Mind over Matter: Woo Woo or Real?
By Nancy Zwiers
We all set goals that we want to achieve—a sales goal, a promotion, a new customer, a bigger home, etc. How we go about achieving those goals can vary from person to person. Some use productivity tools; some use to-do lists; some use sheer will. How many of you have tried methods that are designed to leverage the full power of your mind to create the reality you seek? How many of you scoff at the very idea?
We are told to visualize ourselves with the things that we want…as if we already have them.
Research has proven that visualization works, as first demonstrated in a study at the University of Chicago more than 50 years ago. Subjects without basketball experience were divided into three groups and the improvement in their ability to shoot free throws was measured after one month. The first group was told to shoot free throws every day. The second was told to visualize shooting free throws (with no actual hands-on practice). And the third was the control group that did nothing.
As you can guess, the third group-the one that did nothing-did not improve. And, not surprisingly, the first group that practiced daily improved their performance by +20%. Practice makes perfect—true that. Amazingly, though, the second group improved +19% --without ever shooting a free throw! The power of visualization works! And since then, sports coaches the world over include visualization in their work with top athletes. Experts advise us to envision our desired reality in as much vivid detail as possible.
I remember my first experience with a vision board. I included a picture of a beautiful tropical pool scene, symbolic of the kind of vacation I yearned to have in my 20’s. A year later, we vacationed in St. Thomas and we took a day trip to St. Johns in the Caribbean. As we toured the island and checked out top hotels, I stumbled upon the very pool scene that was on my vision board. I was flabbergasted.
Most likely we have all heard about affirmations. Some believe they work and some are skeptical. If this is something you would like to experiment with, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
The latter point speaks to the formula for success I was taught in my entrepreneurial training: BE > DO > HAVE.
The “I am” (BE) is first cause where all the power resides. Everything else is an effect that flows from that. In other words, what I DO follows from that. And, ultimately, what I HAVE is the net result of what I do.
Let’s use innovation as an example. A recent McKinsey study has shown that the biggest obstacle to innovation is fear. Affirm I am courageous. Because I am courageous, I feel the fear and do it anyway—I take risks by attempting things that have never been done before (innovation always involves risk). Then I have a reputation for being an innovator.
Finally, to answer the question posed in the headline, I turn to my own objective evidence that mind over matter is real. This relates to the image that accompanies this article—the bent spoon.
About 10 years ago, out of curiosity I attended a “spoon bending” workshop. We all were given several regular sturdy pieces of silverware to work with and we laid one on the ground. We were led through a series of visualization exercises that involved imagining the spoon rotating at maximal speed, with each visualization in the series involving a different twist.
What a powerful demonstration of the power of our minds to bend the material world to our will!
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