For the last few decades I have been hearing about the power of visualization, and I'm pretty sure that it works -- to some extent anyway (although I have to admit that a part of me gets rather annoyed every time I hear someone talk about it). I finally figured out that the reason the subject of visualization irritates me is because it's a little like a bribe; an attempt to achieve a goal by means of corruption.
That statement may be a little extreme, but I'm pretty sure that, like corruption, the damage is more devastating than we realize. Countries with rampant corruption have no chance of ever reaching an acceptable economical standard for its citizens until corruption has been rooted out or scaled back. Similarly, an individual's reliance on visualization can eventually destroy his or her ability to get anything done, period. The promise of success through visualization can actually do the exact opposite: keep you from ever reaching your goals by focusing on the wrong things.
Generally though, if you have a goal, your powers of visualization can bring you closer to reaching it, as long as you don't allow visualization to get in your way. What I mean by that is that you have to be very clear that the role of visualization is never more than that of a middle man. You don't need it. If visualization works, it's only because it puts something else in gear, something we call "effort."
Without effort, visualization only creates unrealistic expectations that waste your time and eventually make you look silly even in your own eyes. It's a little like dreaming; it delivers something, and seconds later that something has evaporated, leaving absolutely nothing behind.
The reason you, or anyone else for that matter, has ever achieved anything is because of effort, nothing else. Focus, planning, persistence -- these are all different aspects of good old effort. Unfortunately, I rarely hear anyone talk about effort these days.
Almost a hundred years ago, Gurdjieff explained the power of effort as follows (I am taking some artistic liberty here but the message remains essentially the same): Those people who put out no effort never accomplish anything, they never achieve a goal and, instead, prefer to rely on others for their daily needs. These unfortunate souls are generally unhappy, unfulfilled, and can't understand why life has not delivered to their expectations.
Those people who put out effort usually do okay. They have jobs, raise families, retire without going into the poorhouse, and so forth. Obviously this is rather general, and many folks who put out effort fall through the cracks anyway. But I'm sure you get my drift.
Finally, there are those who put out extra effort, who do more than what is required or even expected. They go the extra mile. They are the ones who tend to be more successful than the rest of us. This doesn't always translate into money. There are people who reached every goal they ever set by consistently applying extra effort, yet live relatively simple lives. But of all the people I know with considerable achievements under their belts, and I know quite a few of them, not a single one reached his or her goals through visualization. They reached their goals because they worked hard, went beyond what was expected, pushed their boundaries and didn't give up until they got where they wanted to be. In other words, they applied effort. And every one of them will tell you the same thing. If you want to achieve anything, it takes effort, effort and more effort. Forget visualization. If you need visualization to crank up your effort, it's already too late.
You remember that employee who just wouldn't leave unless every chore had been done and done right, even if some of those chores belonged to others? Or the student who didn't go to the parties and instead studied half the night? Or the entrepreneur who risked his life savings more than once and put in 16-hour days? The writer who locked himself in a quiet cabin for weeks at a time? The lawyer who sacrificed everything for that big case? Well, take another look at those folks. They didn't stand out because they sacrificed and put out such great effort for that one goal. They stand out because it's just the way they live. They apply that same kind of effort to everything else in their lives too.
Reading this, you may think that I am one of those Ayn Rand guys who thinks that everything about life comes down to goals and success. Nothing could be further from the truth. I read her books and didn't like them one bit; they lacked heart, compassion, spirituality, and just about everything else humanity should stand for.
What I am though, is a true fan of effort. Real effort. The effort to do the right thing, to question yourself more than others, to get beyond your self-righteous opinions and look at your real motives. The effort to search and search and search for the answers to the big questions in life.
I love to see the effort in a person who's trying to break away from the things that have been spoon fed to him or her since childhood, to come into his or her own powers. I see people deliver the effort to overcome their fear and try a different path, and it's a magnificent thing to see. Any time I recognize that kind of effort in a person it fills me with admiration. I want to be like that. I want to dig up every bit of effort I have and apply it to all those opportunities life throws my way. Many of them have nothing to do with financial success or accomplishing great achievements. They have to do with me and what I want to be. And if, at the end of my life, there's not a whole lot worth taking credit for, I know I can at least take credit for that; I put out a lot of effort. I'm the king of dead-end streets and don't regret a single one of them. In fact, I'm sure I'll walk a few more. And that's the essence of extra effort. It's never enough to look around a corner and visualize something there. You have to go the distance, there's no other way. I don't want to come to the end of my life still visualizing whatever it is I desire to have or do or accomplish. Visualization is for the birds, they got that covered; just sail above the earth and catch the occasional dragonfly.
But you know, the funny thing is that whenever I look at nature, that's all I see: effort. The effort to survive, the effort to procreate, to mate with the best partner you can find. The effort of a blade of grass or a tree to grow tall and thereby claim more sunlight. The effort to be as beautiful as you can be, the effort to live as long as you can. Nature is not just beauty, although that's certainly the case, she is also a massive 24/7 effort producer. Come to think of it, this whole creation is the result of effort, lots and lots of effort.
Which brings me to this: There's absolutely no more powerful prayer, no more honest way to show your respect and love for your creator, no more promising way to pursue your personal growth and wisdom, and no more efficient approach to being fulfilled and happy, than effort!
Effort is the key to everything you could possibly want from this life. Your satisfaction is guaranteed.