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January 30, 2019

Stress-Recovery Response for Good Health and High Energy

           People need stress in their lives to thrive.

People also need an equal amount and intensity of recovery to neutralize the harm from stress. Too little stress will weaken. Too much will destroy.

Use it or lose it. Wrap up your muscles in a cast, they weaken and atrophy. Don’t stress the immune system every day, you will be vulnerable to disease. Don’t stress your brain, you stop improving. We need stress to keep us alive.

Create the balance between stress and recovery. Too much stress is not the problem, it’s not enough recovery. Physics tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The sea becomes flat when two opposing waves hit at the peak and at the trough. It’s the same with stress. Meet stress with an equal and intense amount of recovery to counteract the cortisol-stress response that causes increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, stops digestion, shuts down the immune system and inflammation.

Fear-based stress is caused by not knowing what's going to happen in the future. Fear of injury, fear of failure and fear of looking bad. Counter this fear by learning everything you can about the future event.

Conflict-based stress is caused by external conflict or internal conflict. External conflict at work or at home. Boss yells at you? Counteract this by connecting with friendly people that will support you no matter what. Internal conflict is caused by going against your deep-rooted values. You lash out at someone and become upset from stress because this goes against your internal value of being kind and accommodating. Counter with kindness. You need to learn and identify the cause of your stress so that you can apply the appropriate recovery counter balance.

Physical stress-recovery. Psychologist Nick Hall is an extreme kayak athlete and talks about the need for physical recovery that must be in the same amount and intensity as the stress. For athletes and working out, it’s important to counter the stress of an exercise with the opposite move for recovery. You exercise your biceps with 10 reps with a 40-pound bar, you counter this with ten reps of an 80-pound triceps pull-down exercise.

Emotional stress-recovery. At work, you may be doing a task requiring numbers and calculations, counter this with work involving creativity with images and sounds. You get yelled at by the boss, counter this with an equal amount of time and happiness with a friend. You have a stressful event at home, you need to recover with an equal and opposite amount of something good.

Subconscious stress-recovery. In addition to physical stress and social stress, there is a potentially dangerous type of stress that may occur at your subconscious level unknown to you. Nick Hall talks about showing a picture of a coiled rattle snake ready to strike to a person who has severe fear of snakes, and the person has an acute anxiety attack. However, tear the picture up into tiny pieces, randomly paste them on a piece of paper, and show this picture of random pieces to the person. There will be no reaction, but if the person is monitored by a functional MRI machine, the amygdala lights up, cortisol is released, and the heart rate increases all without knowledge at the conscious level. This experiment shows there are stress triggers going on all around us day and night (during dreams) at the subconscious level that triggers the cortisol- stress response. These need to be neutralized with an equal amount of recovery. Discovering these triggers and aligning the conscious mind with the subconscious can be helpful. Nick Hall suggests training the subconscious mind to recognize stress as a trigger to provide an equal recovery response. For example, run or exercise at your baseline then increase by 10% for stress, then 10% below baseline for recovery, and then back to baseline. Repeat at different percentages both ways always returning to baseline. Eventually, stress will trigger a corresponding recovery time.

Stress related to explicit memory and implicit memory. Explicit memory means you need to think about the activity. You’re learning a new skill like driving a car, you need to think about each action. Implicit memory means it’s permanent and automatic. You start and stop your car without thinking. However, your subconscious can play tricks on you. For example, you’re playing a sport and doing well using implicit memory, then you start thinking about what you are doing, and you fall apart because you started using explicit memory that requires energy and loss of focus.

Extreme hyper-stress situation. People may and often react differently under extreme stress. The controller who is in charge of a meeting begins to have resistance from other meeting members that escalates to personal insults resulting in such severe stress, the controller gives in completely and shuts down. The accommodating person in an extreme life-threatening situation may suddenly become an intense controller taking total charge. It’s not because these individuals lose memory, it’s that they switch from explicit to implicit memory. They lose explicit memory and gain implicit memory. This is useful to know because this may explain opposite and uncharacteristic behaviors in yourself and others during extreme stress.

Call to action. Stress is needed for a healthy and invigorating life. Say yes and embrace opportunity despite the potential stress. You can manage the stress so it contributes to success. Counter physical, emotional and subconscious stress with an equal amount and intensity of recovery.  

Gary R. Epler, M.D. at Epler Health


#1 best-selling author of “Alive with Life”


December 04, 2018

Feeling Sad is Good, Feeling Bad is Not

Negative emotions are a part of life.

Choose wisely which one you use. You may be going through a downturn in your life. You’ve lost your income source with more money going out than coming in. You’ve lost your job. You’ve lost someone you love.

You feel bad. Everything aches. You walk slowly and your shoulders are slumped. You’re frustrated. You’re mad. You’re angry. You know these feelings don’t help, and you know everything will turn around, but you keep feeling bad taking up precious energy that you need to fix the problem.

You need to review your emotions and find out which one is making you feel this way. This is what will happen. You can’t be mad at anyone because the event happened out of your control. You can’t blame anyone because the situation required people to do what they had to do and not because of you as a person. Most of all, you can’t be angry because this emotion is defined as feeling slighted or wronged by someone. You as a person is not the problem. The situation developed that is no longer sustainable. On the surface, anger is a common response, but deeper exploration shows the situation is untenable and irreversible. You can’t be jealous, envious or resentful because this issue is about you and not about anyone else. But, you can feel sad, and it’s comforting.

You can feel sad. This is a good thing. First, it’s only a single emotion – no need for being mad, no need for anger, and no need for being overwhelmed by thinking you have all of these bad feelings. Second, sadness is always temporary and will go away. Third, most importantly, sadness is defined as the loss of something which means you can replace the loss either with the same thing or with something else. You can develop a new way to make money, you can find a new job or create a new business, and you can keep your loving feelings at the same time as you go forward to find new love.

With a loss, keep in mind that you may go through the five stages of grief that include (1) denial, (2) anger, (3) bargaining, (4) depression, and (5) acceptance.  The stages will occur with varying lengths of time, some a few hours or days, while others may last longer. The anger stage is an especially dangerous time because of the harmful effects for you as well as for others. It’s important to analyze the situation at the second and third degree level to realize the situation was not personal, nothing could have been changed and create a distraction to move on. The depression stage is also a harmful time. It can be useful to recognize that this stage is temporary, and will soon lead to resolution and acceptance.   

Call to action: Going through a downturn? Review your feelings. Eliminate all of them except sadness. Feel sad about the situation. It’s comforting, temporary and you will move on to better things than ever before.

Gary R. Epler, M.D. at Epler Health


Best-selling author of "Fuel for Life" and "Peak Performance Leadership"

October 16, 2018

Positive Word Cloud and Positive Social Interaction

Create a positive word cloud for optimal performance and impact. Keep your word cloud positive for a healthy and enjoyable life.

April 15, 2018

The Person Who Finds the Right Facts Is Going to Be the New Success

In the past, the person who knows the facts is the most successful. Now, the person who knows how to "find" the facts is going to be the most successful!


We have limited space in our brain for memory. The memory is filled with two things: facts and a retrieval system to find the facts. In ancient times, there were few facts that needed a minimal retrieval system. Over time, facts became so numerous, libraries were built and a complex retrieval system was needed. 

Our memory is the same, we need a retrieval system to find facts. That's why companies whose advertisements associate an easy retrieval system with the product sell more product. There are two memory components of advertising – remember the product name and remember the retrieval system. If you want students to remember a healthy food slogan, associate the slogan with a cafeteria food tray, which will act as a retrieval system. 

The internet search engines do a much better job of retrieval than our memory. If you want French food, your memory may have a list of two or three in your area, but the internet has hundreds and includes non-French restaurant names that serve French food.

We live in a wonderful digital age - we don't need to fill our memory space with facts. They're infinitely available to us on the internet. Memorizing and learning facts takes up memory space.

We have freed up our entire memory space to use for finding facts. Use it to find the right facts to apply in the right way for success.

 Gary Epler in Boston 



January 23, 2018

Wrinkles Don't Make You Look Old: How to Look Young when You're Old

 Wrinkles don’t make you look old, it’s negative conditioning since birth. We have been conditioned to grow old. We’re continually asked how old we are. This is chronological age—and it’s for the bureaucrats, not for you. Your biological age is what counts. Our biological age is at least 20 years younger than our chronological age. The negative conditioning comments continue. “You’re too old to do that.” “I’m too old. I can’t do that anymore.” These types of comments, repeated over and over, create old age through negative conditioning. Wrinkles have nothing to do with it.

Let’s look at the causes of looking old and replace them with positive conditioning.

Attitude. If you think and feel old, you’re going to be old. The antidote to this is simple: love life. It’s filled with awe, excitement, creativity, interesting people, and exotic places. Be engaged in life, not buried in the mobile device world. Know what you want, what you’re doing, and where you’re going at all times. Have meaning in your life, outside of yourself. Engage in positive social interaction, and when you’re with people, always make it about them.

Posture. Stand and sit tall. When standing or sitting, gently tightened your upper back muscles between the shoulder blades and let your shoulders fall naturally. This straightens your back and brings your chest forward, giving you a strong appearance. Tuck in your chin in and align the back of your head with your straightened back. This posture sends positive signals to your brain, providing a sense of strength and confidence. Condition and maintain your abdominal and back core muscles through daily exercise. Rounded shoulders make people look old. Head down is weak and sends negative signals to your brain of weakness and fear. Use your computer screen at eye level. Slouching above a keyboard can become permanent, as can shoulders and a neck that sag.

Back straight, chin in, and head up not only gives you positive energy and strength, it also allows you to radiate this out to the world around you.  

Slow walking. Walk tall with a steady gait while maintaining your back straight, shoulders falling naturally, chin in, and head up. This comes naturally if you’re engaged in life and have a purpose. For an extra burst of energy, walk briskly at a pace that’s 25 percent faster than your normal speed.   

Complaining. Blaming others. Criticizing. Making excuses. These four traits should be eliminated from your conversation. There is no need to point out an issue or problem that’s out of your control. This repeats a negative story that helps no one, especially you. Blame and criticism do not solve problems. They’re simply a rehashing of negative energy—and on top of it, they make other people feel bad as well. In this same vein, making excuses causes negative energy and provides no solutions. People who know their own true self are in charge. There is no reason for complaining, blaming, criticizing, or making excuses. 

Pessimism. Having a positive outlook will create energy and confidence. Optimism can be learned and applied to your thinking. Here’s a tip: Stop the first negative thought so it doesn’t lead to the second negative thought and subsequently the repeating of a negative story in your mind. Make a conscious decision to be grateful, have compassion, and see the good in all things.

Sad face. Smile. This sends a positive feeling to the brain and also telegraphs positivity to those who see you.  

Age spots. Brown age spots on the face and the top of the hands trigger a conditioned response: thoughts of old age. These can add two decades to a person’s sense of his or her age. They can be removed with creams and other techniques; consult a dermatologist.

Take action. Abandon the feeling of being old. Develop a positive attitude and a tall posture. Eliminate complaining, criticizing, blaming, and making excuses. Choose optimism; it’s healthy. Smile. Here are some additional things you can do to fight off the feeling of old age: make a habit of health practices that include eight hours of sleep, one hour of continual exercise, eating foods that will not harm you, learning something new every day, spending time in alpha-brainwave meditation, practicing gratitude, having compassion, and making an effort at self-healing. Incorporating these things into your routine will enable you to live an extraordinary life with energy, meaning, success, and enjoyment.

Gary R. Epler, M.D. in Boston

Best-selling author of "Fuel for Life: Level-10 Energy"  and "Peak Performance and Leadership"







October 31, 2017

Who Makes Every Decision in Your Life?



 Beware, it's your subconscious mind.

Your subconscious mind makes every decision in your life. This is appropriate and automatic ninety-nine percent of the time for walking, talking, and driving your car, but beware of the other one percent. All behavioral decisions like healthy eating, social interaction, and continuing bad habits are made in your subconscious mind.

What is your subconscious mind? It includes the thoughts and feelings below the level of awareness and is nearly unlimited in size.

In the clock-face study, people were asked to raise their hand randomly while looking at a clock. The researchers knew when they were going to raise their hand 300 milliseconds before the person knew. In the portrait study, people were asked to push a button in their right hand if a portrait of a person had a friendly expression and the left hand button if the portrait appeared sinister. The researchers knew several seconds before the person knew which button was going to be pushed. What’s going on? The subconscious mind makes the decision and sends the message to the conscious mind. We assume that we decide to do something, but these studies show the subconscious mind makes all decisions.

The implications may seem minor at first, but they can be life-changing. We need to align our conscious decisions with our subconscious decisions for greater success. This is accomplished by learning how to communicate with the subconscious. This is a primitive crocodile brain that responds to conditioning; emotions; images, sounds, smells, taste and touch; and subconscious reflex triggers.

Your subconscious mind sabotages your thinking. You tell yourself no dessert at today’s luncheon meeting. But, you say yes to the dessert menu and have a sugary dessert all the while saying to yourself you’re not having any. Worse yet, you’re angry with yourself causing dangerous levels of stress toxins. Your subconscious mind made this decision as it has been doing since childhood through conditioning. Instead, use this to your advantage through positive reinforcement. Eat a bowl of plain organic oatmeal. This is a different taste than you’re used to, and it’s like eating paste. However, not in your subconscious brain, here the feeling of hunger has been satisfied which sends a surge of dopamine to the nucleus accumbens pleasure center giving the brain a positive feeling, which in turn sends a pleasant feedback loop to the subcortical striatum part of the brain. Try the oatmeal again, and add blueberries, your subconscious will register this as another pleasant experience. Repeat this several times, and you will develop a craving for this healthy food with the extra benefit of the anti-inflammatory effects of the blueberries.

Sales and persuasion techniques have been based on subconscious decision making for thousands of years. Sell to the subconscious through emotions, images, sounds, and touch. The puppy dog close: send the puppy home for the night with no obligation. Yet, the dark side of the subconscious explains why brainwashing through negative conditioning is so effective. Associate a person or a group of people with negative images over and over through television and the web, soon people will automatically view that person or group as evil. How do you know when your opinion is based on conditioning or your own thinking? For example, if you have an opinion that vaccines cause autism, this is a conditioned response. This opinion is based on a single fraudulent report in a 1998 prestigious medical journal that was quickly “retracted” after investigation showed the author admitted falsifying the data. Vaccines do not cause autism. If your opinion is based on one person’s opinion or a single superficial statement, it’s likely a conditioned response. Do primary source research, and your decision will be your own.

Unconscious mind reflexes are the same as physical reflexes such as tapping the knee tendon. Learn what they are and use them in a positive way. Smile, your subconscious makes you feel better. Stand straight with open arms for strength, and slouch with folded arms for weakness. Head up is strong, head down is weak. Give a gift for increased sales. Give an after dinner mint for increased tips. This is the reciprocity reflex. Your sub-conscious mind has been conditioned to reciprocate. Scarcity of an item is similar, you will buy something if there are only three remaining because your subconscious fears loss. Consider physical activity at work as exercise and gain the benefit. Single-word reflexes are from mirror neurons. You smile and the person smiles back. The other person has a frown, you frown back along with the feeling of anger. Use “because” for a request will result in more yes responses. Rolling your eyes during a discussion causes the anger reflex by activating the amygdala anger center. Make a small request, return later and someone is more likely to accept a large request because the subconscious prefers consistency, or the opposite, make a huge request and immediately offer a small request.

Call to action. Learn the functional principles of the subconscious mind to know when it’s used against you, and learn to align your conscious thinking with your subconscious for a sustainable less stressful and more successful life. 

Gary R. Epler, M.D. in Boston

Best-selling author of “Fuel for Life: Level-10 Energy” and “Peak Performance and Leadership

Important acknowledgement – Professor Peter M. Viston at William & Marry; and Professor Robert Cialdini at Arizona State University for their breakthrough research and insights into the subconscious.

July 26, 2017

Brain Health: No Negative Thoughts


Stop negative thoughts.

Each time a negative thought comes up, stop it and move on. No need to replace with a positive thought – that’s too much work. No need to replace it with anything. Move on to something else. Think a negative thought? Stop and move on.

Why? Because one negative thought leads to two, and that leads to a story. This is what happens when you have one negative thought. You have a second thought, and the third negative thought builds a story. And, this is always a bad story with an ending that causes frustration, depression, anger, and rage. This is the basis for the adage: think about it, say it, act it, and it becomes your character. Think negative thoughts, use negative talk, act on negative talk, and you become a negative person. Additional traits of this character include complaining, criticizing, blaming others, and making excuses.

Rejections. Have you ever had a major rejection or a series of rejections? You’ve submitted proposals, loan applications, college applications, or funding plans for a project or startup; and you’ve received two, five, ten, twenty or more rejections? We are told that rejections are part of life and part of success. The first few are ignored, but eventually you begin to think about these rejections. You tell yourself you’re a failure, you’re not smart enough, and everyone else is better than you. These negative thoughts begin to repeat themselves incessantly until you convince yourself you’re a failure at everything and the world is out to get you. These negative thoughts go on and on day after day. You become irritable and depressed. You become angry and rage at your family and friends. You don’t want to be around people because you’re so upset; likewise, people don’t want to be around you because you’re negative and depressed. All of this started from a single negative thought.

Other situations. You’ve been chewed out at work. You’ve been fired. You’ve been turned down for a job. You don’t get a promotion. A negative thought pops in your head, do not replay the scene. You have an illness or an injury? Stop all negative thoughts about these. You got a parking ticket? You’ve been criticized? Do not replay these scenes in your mind. Move on to something else.

Solution. Stop the negative thought and this is what happens. You have an instant feeling of relief. Your whole body is relieved because you don’t have to relive the long depressing story again. Over time, the story will disappear from your memory. You free your mind to be healthy, more creative, and to lead an enjoyable life.

Call to action. Negative thoughts? Stop them and move on. Stop thinking negative thoughts for a healthy mind.

Gary R. Epler, M.D. in Boston

Best-selling author of “Fuel for Life: Level-10 Energy” and “Peak Performance and Leadership




January 26, 2017

Leadership for You

Leadership is not only for executives, managers, or the boss. Leadership is also needed for your life. Be the leader of your life. What makes a good leader? Positive communication, commitment, decision making, confidence, persistence, creativity, and honesty. These traits can be learned, and for best results, practiced in a self-sustaining and self-maintaining way.

Positive communication is interacting with people in a way that results in a positive feeling for both participants. Talking to coworkers, clerks, shop owners, and restaurant staff in a positive manner increases personal energy and feel-good neurotransmitters. Visualize two people talking, spouses, friends, or coworkers. One of them is excited about a huge event and can’t wait to tell the other person about it. The other person has four response options. The best is to respond with engagement, enthusiasm, and curiosity (demonstrated by asking questions). A second response is a passive “that’s nice,” not harmful but a missed opportunity for a good feeling for both people. A third response is harmful, which is to ignore the person’s excitement and one-up the conversation with a better or more exciting event. You may have been at a dinner party, work party, or a family get-together, and certain people will exhibit this response throughout the entire gathering. This is not an uplifting and pleasant social interaction. Finally, there is the fourth response:  the destructive comment. This is a response such as “While you were having fun, I was stressed out trying to work” or “How much is this going to cost us?” and so forth. These caustic, angry responses usually come from people who are insecure and unhappy with their own lives. Use response number one for the best results. The first person gets to feel good about sharing an exciting event, and the second person feels good because of sharing an exciting experience. Eliminate one-up and destructive responses. There is no place for these responses in positive social interaction.

Commitment means always doing what you say you will do 100% of the time, with no exceptions. You say yes to a meeting, to a dinner party, to helping someone, or volunteering. Do it, even if a better offer comes along or you change your mind. There is no problem saying no. If you don’t want to do something or have a conflict, say no—say no to free tickets, no to an invitation, and even no to a request for help. This is meaningful for both participants, since saying yes and then not showing up is bad for everyone. This makes you feel bad and registers a negative feeling in your subconscious, it makes the other person doubt your character, and it lets down the other people involved in the situation. Say yes, and whatever it takes, do it.

Making decisions means make a decision as fast as possible, one way or the other. A good decision makes us feel good and most likely helps other people. A bad decision makes us feel bad, but we recover, learn something from it, and try another approach. It’s not the decision that’s bad, it’s the outcome. Making no decision is a problem. There is no progress, no forward action. This indecisiveness makes people look weak. This is especially important in your own life. When you are at a standstill, you can’t engage in life. Make a decision—whether it’s good or bad doesn’t make any difference. You can move forward and enjoy the decision or make another one, but you’re alive with energy and creativity from having done it.

Confidence is needed for a good leader. Do you like to follow someone who is weak and has no confidence in a decision, plan, or project? You feel bad when you have no confidence in yourself. Increasing your self-esteem is not enough. We have great self-esteem when everything is going well, but when things get tough, self-esteem jumps ship and abandons us. Use compassion for yourself; this never lets you down. Confidence comes from how much we like ourselves. How much are you willing to be your true self? In grade school, we want to be who our parents and teachers want us to be. Later we want to be who our friends want us to be, who our boss or spouse wants us to be, who society wants us to be—or worse, the perfect, flawless person that our mind wants us to be. It takes time, but be yourself. You’re free. This is freedom from blame, freedom from criticism, freedom from making bad decisions. This is you; there is no reason for complaining, blaming, making excuses, or criticizing.

Persistence is fundamental for continuing success in life. Psychologist and author Dr.  Angela Duckworth uses the term “grit” to describe perseverance and passion. Grit consists of courage, which often means eliminating the fear of failure; endurance and follow-through; and resilience—the optimism and confidence required to bounce back from failure. It’s not concentrating on winning, it’s concentrating on doing your individual best. Grit also means not quitting because the task or project is too hard or someone told you to quit or that you’re not good enough. Stop because you have completed the project, the job, or reached your goal.  

Creativity is the spice of life. This means using your mind to solve day-to-day problems and bumps. Using your mind to make things happen, to create projects for the community, to create products, to create solutions, create businesses, create enjoyment for yourself and for your family. Increase your creative ability, and you will improve your life and everyone else’s too.

Honesty and integrity are the foundations of a good leader. This is obvious for an executive or boss, but even more important is being honest with yourself at a private level. No exaggerations, no convenient forgetting, and no stretching the truth. Always be honest with yourself. No lies. No rationalizing. In many situations, the raw truth will be painful, and sometimes extremely painful, but recovery will occur. The ancient saying is correct: The truth will set you free.

Call to action. Learn and relearn these attributes of a good leader. Use them at work, when volunteering, at home, and most importantly, for yourself. Positive communication, commitment, decision making, confidence, persistence, creativity, and honesty. They will become self-sustainable, enabling you to live an extraordinary life with energy, meaning, success, and enjoyment.

Gary R. Epler, M.D. in Boston

Best-selling author of “Fuel for Life: Level-10 Energy” and “Peak Performance and Leadership


December 06, 2016

Love is in the Air

  Everyone knows that falling in love increases your heart rate.

   Did you know that increasing your heart rate will help you fall in love with the person next to you? Try it and find out.

Want to fall in love with your husband or wife, your girlfriend or boyfriend, or a first date? Do something that increases your heart rate, especially something requiring cooperation together, like keeping a kayak in a straight line. Go for a hike, climb a mountain, go on a bike path, ballroom dancing lessons, workout together, or go for a run together. That’s what happened to me. I was training for the New York Marathon along the Charles River in Boston and saw someone, my future wife Joan, coming my direction and made the U-turn. Our hearts were beating faster. It didn’t take long, a few moments, to fall in love.

This is what happens. The feel good hormones and neurotransmitters like endorphin, serotonin, and dopamine kick in from the exercise, and when two people exercise, the bonding hormone oxytocin is flowing. In addition, with exercise and increased heart rate, both of you are in the alpha-brain wave world of happiness and bliss. Joan and I ran the Greek Marathon for our first anniversary and our favorite memories were running the three 20-mile training runs to Wellesley and back to Boston the three Saturdays before the marathon. We were together in the alpha-brainwave meditation state, a fantasy world filled with love, joy and peace. The hot-fudge sundae at the end was also a big plus.

I was talking with my friend during a Cape Cod ocean swim telling him about increasing the heart rate to fall in love. This reminded him of his first date with his wife, they took ballroom dancing together, just the two of them. Heart rate increased, they fell in love, and were married within the year. My friend John hiked a mountain trail with someone new and fell in love.

There’s a bonus. You will create lifelong memories that you will both recall 10 years later, 20 years later, and forever. Remember nighttime skating on the Brookline Country Club pond, remember the New Hampshire hike with cranberry nut bread and Mozart’s music, and remember running by MIT during a Boston wintry nor’easter.     

Want to enjoy life together? Fist date? Do something that will you increase your heart rates. Run together, stay together. Love is in the air.

Gary R. Epler, M.D.

Award-winning author of “Fuel for Life: Level-10 Energy”

November 03, 2016

Visualize the Process, not the Goal

  Visualization is powerful.

We’ve been doing this since childhood. You need to do it right.

Visualize the process, not the goal. Books, seminars, courses, and motivational speakers talk about setting goals for success. When it comes to visualization, it doesn’t work. It delays reaching the goal and may even prevent ever reaching the goal.

Want an A on the exam? Visualize the process, not the A. For days, you visualize getting an A on the exam. You visualize the A when you brush your teeth, walking to class, and going for lunch. How could this be a problem? Everyone says this is a good idea. If visualizing the A is such a good idea, let's test it and find out. Tell 100 students to visualize the A on the exam for five days and compare their grade to 100 students who don’t visualize the A. The results: those who don’t visualize the A get a better grade! This is because students who get the good grades spend their time studying for the exam and not spending their time visualizing the A. This not only takes time, but the students who visualize the A have the feeling that they will get the A because the “universe” will help them. This is not a good feeling, it’s a false feeling of success, and a double bad feeling when the A doesn’t appear. Be the process-visualization students about getting an A and study.

Want a job? Visualize the process, not the job. People can spend hours visualizing their dream job – visualize talking about the offer, about the surroundings of the new job, about what they will do with the money, and about the feeling of success. How-to books and motivational gurus tell you this over and over. They give you thousands of success stories. It sounds so perfect, but it’s not. This is a waste of time and will take you away from attaining the job. Take 100 people who visualize their dream job compared to 100 people who don’t. People who don’t spend time visualizing the job used the time on the process of getting the job, and they get the job.

Want to make a million dollars? Visualize the process, not the million dollars. The “how-to” authors and speakers will tell you to visualize a million dollars, and it will appear. They tell you not to worry about how it will happen, the “universe” will take care of how it will happen. Visualize it, write it down, repeat it 100 times every day, post it on the mirror, and visualize the million dollars during meditation. It’s a secret, don’t tell anybody. All of this effort is time wasted. It’s a distraction. Every cell in your body knows what the goal is – no reminders are needed. Visualize the process, this will lead to success and you’ll feel better.

What happens when you visualize the process? Less stress and more enjoyment. The feeling of failure is eliminated because process is not a win-loss situation. Thinking about goals is stressful and not attaining the goal day after day is not good, a bad feeling in the stomach. It's a negative hope of attaining a goal that may never be reached. Thinking about the process is a continuous feeling of accomplishment and engagement not associated with failure or success, it’s not a competition with yourself to reach a goal. Working on the process results in positive feelings, engagement and meaning in life, accomplishments, and positive social interactions. Deal with process setbacks the same way. Don't think about the setback itself, move on to thinking about the process of getting back on track. Working on the process produces a comforting sense of well-being.

Action step: Visualization is good. It’s how we think. Visualize and think about the process for success, and enjoy the journey.

Gary R. Epler, M.D. Award-winning author of Fuel for Life: Level-10 Energy