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How Visualization and...

How Visualization and Affirmation Can Backfire

As we think we feel, as we feel we ooze, as we ooze we influence.

I like to have a personal slogan for each year. Last year, it was “Feeling fine”. Based upon my experiences and my learning over the past year, I now know—feeling is key!

The practice of affirmation and visualization is a common principle in success teachings. I believe in and practice both. However—and this is big—I’ve always wondered why it works sometimes and not others. If it’s Universal Law, then it’s supposed to work all the time. If it doesn’t work consistently, then we must be doing something wrong.

It’s become clear to me why this process has produced seemingly unreliable results. If we affirm or visualize something and our first thoughts are of reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/might not get it, we’re reversing the process. We’re focusing on what we don’t want. If our predominant thoughts are of lack or fear, then the very process of picturing our desires is creating just the opposite. We’re creating alright, but we’re creating by default rather than with deliberate purpose. When our feelings are in conflict with our thoughts, the feelings usually win.

I’ve always thought of myself as a big thinker, although I’m often confronted with how much bigger it can be. Nonetheless, there have been many times that I’ve taken on projects or set off on goals that were beyond my true beliefs and expectations. I assumed that if I just thought positively and worked hard I could make it happen. Sometimes I did, but too often what I was thinking (I can do it) and what I was visualizing (I have it) were overshadowed by my fear of failing (I don’t have it and I can’t do it). String several failures together and you start to expect failure as the norm. You feel like a failure.


I believe that thought precedes feeling. As we think we feel. We have control over our feelings; it’s just not easy. Sometimes we need to think big but act in smaller ways until our beliefs and our feelings catch up with our thinking.

Let’s say you want to become good at public speaking (by the way, all speaking is public unless you’re talking to yourself). You begin to picture yourself making a presentation at your company’s annual meeting. As you do so, you feel fear. Your palms start to sweat, your heart pounds. Is this a good visualization? I think not. I believe that the Universe will respond more to your strong emotion than your well-intended thought process. As you affirm yourself unafraid, your body is scared to death.

In this case, it would be better to visualize yourself giving a talk to a smaller group of people. In addition, you’ll want to take some real-life actions and develop skills that will position you to visualize and affirm with true confidence—with strong and positive emotions. This way, your process will create and attract your intention rather than scare it away.

I just bought a new car. I was going to put my old car through another Vermont winter and get a Saab 9000 in the spring. And I knew that it would happen. I pictured myself driving it with the sun streaming through the sunroof. I could smell the leather upholstery and hear the music from the sound system. There was no doubt I was going to have this car. I could feel it.

Then, last week, I decided to look in the newspaper just to check out prices. I saw what looked like a good deal. I made one call and looked at only one car. It was everything I wanted and more. The owner accepted my offer (well below loan value) and within two days I had sold my old car for more than I paid for it two years prior. I sold it to the first and only person to look at it.

You might not think this is a big deal. But it’s only an example of dozens of wins and scores of serendipities that have made last year a very good one. The key for me has been in aligning my feelings with my thinking.

I now see visualization and affirmation as tools that invoke the feeling which creates my intention. My confidence in my ability to deliberately create my life has skyrocketed.

By Michael Angier for Not Just The Kitchen


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