The map is not the territory

Before sharing tips and ideas on the power of visualization I think it may be useful to explore together a bit about maps, oh I do hope I haven’t lost you already! This is not meant to be a geography lesson but you just wouldn’t believe how life changing knowing a little bit more about internal maps can actually be. I am afraid, however, that unless I start writing long essays for which I am sure none of you would be particularly grateful or want to read over your morning coffee, I won’t be doing this subject justice so I therefore recommend that those of you who do want to take it further, investigate more about Neuro- Linquistic Prorogramming ( NLP). The best way to do this is to find a local practice group or training programming but here is a wealth of information available on the internet.

NLP is a bit like an ‘owners manual’ for your brain! It is a tool to understand how the language of our mind creates and runs the patterns we have in life. It is built up on a number of pre-suppositions or beliefs and “the map is not the territory” is one of them.

NLP doesn’t hold that these beliefs are ‘ultimately’ true, but we pre-suppose that they are. In NLP, whether a belief is ultimately true or not is not as important as whether or not it’s useful.

As human beings, we can never really know reality. We can only know our perceptions of reality. We experience and respond to the world around us primarily through our sensory representational systems. It is our ‘neuro-linguistic’ maps of reality that determine how we behave and that gives those behaviours meaning, not reality itself. It is generally not reality that limits us or empowers us, but rather our map of reality.

There are a couple of problems with this. The first, it’s easy to forget that what we believe to be reality is actually only our representation, or map, of it. The second is that everyone has a different map, or perception of reality.

Everyone sees the world differently. We all have our own map of it depending on our upbringing, our attitudes, beliefs, prejudices and individual perceptions at any given time. Everything we see and hear is adjusted to fit these experiences.

So I may see the world quite differently from many of you. This is important to bear in mind when sharing tips and strategies if they are to be of any use to you. I have a very visual mind, whereas Colin and perhaps yourselves may have an auditory (hearing) or kinaesthetic (feeling) thinking style or preference, so please do excuse me if my language is very visually focused.

After all that here goes for some tips on visualisation

1) Put some time aside, this is important as visualisation can dramatically change your future and you want to get it right, so don’t hurry it. Creative visualisation is best used when you are truly relaxed and feeling positive. A good idea is to take a nice long hot bath, especially at night, then put on some relaxing music, and meditate for a few minutes.

2) Start to visualize what you want. Close your eyes and visualize a mental movie of what you desire. For many people it may be hard to visualize to begin with so have a go at trying this first:

Let’s visualise going to the beach. Start off with the feelings , feel the warmness of the beach and the light breeze from the sea. Then imagine hearing, hear the seagulls, the kids laughing, the people talking, the waves. Next see, notice all the people enjoying the beach, see people sunbathing , swimming, laughing, making sandcastles, see the sun and the blue sky and the waves, and people surfing. Now visualize yourself, with all these senses, walking to the beach, sitting down on the golden sand and doing what ever you would do at the beach for as long as you like. Enjoy being there soaking up all the different sounds, smells , tastes, pictures and feelings. You have transported yourself in time to a place you desire and enjoy, without moving from your armchair and at no cost. How amazing is that!

3) Practice this daily, maybe visualising being in different places to start with, remembering to notice all the sensations around you.

4) Now once you have got good at doing this you need to work out what it is you want in your life. Have good clear goals and outcomes and put your new found visualization skills into practice.

The secret is knowing what you really do want so that you can focus your and the external worlds attention on it. But that’s another whole challenge all together so you had better get your thinking caps on.

I think it may be useful to share some examples of how visualisation has worked in practice for me.

The Dream Job.

Personally , this involved drawing out on large sheets of flip charts all the things I desired in my dream job. I wanted to share my mental health knowledge and training, to create resources, speak at conferences, reduce stigma surrounding mental ill health and improve communication skills. I knew there would be some challenges as I don’t have the academic qualifications that some of my doctorate fellows have but I was able to visualise my way around these. I started to see a path forward. I visualised achieving awards, creating a whole service and really making a difference. All of this is exactly what I achieved. I haven’t always been a confident person, and there have been times when I started to doubt myself but I knew that if I didn’t believe it to be possible no one else would either.

A Dream Home.

Perhaps I needed to try harder at visualising making money but I feel that my desire for financial wealth has not been strong enough to achieve this. Both Colin and I did however dream of the perfect home in the countryside. A little detected house surrounded by fields with barns to host our VW campervan and collections of shabby chic furniture, art easels and craft projects. How about in the village just down the round from my dear sister so she should could ride over for breakfast surely this would be too good to be true?
So here we now are in that exact home. Was it just chance that led us to notice the ‘To Let’ sign that had just been posted up on the very day we were passing on the way back from a delightful team event delivered by my sister. Was it pure chance that in order to rent this dream home you needed to own a business (the BrainBox) ?

I could go on with more examples but I fear this blog is much longer than first anticipated and I don’t want to take up any more of your valuable time.

Although these appear as dreams they are grounded in reality which does also require hard work, grit and determination, but without the initial visualisation one might be blind to the opportunities around.

Happy Sunday and very happy visualising.