? What if I get this terribly wrong? What if they don’t like me? are likely to creep into your mind and may prevent you from grasping an opportunity. But there’s a powerful tool that can help counteract these anxieties, one that involves activating your positive thoughts and unlocking your positive imagination.
Locate your inner child to enhance your positive imagination
Positive imagination comes naturally to most children who create and explore imaginary landscapes and worlds in a delightful, life-affirming way. Unfortunately by the time we reach adulthood, the negative imagination has often taken over. Adults are in ‘survival mode’, which exaggerates fears and anxieties, and leads us to focus on worst-case scenarios. In the process we forget to use our minds to create joy.
What we imagine has such power because our central nervous system doesn’t know the difference between what we are thinking and what is really happening to us. It has no concept of time and can’t differentiate between past, present and future. That means the body will believe it is actually experiencing events we are imagining, and respond accordingly.
For example, imagine you were involved in an accident with a red car ten years ago and every time you saw a red car afterwards you thought about how much pain it had caused you, bringing up all the anger you felt towards the driver responsible. Your nervous system would register a stressful reaction each time. Mentally, it would be as if the accident was happening over and over again, even though you were only thinking about it.
discover how to harness the power of the positive
Luckily positive thinking is just as powerful as negative thinking. If we consciously choose to imagine positive scenarios or interpret situations in a good light, our minds and bodies will benefit.
As we visualise or imagine something pleasant, especially if we can truly focus on it for a few minutes, our brain begins releasing endorphins – the pleasure hormone and one of the body’s healing chemicals. We immediately start feeling good. And the more senses we can involve in our positive visualisations, the more profound the effects will be.
This could be as simple as using mantras such as: “It’s all going to be ok” or “this is the right decision” when you make a big change in your life, and picturing a future in which that new direction has worked out well. Doing this can relieve anxiety and stress.
The power of positive imagination doesn’t stop here. As we re-learn how to activate our positive imagination and feel its benefits, we also start to create new neural pathways and transform destructive belief systems, unleashing untapped positive potential in the process.
Your career could reap the rewards
Whether interviewing for a new job or deciding to start a new business, consider your thoughts and what’s going on in your imagination. Embracing positive imagination and visualisation will enable you to soothe your body and nervous system as you embark on change, helping you to perform better in situations that might be stressful.
Learn to think about the future as a friendly and positive place. It might not work out specifically as you imagined or wanted, but taking your next step in a positive frame of mind is likely to make it more successful and, importantly, more enjoyable.
Written by our mindfulness coach Cath Gillespie.