One of favourite movies of all time is The Commitments. A gritty, endearing, and often hilarious tale about a rag-tag group of soul musicians striving for success in working-class Dublin.
[NOTE: This is an archived post from an older blog, originally published on October 24th, 2012]
Undoubtedly my favourite scenes throughout the whole film involve the band’s ambitious young manager role-playing various scenarios in which he is interviewed by the mass media on the trials and tribulations of running a successful music group.
I like it for a couple of reasons. Not only is the film funny, but because it also provides great example of something I’ve often done to help myself along when faced with a particularly monumental task:
Visualising myself having already achieved whatever is I’m aiming for.
Back in April, I signed up to haul my body 26.2 gruelling miles around London in an attempt to complete a marathon.
There’s nothing particularly special about this, thousands of people complete marathons every year, and even with my multitude of health problems adding an extra layer of difficulty to the challenge, there’s still countless people who achieve similar goals whilst faced with bigger handicaps than I.
See It. Feel It. Do It.
Still, this was perhaps the biggest challenge I felt I’d ever faced, and not only did my closest friends and family doubt my ability to complete the marathon, I had my own reservations too. My inner-voice would bug me daily:
There’s no way you can do this, fool! This will be too hard for you! Give up now!
I worried about what I exactly I’d let myself in for and had at least a couple of moments when I thought about giving up on what had been a long-time goal.
Regardless, I began my training, and in time began to visualise myself running the London Marathon course.
As I ran along, the thunderous roar of some motivational music blasting in my ears and the pavement disappearing beneath my feet, I visualised everything.
I saw not the open fields and wide, empty roads which lined my usual training route, but the sights and delights of London. I visualised the Cutty Sark, the Tower Bridge and all the other landmarks that I would pass on the big day. I visualised other runners surrounding me, some even yelling words of encouragement to me when the going got tough. I visualised the finish line approaching and the medal being draped around my neck once it was all over.
See it. Feel it. Do it.
I visualised all of this in as fine a detail as my imagination would allow. Every step, every turn of the 2012 London Marathon was imprinted on my brain. I took time out to lay back and allow myself to feel how I would feel having completed the marathon. I filled my walls with pictures of the course so that I would be surrounded by the marathon and yes, I even conducted a little Jimmy Rabbite style interview with myself in the shower.
The time came. The Big Day. Time to run a marathon. As I lined up at the starting line, that nagging voice of self-doubt was no longer there. Instead, all I could tell myself was:
You’ve already completed this marathon countless times, you can do it again.
That was all I needed. As strange as it may sound to some, I had run that marathon thousands of times in my head. Every step, every second, every sight and every sound I’d already experienced so strongly, over and over again, that there was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t do it once more.
Because of that, physically completing the marathon was no harder for me than it had been during all those times I’d simply imagined completing it. Even when my old problems with my knees caught up with me and I was forced to limp the last couple of miles, I relished every moment of that marathon and by the time I finally crossed that finish line, I actually felt like I do the whole thing over again.
I’ve used this technique countless times before and since the marathon and it’s never let me down.
Whether I’ve got a marathon to run, a book to write or a huge work project to complete, I see myself having already achieved it in my mind, allow myself to feel how I’ll want to feel once I’ve achieved it, and surround myself with visual reminders of what lies ahead.
That way, when it comes down to taking on the Big Challenge, I feel like I’ve already done it countless times before and can do it at least one more time.
Try it yourself.