I had my eyes tested last week for the first time in well over 3 years. I normally wear contact lenses with the same prescription as my glasses and from what I could tell, my eyesight hadn’t changed much.
Yet, I fancied a new pair of glasses so decided it was worth getting my eyes tested at the same time.
I knew I’d be told off for leaving it this long between checks; but I wasn’t entirely prepared for my eye doctor’s melodramatic display of incredulousness. Still it was a fun little show that made the experience more enjoyable as I settled myself in his leather chair and read…
…pretty much none of the letters on the chart in front of me
I think I managed two rows down before it was a sheer guess whether that ‘M’ was actually an ‘M’ and not an over familiar ‘N’ cosying up to its neighbouring ‘I’.
My doctor, now smugly vindicated in his shock, asked me if I’d noticed how bad my eyes had got. And the truth was, I hadn’t noticed. At all.
Now I’m not in Mr Magoo territory yet, thankfully, but for the last year at least it seems I’d been viewing the world at maybe only 70-80% of what it should and could be. Edges that were once sharp were now a little blurred. Colours that were once bright Technicolor were being viewed through one of those washed out Instagram filters.
And just like that, we hopefully give a collective ‘Ah-ha’ as we understand that – mercifully this is not some dull tale concerning my routine eye test but perhaps something else. Because what I realised is that this is actually quite a beautiful and fitting metaphor for the way our lives can go if we aren’t mindful of the situation.
Life’s All About How You Look At It
We all experience life through our own lens. But often we become so accustomed to this lens that we stop being aware of it. The phrases we use, the thoughts we think and the beliefs we hold all create our reality. The thing is we spend so long viewing the world a certain way, doing the same things day in day out that we sometimes don’t even realise it’s a little out of focus.
And this got me thinking about where this can show up in other areas of life.
Where are we certain that we can see things perfectly, but really it’s gone a little blurry? In our relationships? Our careers? Our lives.
The beauty of this is that just having the awareness of things going a little out of focus means you are able to start to bring things back to clarity. When this happens become mindful of it in your daily work. Be more curious. Ask better questions of things. Practice being present with yourself and others.
I personally like to remind myself of the concept; how we do anything is how we do everything. When we can be present in each moment and see everything clearly, and how it is, now how we expect it, or want it to be, we can take back control over our world.
This is best highlighted I think, rather aptly with another glasses metaphor as told me by one of my mentors a few years ago. You see when we wear glasses, of any kind, we very quickly become accustomed to them. We forget we have them on and simply go about our day. All is fine.
Yet the thing is, now on either side of our vision are the arms of our glasses, literally, hard lines that are there but we choose not to see. Our mind doesn’t want to notice them so it simply blocks them out.
And we all have these hard lines that we’ve placed around our lives. We constructed them a long time ago and then chose to stop looking at them. But these hard lines keep us constrained, they keep us small. They often stop us from doing what we truly want. The thing is though just like the arms of our glasses, these constraints we’ve placed around ourselves now exist in our blind spots. So very often we can’t even see them.
We’re all so close to what we want but at some point in the past the little kid inside of us put up these hard lines as to what is possible. But they made a mistake and we need to learn to give that child permission to let go of the beliefs they held onto so tightly and begin to push through these barriers; to see the world again in focus.
As a great man once said, if you think you can’t do something, you’re correct.
Yet if we just begin to be aware of the limitations we have placed around ourselves we can fight against them. We can start to change our reality
Of course this isn’t always easy. These hard lines usually have a pattern of fear behind them that stops us doing what we want. There’s also that pesky information bias which tells us we need more information to take action.
But this too is a blind spot and we don’t actually need anything in place except the will to try. We all learn best by taking action. By experiencing a reality and learning from it. What I’ve also learnt over the years is that confidence is a result not a pre-requisite. It isn’t a requirement. Confidence comes after you do the thing. Its repetition in action.
Ask yourself what is the worse that will happen? Because honestly, in the best possible way, no one cares if you mess up. You’ll pick yourself up and learn from it. But just by being aware of your blind spots and going for it anyway you’ll be experiencing life in full focus again.
Yet, what is even more exciting for us is that research has proved we don’t have to actually do the thing over and over. We can gain confidence in our abilities by using our minds eye. By using the sharp focus of our imaginations, by reliving past achievements and mentally rehearsing the thing we want to excel at. Your subconscious mind really is that powerful.
Studies have shown that the mind cannot tell the difference between something vividly imagined and something that actually happens in the outside world.
When we imagine being happy and confident, we can actually begin to create those emotions for real. In essence we feel amazing when we start to have amazing thoughts and we have amazing thoughts because we think our thoughts are amazing.
The sad thing is of course, a lot people still keep their focused blurred – or worse focussed on the bad events in their lives. They dwell on unpleasant episodes because their ego, their sense of self, was rocked for a moment and they feel wronged, but by focusing so much on these episodes, rather than finding answers, all they’re really doing is attracting more of the same to them
Change Your Focus, Change Your Life
So ask yourself; what is my focus right now? Are you focusing on something you want or something you don’t want? Are you seeing the opportunities or only the obstacles? What are you looking at?
I actually heard a story just the other day that illustrates this perfectly; so imagine you’re driving your kids back home on an icy day and all of a sudden you lose control of the car and it begins to skid uncontrollably into a tree.
Now, where do you focus? At the tree? Or the road?
You see when we’re afraid we stare at the tree. We stare wide eyed at it because it’s so prevalent in that moment. But we need to shift our focus, we need to look at the road ahead, on where we need to go. On what we need to do to save ourselves. Doing so means we not only focus on action and growth but it takes our minds off the things that scare us.
When someone submits to a self-defeating mentality their thoughts and beliefs begin to focus only on the bad and thus the more demotivated and negative they begin to feel. The more demotivated and negative they feel the more focus is placed on other problems and issues, and so it goes round and before they know it their world too is being seen at just 70%.
It’s easy to think that life is against you at times. Because, well life seems like it’s against you at times. But I’ve always believed that every one of us has the power to create our own reality.
As Shakespeare wrote so eloquently in Hamlet, over 400 years ago; ‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’.
Everything that happens to us is filtered through our own perception of what is happening, by the frames we choose to experience it through. These frames can be fully focused or a skewed, blurred version of life.
What this means though of course is that if we can focus on bad stuff and make ourselves feel bad, we can also play our imagination at its own game. But this time have it help us on our path.
Just like the person who focuses solely on their bad luck and, vis a vis, always seems to have bad luck, we can start to actively use past wins to fuel confidence.
Studies have shown that when we make a point of only focusing on times in life when we’ve achieved amazing results, our subconscious will quickly align with this way of thinking.
To the point where, over time, because we’re focusing on success we start to notice more opportunities for that success everywhere we go, re-tuning our minds to seek it out.
The more focus we place on past success, the more confident we become over time. These moments can be any time where we felt confident and strong, though it doesn’t have to be some huge feat of grandeur. It could be passing a driving test, making a first sale or even just a time when we felt on top form for no reason in particular.
How To Increase Confidence
You can try this yourself today, whatever it may be, recall a moment when the planets aligned for you. Focus vividly on how you felt, on what you saw and heard. Make it multi-sensory, fully relive those feelings of pride and accomplishment. Put yourself back there in the moment and completely immerse yourself in the experience again.
When we recreate the event in our minds we begin to feel the same emotions we actually felt the first time round in our pleasure receptors. Doing this regularly, going over successful simulations in your mind will slowly over time build your self-belief. Then, with stronger belief in ourselves and our abilities, the more likely we are to take action on our goals.
There’s another way we can use our imaginations if we want to know how to increase confidenc in our abilities; by mentally rehearsing a coming event, even though it hasn’t yet happened. Studies have proven time and again that vividly imagining an experience is as useful, and in many cases in fact better, than the actual real-world experience.
By visualising a future paced version of events the subconscious cannot tell the difference and thus reacts the same way.
One of these studies was done using basketball players, who were working on bettering their free shots. The players were split into two groups, one of which practiced their free shots on the court every day, while the second group did nothing but spend all day sat in a room mentally rehearsing the shots.
Remarkably when the final test came and each group took the same amount of shots it was the actually the second group that ultimately triumphed. Researchers thus came to the only probable explanation; that the difference was in the group that had only mentally rehearsed the free shots they had never missed one.
Their free shots were perfectly timed and angled every single time. What we can conclude from this is that the more often you imagine an event with a successful conclusion, the more you experience the feelings and impulses caused by the success and the more your self-belief and confidence in what you can achieve builds.
Visualization Techniques Work For Winners
We can list many other famous names; Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Cristiano Ronaldo; all athletes at the very top pinnacle of their respective sports and who have all been on record extolling the virtues of visualization in assisting them in becoming world-class.
They all mentally rehearsed their strategies and plays in vivid detail. They practiced that winning swing, or free kick perfectly in their heads before it happened. They visualise the full game or play going just how they want it and then when the time comes their minds and body work for them as if the outcome is already inevitable.
By visualising the desired outcome it creates neuro-sensations in the muscles, which means our whole being expects the event to go just how we’ve visualized.
Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all puts his success down to something similar, what he calls his Success Videotape. In an interview I read recently he spoke of each night before going to sleep he plays himself a movie of the perfect swim in his mind, to mentally map out his performance for the next day, and 28 medals later, it clearly works.
There’s also a story I heard about a prisoner who spent all his time inside working out in the prison gym. Every available opportunity he had he was in there pumping iron until one day he got into an altercation with another inmate. The wardens split them up and both were locked in solitary confinement. No books, no space, no gym. Nothing.
Visualization Techniques For Baddies
This health conscious prisoner knew he was going to be in there for some time so with nothing else to do and to keep his mind active he began to vividly imagine doing the workout he’d normally do each day. He played it all out in his head second by second, rep by rep, set by set.
Even though he was in the hole for over 60 days, when he came out there was no muscle wastage at all. He weighed the same as when he went in. Because of the neuro-sensations he was vividly creating in his mind, his body thought he was still working out. So it acted accordingly.
What I’ve found is that this process works for all kinds of situations too, not just sport. It can work just as effectively for important meetings or a first date, any time where you need an edge. All you have to do is spend some time leading up to the event visualising the situation in rich detail. The more vivid your imagination, the better the results will be. See everything in your mind as if you were your best, most confident self; how you’ll walk, what you’ll say, how you’ll say it, how you’ll handle any feelings of anxiety.
Plan everything in advance and go through every eventuality and by the time you walk into that boardroom or restaurant you’ll have everything in hand. When you see yourself confidently achieving what you want you will begin to create those same neuro-sensation as you feel how it feels and see yourself happy and fulfilled, handling the situation so well.
Once we shift our focus and begin to notice where we aren’t seeing things as best we could we can start to once more sharpen our focus and begin to enjoy life to its fullest.
When we expand our focus in this way it gives us permission to start expecting happiness and success at all times. In this new space we can start to look about us again and enjoy all the world has to offer.
As we see, so we act. As we act, so we see.
And my new glasses are very nice if you were wondering.