What is the imagination? It’s elusive. Mark Twain said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” And, Albert Einstein wrote, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
The imagination is like a rambunctious, slightly crazy, often out-of-control ‘Wild Child’ who can lose its focus in the blink of an eye. If focused on fear, the result is guilt, anger and stress. When focused on love, the outcome is gratitude, compassion and forgiveness.
Where and how you focus your imagination creates ALL YOUR experience - and temporarily changes the chemistry of your brain. That, in turn, affects your physiology, emotions, attitude, behavior and – your wellness. It’s when you focus and apply your imagination that you have a creative outcome: an idea, a goal, a book, a work of art or wellness.
The key is to focus the energy where it does the most good. We are genetically designed to survive. Our mental antennae are always on the lookout for what we need to protect ourselves. Odd thing: you never have to work at imagining a fear-based, negative future that’s full of problems, but you must choose to be pro-active in order to envision a positive future
Let’s take your imagination for a test drive: Recall an event from your past that made you angry or fearful. Your brain will immediately release a chemical variety pack, including Cortisol and Adrenaline - not good unless you are preparing to go into battle! Now, recall a memory that is loving and joyful. You will receive a reward from the ‘feel-good’ chemical in your brain called Dopamine.
Memories are stories you tell yourself: negative or positive. We are designed at our core to learn and grow from stories. By visualizing different stories - past events or future imaginings - you can slow down or speed up your heart rate, raise or lower your blood pressure, mute pain and even heal faster. It’s the power of the positive story that changes the brain for the better.
Bottom line: you want to create stories that help you grow, filled with love, forgiveness, gratitude.
Here’s some great news: Recent research proves that our brains remain plastic, malleable well in to our seventies, so we can form new neuro-connections and rewire our brain through visualization.
Harvard Medical School did an astounding study in this area. Two groups of adults were taught a simple one-handed, five-finger piano exercise. One group physically practiced two hours a day for five days. The second group practiced the same length of time but ONLY IN THEIR IMAGINATION. At the end of five days, growth in the motor cortex was identical in both those that physically practiced and those that mentally practiced. Talk about the power of visualization and brain plasticity!!
Looking through this lens, I recently examined all aspects of my career to see if I could find a common link that ties them together: that link is the power of visualization.
Leadership. I was contracted to do a worldwide study to identify traits that were common to all leaders, regardless of culture. What was the number one, universal trait? Crafting and communicating an ideal, clear vision of the future that will enroll and motivate others.
Sports. In working with athletes - track, tennis, golf, powerlifting, football and baseball - it has become obvious that one of the keys to peak performance is mentally rehearsing “as if” they were already successful. Visualization changes the brain and cements self-confidence.
Private Coaching. Private coaching clients need to pinpoint exactly what they want to achieve and develop a strategy for success. Again, visualization is one of the core skills needed to reach a goal.
Medical. In partnership with physicians, it’s been proved that stress reduction and visualization techniques help cancer patient’s deal with pain management and the nausea of chemotherapy, along with assisting surgery patients to reduce fear and heal faster.
But, how does the power of visualization, storytelling and imaging work? It’s all in the mechanics; your mind is divided into what is commonly referred to as the conscious and subconscious mind.
The conscious mind is the thinking part: the portion that’s rational, analytical, and critical. It worries and makes up a lot of stuff. It’s your self-talk. It’s the visionary part of the brain that can project in the future and plan. It’s only part of the mind that can visualize or create mental movies. Yet, the conscious mind controls only 10% of our choices.
The subconscious is VERY different: it doesn’t think or reason in the traditional sense. It’s the center of our emotions and the storehouse of memories. It’s the heavy lifter that runs our bodily functions, leaving the conscious mind free to reason, think, make stuff up and plan. It is the non-thinking part of the brain that automatically runs from fear and seeks out pleasure. In essence, the subconscious controls 90% of our choices.
Here is the surprise! The subconscious cannot tell the difference between a real emotional experience and an imagined emotional experience. It simply interprets what it is given as fact and reacts accordingly.
That’s why visualization works. You can use the 10% conscious mind to dramatically influence the non-thinking subconscious that 90% that affects our choices.
Here are several suggestions to help you harness your imagination to live an exceptional life.
Pause for a couple of minutes - take two deep breaths - and reflect on how you view the past, present circumstances and future possibilities.
1. Notice, without judgment, when negative, hurtful, fearful or angry mental movies appear. This is your brain on fear mode.
2. Visualize your ideal future. Feel it - see it - smell it - touch it. Imagine yourself in that future for a minute or so, twice a day, every day. This is how you change your brain for the better.
3. Ask yourself: What do I need to shift in my thinking to achieve my ideal future? You have the ability, right now, to let go of the past including anger towards others, failures and anything else you label as negative. Your tool is forgiveness.
4. Every day, list four things for which you are grateful. Studies prove that expressing gratitude changes your brain for the better.
You can make the decision to change your brain for the better by visualizing positive outcomes.

Author's Bio: 

James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™ & Patient Pre-Op/Post-Op Healing Therapy™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best- selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, medical facilitator, seminar leader and personal excellence coach.
For over 30 years, James has been an ardent student of human behavior and dedicated to helping individuals, teams and organizations identify and break through barriers to reach their goals. He encourages people to be open to new ways of thinking, and his mission is to help everyone make the “quantum leap” toward more creative, healthier, productive and confident lives. For both businesses and individuals, his message promotes an innovative, powerful way of thinking and provides a new-found mastery over their imagination and perceptions. The results have been nothing short of extraordinary, creating key breakthroughs in both organizational and personal excellence.
James has spoken to hundreds of public and private companies in more than 70 countries. His clients include the healthcare industry, financial institutions, software companies, the military, training and development divisions of large corporations and major non-profit organizations. Companies, associations, universities and business schools including – IBM Corporate, The Omnicom Group, Baylor Healthcare, U.S. Coast Guard, Lockheed Martin and The Princeton Center for Leadership Training – have quoted Mapes in training manuals and textbooks.
In the 1970’s, James became interested in the power of the subconscious mind. To better understand this intriguing area, he researched psychology, philosophy, neurology and eventually, hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. His expertise quickly earned him recognition as a clinical hypnotist, becoming highly effective in assisting clients in reducing stress, weight reduction, smoking cessation, the elimination of phobias, reducing nausea due to chemotherapy in cancer patients and pain reduction. As a skilled practitioner of regression techniques, he helped the New York City Police Department in “memory recovery” with both witnesses to, and victims of, crime, and he has worked with professional athletes to help improve their performance in their sport.
In his newest program, MIND OVER BODY: Harness Vision to Create a Wellness Strategy, James Mapes brings together a lifetime of experience in the field of mind/body practices, and knowledge from his own open-heart surgery, to this interactive programs: MIND OVER BODY: Harness Vision to Create a Wellness Strategy and Patient Pre-Op/Post-Op Healing Therapy™. James teaches mental self-care and self-healing tools to individuals to manage stress, reduce pain and promote healing. James has presented to organizations worldwide on the importance of leading healthier and more balanced lives.
James Mapes’ success as a speaker and highly regarded authority on the imagination, creative thinking, communication, managing change, organizational problem-solving, successful teamwork, leadership and coaching is due to his early training as an actor and experience as a theatrical producer. In 1969, he graduated from California State University with a Master of Arts degree in theater and speech. He then worked in repertory theater, off-Broadway and directed two of his own theater companies, amassing dozens of television and movie credits. As a performer, he developed a unique stage presence with a special talent for connecting with his audience. Mapes’ work has earned him appearances on CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America and Fox Family Channel, among other media outlets.

MIND OVER BODY: Harness Vision to Create a Wellness Strategy
Become a partner in your own wellness. Studies prove that how we think impacts our health. Not only have mind/body techniques become a vital part of integrative medicine, they have also presented us with limitless possibilities on creativity, innovation, motivation and leadership.
In James Mapes’ cutting-edge, interactive program, participants gain a clear understanding of how the brain works and the importance of communication to create positive expectations. They learn how to influence the subconscious with optimistic, affirmative suggestions, enabling them to look at their life and work with “new eyes.” They leave the program armed with practical strategies and valuable tools to control what can be controlled and let go of the rest.
The attendees will leave this thought-provoking and inspiring program having learned:
 The mechanics of conscious and subconscious thinking, how the brain works and the importance of focus.
 How to apply mental imagery to reduce anxiety and spark creativity.
 How to create and communicate a clear, realistic, emotionally-charged vision to inspire wellness and create positive outcomes.
 How to meditate in five minutes for mindfulness.
 How to recognize and break through the fear that impedes creativity, motivation and healing.
 How to “reframe” negative thinking to instill hope and confidence.
In MIND OVER BODY, James integrates more than three decades of experience as a speaker on creativity and leadership, performance coach, medical facilitator for pre-surgery patients, and clinical hypnotist. He draws from the latest research in brain science as well as lessons learned from his own open-heart surgery. James projects amazing positive energy and is passionate about educating everyone about the elegance of the imagination and the incredible power of the human mind and spirit.
This presentation can be tailored to your organization’s specific needs as either a keynote or workshop.
Program Length: 60 minutes – 1/2 day