Stop trying to improve your life using visualization

This has been a rough two years for all of us. We’ve all felt the ups and downs of sudden change, had to adjust quickly to being limited, alone, and faced grief and frustration head-on.

Many of us have had to reflect on ourselves and our lives. And some of us didn’t like what we saw in the mirror.

Meanwhile, the self-development industry boomed.

We hit the gym, took online courses, ran outside, hiked, took on new ventures, and tried to improve our circumstances.

But, at the same time alcohol and illicit drug sales soared. As have divorce rates. Unemployment and scraping by for a meal are tough on anyone. And constant stress from uncertainty eats away at our ability to enjoy and thrive in life.

So this notion of constantly trying to improve yourself can seem absurd. Especially when we are just trying just to get through the day.

If you set goals to be a “better” person, you might find that you are taking steps towards a future that doesn’t exist.

It’s a fantasy of sorts. And it seems like a great way to set yourself up for a great deal of disappointment.

You might also miss out on what’s going on right in front of you.

Aparigraha: Act Without Expectation

There’s a term for this in the Bhagavad Gita called ‘Aparigraha’. In this yogic text, Krishna shares an important lesson to his student Arjuna on an epic battlefield:

“Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction.

– Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata

The essential message here is that when we concern ourselves with the outcome of a situation, we are acting with an agenda. All we can do is act. And act well, with honesty and integrity.

We can’t control what will happen from that action.

We can only control what we are doing at the moment and we have to let the action unfold.

For example, you can shoot an arrow and aim for a target, but the important part is the concentration and effort that you put forward. So many factors can affect how and where that arrow will land.

So now what?

We can have an idea of where we want to go in life, but there’s also the reality of letting the experience come through you. There’s nothing necessarily that you have to improve or strive for. It’s important to take care of yourself, but what does it really mean to improve?

A common piece of advice from therapists, sensitive friends, mentors, and coaches is to visualize the person you want to be and the life you want.

Alan Watts counters this notion quite beautifully. He states:

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

I came across the same issues with this type of visualization after watching Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown’s video on the hidden trap of improving yourself.

Hidden Trap of improving yourself

Justin brings up the essential point that visualization isn’t always the technique to find your purpose because it can set your mind into thinking that life is meant to be a certain way that you foresee and expect.

Yes, it’s good to be clear about what you need.

But visualizing your life to be a certain way can also hold you back.

However, it can feel difficult to make changes and be open to life when you’re not feeling in sync with your true self.

Be honest. Do you like your life?

Do you laugh with your friends? Do you enjoy your day?

Are you able to trust others and be open to the love around you?

Are you able to look at yourself in the mirror and feel good about the person you are?

If you struggle, it might be time to make some adjustments.

It can be terrifying to make the changes you know you need to make. Something might not sit well with you. You might wake up feeling frustrated, dissatisfied, and feeling a sense of despair. You might know if you continue doing what you are doing you’ll hit a point of breakdown, hostility, or just more pain.

This is a great place to be.

It means it’s time to get in and look honestly at your inner state. You don’t need to improve yourself. You just need to get to know yourself.

The core of self-development is to change your inner world.

Do you want to keep living the life you are living?

After watching Justin’s video, you might also relate to where his feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction surface. How do you feel when life doesn’t happen the way you visualize it to?

Life rarely happens in ways we could ever imagine.

Instead, there’s a new way to think about how to find your purpose which Justin Brown explains from what he learned from spending time with a shaman in Brazil.

It’s time to take power back over your life. This masterclass is a great way to explore what your deep sense of inner purpose is.

Remember no one else can do this for you.

No one else can figure this out for you.

Make a strong and clear connection with yourself and act from there.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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