In keeping with my series on the fundamental human needs, I turn my attention to advice from Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He is perhaps the most famous bodybuilder in history and later a box-office hit actor, but he has some great advice for creation.
When asked, in 1976, how he intended to make the move from bodybuilding to becoming a box-office sensation, this was his response:
“It’s the same process I used in bodybuilding. What you do is create a vision of who you want to be, and then live into that picture, as if it were already true.”
Imagery is a powerful way to communicate with yourself. In fact, it’s a far more effective form of communication than verbal language, self-talk or the reliance on willpower.
It can help you move towards creating the person you want to be, the body weight you want to have, or the way you want to look.
If you want to lose weight, or achieve something else in fitness, you need to create vivid imagery around the desired outcome.
Alas, this is a very tricky thing for most people to do.
They simply cannot envision themselves as being thinner, so they often try to translate this feeling via words like, ‘I’ve always been on the heavier side,’ or ‘I’ve never been thin.’
Chances are though, they weren’t always heavy, they simply cannot vividly remember a time when they weren’t.
It may have been at such a young age for instance, maybe they were even told that they were ‘a chubby baby.’
Often it has been my experience that it can seriously help your cause, if you find a picture of yourself, young and at the body-weight you now desire to be at.
This creates a psychological trigger of, knowing-it’s-possible-to-achieve, because you’ve ‘done it before,’ type of thinking.
This leads to creation and the innate human feeling — I use that word very intentionally — or urge, to create.
We all have this internal drive to work towards creating something. Why not let that be creating the image of ourselves at an optimal level of fitness or weight, or whatever the case may be?
Well, when working with the right side of the brain, and perhaps more importantly the limbic part of the brain, it is important to remember that this part of the brain simply cannot communicate effectively in verbal terminology.
That’s why we get a ‘gut feeling’ and cannot accurately explain why we ‘feel’ a particular way, we just do.
Why we find it difficult to explain or rationalize our thoughts about the taste of wine, so we come up with things like ‘dry,’ or ‘acidic,’ or ‘smokey.’
Why we find it challenging to describe the sensation or feeling that listening to particular music or looking at particular piece of art, really invokes in us.
Ever try to explain to your loved one, why you love them? Or explain to someone else why you like them or why you love your spouse?
What about trying to explain why you’re feeling sad or happy?
Well it’s that same part of the brain that is often referred to as the creation part of the brain too.
This may be why Arnie was so effective at achieving his desired outcomes, it had little to do with deliberately setting a goal, but rather deliberately visualizing himself as already have achieved something.
I believe without a doubt, that this older part of the brain, is far more effective at achieving a desired outcome than writing down a goal, or sharing a goal with others, ever will be.
More effective than the best written nutrition or fitness books are.
It is, however, not an easy skill to develop. Especially in North America, where left-brain thinking is often trumpeted as the superior approach.
The neocortex, does have capacity for language, but creation is not really language oriented — though it can be, in the case of writing for instance.
Even by my writing this, it will be difficult for you to sum up what I mean, or the feeling I’m trying to impose.
The best writers are capable of tapping into feeling through words, a skill that required many years of deliberate practice to obtain.
I listed an exercise for visualization and the creation of imagery in this post, many moons ago. That’s a good starting place, it doesn’t matter what you use the exercise to imagine.
In the context of weight loss, make sure you aim to imagine what the thinner you looks like, sounds like, how good healthy food tastes on your tongue and smells in your nostrils, and finally what moving feels like.
Create the image.
Believe me when I say, this is more important than the nutrition or exercise program you choose, how can you create something you can’t imagine?
*As a secondary note on the topic of creation. I feel it is important for all human beings to gravitate towards creating something of interest to themselves.
Much like I feel it is important for human beings to develop their own personal philosophy.
This is more of a life’s lesson for me, than something I want to write at length about, for this particular post.
Many people deprive themselves of creation, often negatively telling themselves stuff like, ‘I’ve never been any good at that,’ or, ‘I can’t do that.’
This negative self-talk leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m amazed at how many people tell me they are not creative, when every human being is capable of being so.
There are 85,000 books if you make the search ‘creative,’ on Amazon.
There are 901 million returns if you search the term, ‘how to be creative,’ on Google.
This tells me that a lot of people are seeking ways to become more creative, but it needn’t be that complicated and it starts with believing yourself to be capable.
Creation is one of the greatest forms of learning, this blog for instance has had tremendous impact on my ability to communicate my ideas, and I feel as if my posts typically get better and better, the more I write.
Consequently, I get better as a coach too, and better at other forms of communication. This isn’t an accident, I started not knowing much about blogging and I learn a little each day along the way.
As Steven Johnson pointed out in his latest book, great ideas don’t just happen, anymore than a lightning strike epiphany is going to change your fitness or weight situation right now.
We often have this view point of good things suddenly happening, like Edison being hit in the head with an apple and a bright light going off above his head.
Instead, good ideas, like results, or goals, or objectives, are an accumulation process.
You start with one small thing, and it morphs into another small thing, then another and another until weeks, months or years later it manifests into something really worthwhile.
This approach is very applicable to fitness or weight-loss too. Start small, make mistakes, play with it, learn as you go, find what works slowly but start.
Create. You can take the same approach with anything.