I hadn’t realised that I might be employing a particular technique to my work — and possibly to my life — until quite recently. It’s a technique — it that’s what it can be called — which has helped me forge forward with many goals until I can honestly say that I have achieved most of what I want to achieve in my life at this point in time. With a view to helping someone else get to the same point, I’ll try to describe what I mean.
In brief, it’s visualisation. But forget anything else you may have read or seen about ‘visualisation’ for a moment and think of it stripped down to its bare bones. I didn’t sit down and read a text book on How To Visualise and then go away and meditate upon it for weeks before trying to apply it — it’s just the way I find myself thinking and operating naturally over decades. You probably think this way too, already, at least to some extent.
It started when I was ‘transported’ to Australia from my hometown in Yorkshire, England, some 50-odd years ago. I recall very strongly that, as the car pulled away from my old house, the 8-year-old me made a decision: I would one day return to that place, no matter what.
All through my childhood and school years in the desert in Australia, or at university in Adelaide, South Australia, or when I began working, I held to that decision in my mind, visualising over and over what it would be like to return to England in general and Yorkshire in particular. I ended up giving myself vivid dreams, at times: I would be descending a gangway from a plane, so grateful that this time I had ‘finally made it’, only to wake up and find myself still in Australia.
Eventually, through various life changes and two marriages, the original decision to return to England bulldozed its way through circumstance and logistics, and I came back. The necessity of finding employment at first locked me into an orbit around London and then around Sussex, where I was a teacher for 17 years — but always, always, there was the pull of Yorkshire and the original decision. So five years ago, as a family, we moved here and have had our own house here for three of those years.
I’m telling you all this as an example of how having a specific goal, one that can be visualised and imagined and worked over again and again in the mind, can eventually ride either gently or roughshod over just about every other condition in Life and be made to come true.
On a smaller scale, the same principle applies: I’ve written elsewhere about how an important part of becoming a confident public speaker is to play the scenario out again and again in one’s mind until, when the moment to get up on stage finally arrives, it feels as though you’ve rehearsed it many times already. In a way, you have — being on stage just gives you the props. It’s the same with life goals.
When it comes to a career as a writer, then, the same technique can be used. I set out with the vision of becoming a kind of ‘guru’ based on what I had found out about literature and the operating principles which make stories work. I wasn’t interested in the role for any self-gratification reasons — I’m actually a very shy person, and tend to shun the spotlight — but I thought that what I had discovered needed to be shared, and that doing so might be the key to a steady retirement income for me and my family. So I kept that idea in the forefront of my mind when I wrote my book How Stories Really Work, and then when I put together the Inner Circle Writers’ Group and Clarendon House Publications.
It wasn’t a case of ‘Oh dear, look at all the barriers and obstacles there are to becoming successful, I’ll just have to battle on’. ‘Being successful’ is much too vague a goal anyway. You need a very specific goal, one that you can ‘see’ with your imagination. Mine was to be able to sit on the edge of the Yorkshire moors and generate an income drawing upon my own ideas, using just my laptop and the internet. That was the prime image, if you like; the fact that there were many barriers in the way of achieving it was a secondary factor. Given enough time, enough luck, enough persistence and focus on the goal, the barriers would be overcome one by one until the visualised image took shape.
It might look as though it would be easy to be distracted or lose sight of one’s goal, given that it is ‘just an image’ in one’s head, but I haven’t found that to be the case. The main problem is knowing what that specific goal is to be, or crafting it firmly enough so that it begins to take shape. If it is something that you really, really want (as in the Spice Girls song) then you won’t lose sight of it at all, not even for a second; if it’s too vague, too wishy-washy, perhaps not really your own goal but someone else’s, or too wobbly, then it will either vanish beneath Life’s bulldozer tracks or pop like a soap bubble. You are the one who decides what the goal is to be — make it something that you desire with all your heart, and it will become the thing behind all of your actions to the degree that you won’t have to consciously think about it at all.
Take a look at your own thinking: do you already have goals like this that you are pursuing? Are your goals too general, too vague? Or are you implementing, step by step, a strategy that is progressing bit by bit towards an exact vision?
Let me know. I also offer consultancies that can help.