the power of visualization

I’ve heard about the concept of visualization many times over the years, and recently I was reading a book about the power of the mind. It argued that you can heal yourself, improve memory exponentially, and become a better navigator all through the power of mental imagery. In other books, I’ve heard that you can “practice” a sport or instrument mentally and actually become more proficient at it. They cite sports teams that do this regularly. In still other books, I read about visualizing your day in the morning, picturing everything you want to get done and how you’ll do it, how you’ll feel, etc.

I love this advice and implement it as much as possible. Usually I just stick to visualizing my day; that’s fairly simple and doesn’t take much time. But if there’s a commitment or obligation I have that I’m not excited about, I can visualize going, and by the time that thing rolls around, I’m fully prepared. With visualization, you can reduce unpleasant surprises.

I also visualize who I want to be and where I want to end up. Envisioning the end unconsciously makes me act out those things. It’s like the old advice about writing down specific goals. I won’t go looking for those statistics, but apparently people who write down their goals are something like 90% more likely to achieve them than people who don’t, ceteris paribus. Don’t quote me on that, but it was a really high number. I don’t think I read about why that happens, but something about the act of writing it out, internalizing it, helps you work it out in reality.

In fact, one really enjoyable exercise I like to do is to plan out my ideal day. If I had no job and no school, or my dream job, what would my perfect day look like? I wrote it out exactly, from waking up to sleeping, and boy was it a heady experience. I mean, I could taste the coffee whose steam wafted over the vistas of mountains and ocean (cough). I’m hoping that by doing this, I’ll actually build some of the habits I dream about into my current routine. Baby steps, y’all. Baby steps.




Occasionally I’ll look back over my most motivational posts and say to myself, “Yeah, that’s a fantastic point! I so agree with that! How inspiring!” Aside from being shamelessly self-serving, I love going back to see what I was thinking and feeling in the past. I’m sure most of you have experienced revisiting interests and feeling the desire burn once again. It’s the same for me.

Here are some of my favorite motivational, dream-chasing, kick-in-the-pants posts;


success revisited


In this picture I’m in Taiwan, at the foot of Alishan mountain with a great friend. I count that successful, and I sure as heck wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else…take that OCD!

I recently read this article on the All Groan Up site. It reminded me of when I first started thinking about what success means. Success is often viewed as an unyielding standard to which we all aspire. But this definition is wrong. Success is inherently personal in that embodies the dreams and desires of each individual.

I won’t reiterate my idea of success – it hasn’t changed all that much. But recently, I have been losing sight of it. I was glad to read the above article and be reminded that success is measured by my own standards, not some universal constant of which I am constantly falling short.

The All Groan Up site frequently mentions OCD. Not the usual “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,” but rather “Obsessive Comparison Disorder.” It really is an epidemic, and an insidious one as no one seems to ever label it. People today seem to have an unhealthy fixation with comparing themselves to everybody else. I do it all the time, especially now that I’m in school and surrounded by people my own age. People I “could” be, in other words. Except that I can’t. I’m me, and I will always be me; you are you, and always will be you. I could go off on metaphysical realities and whatnot, but you know it’s the truth. To bring home the point, here are a few quotes.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” ~Judy Garland

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” ~Oscar Wilde

“Today You are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” ~Dr. Suess

I feel the last one is particularly poignant…

Silliness aside, I need a strong reminder every now and then to keep the important things in focus. It’s really easy to get bogged down in exams and clubs and mindlessly go from activity to activity without taking a moment to assess my growth. You wouldn’t run a business like that, and you shouldn’t run yourself like that.

So stop every once in a while and ask these questions; am I where I want to be? Am I on the path to my own personal definition of success? Am I making decisions that reflect the person I want to be? Would the person I want to be be friends with the me now?

Good luck!


the businessman vs. the fisherman or; losing sight of what really matters


A businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while.

The businessman then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time? The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The businessman scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then, señor?” The businessman laughed and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.” “Millions, señor? Then what?” The businessman said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

-Author Unknown

So many people fall into this trap. I thought only those who were blind to the peril would be foolish enough to act like the businessman, but yesterday I realized that was wrong. I myself had fallen prey to the desire to expand and make money. I came into blogging for fun. I still blog for fun; it’s what I think about most, it’s what I want to do in my spare time, it’s what I see in my future. I’ve always thought it would be nice to make money from it, but that wasn’t why I started blogging.

Recently I’ve become very obsessed with monetizing my blog; making it a breadwinner for myself so I could have time to do all the things I want to do. It’s funny, because it’s just like the businessman and the fisherman. All the schemes I’m reading about or researching involve a lot of time and effort invested in things I don’t care to do, and all for what? Making more money. So I can do what? Blog more, right? If I had all the free time in the world, what would actually change? Sure, I could do a few things I can’t now, maybe travel more, but for the most part, my life would be the same. I’d blog a lot, read a lot, learn languages and eat out a lot. Those are the things I love to do. The environment might change, but my habits won’t.

I have to remember to quit falling into the pit of feeling like I’m missing out without money. I need to quit looking at those mind-boggling success stories and feel like I’m doing something wrong if I’m not the same. I need to remember what I enjoy doing and do more of it. That’s the mark of a successful life. Being with people you love, taking siestas, and doing what you enjoy.

I gotta make my inner businessman shut up and listen to the fisherman. Seems like fishermen always get it right, eh?


personal success


A few weeks ago I made a diagram of what I wanted in my life – something definable I could label as success. I mean, what does success really mean? There’s no list in the world that lays out a very specific idea. There are generalizations, like being rich, famous, happy, married, or whatever you’ve heard, but nothing detailed. The amounts of wealth vary, as do the definitions of happiness and fame.

For me, I’ve struggled with the pressure to be successful my whole life, most of it self-inflicted. But I had no notions of what that success would look like. How dumb is it to go chasing something with no parameters? Very dumb.

In order to escape this faceless demon of undefined success, I decided to create the diagram. What would success look like for me? What did I hope to accomplish that I could label as having been successful in that area, and by extension, in life?

Here are a few things from my diagram (some of them were too personal to include).

Success Is:

– Being free from money worries – having x amount saved and invested

– Being able to pay cash for a home and car

– Working with language – as a translator, blogger, or writer

– Being fluent in Korean and Chinese

– Being able to eat out at nice restaurants and shop where I want – (I was specific here, you should be too)

– Being fit – which means reaching my goal weight, and engaging in some sort of sport or martial art

– Eating healthy, organic food

– Having an active ministry in a church I can fully support

– Having a small group of close friends I can rely on

– Being married and having kids, homeschooling those kids and equipping them to be independent of us

– Living in Asia – meeting awesome people

There you have it. Notice that most of these are money or lifestyle related, and none of them involve a certain education, job, or amount of fame. Per my definition, success is an ongoing thing. It’s not a destination, it’s a way of traveling. Some of these things I can start right away, and say, “I’m successful now,” which is really rewarding. I still struggle with wanting the normal ideas of success, like being famous or super rich, but I know deep down that I wouldn’t be any happier in that lifestyle, and it would create more problems than it would fix.

If you made a diagram, what would success look like for you?


New Year, New Life!

Chinese New Year just passed, and since I didn’t do much in the way of, uh, “actual” New Year’s resolutions (read: none), let me do this instead. I’m going to share the most exciting thing in my life right now; the re-directing of it.

First of all, a little personal background. Up until recently, I was having a really hard time figuring out what to do in my life. I had some ambitions; be a writer, travel, be an editor, work for myself, and so on. These plans were nebulous at best, hazy representations of what I considered “the good life.” But they were based on expectations I and others had placed on myself. I , like the majority of other people, have always thought of work as, well, work. Something not very enjoyable that nevertheless had to be endured in order to make money and survive. I wanted to work in something fun, like writing, but, let’s face it, writing won’t pay the bills if you’re not an instant best-seller. So I knew I’d need something more, let’s say, professional, in order to survive. Something I could say and people would be impressed with. Something high-end that would fit in with my idea of successful.

Enter in a couple of books (thanks especially to my mother who got me into this first one). First, we have 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. I won’t go into too much detail, since it would be better for you to just buy it, but the book takes you on a 48-day journey to find what you’re “born” to do. Sounds cheesy, right? Well, it’s not. It makes you think about your best talents and how you could work in that strength, and also helps you realize that your dream job is plausible and possible. I had to write a list of dream jobs, and a couple of them were really obscure, like “tea-taster,” or “full-time blogger.” Obscure, yes. Impossible, no. At the very least, this book broke me out of the mold of having the “perfect” career and focusing on only the money.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. ~Confucius

Wise words, friends. So, I have my list of dream jobs. Have I narrowed it down? Not yet. I’m still young, I’m in no rush to find the rest of my life. It might make things a little less stressful, but I have a problem with over-planning and living in the future anyway.

Now, enter the second book; Living the 80/20 Way by Richard Koch. If you’re not familiar with the 80/20 principle of business, do some research. Trust me, if you’re new to this, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. (*cue dun-dun-dun) His first book was strictly for business people, but this one focuses on applying the principle to your life. Much better for people who are bored by statistics. I feel like this book is a good runner-up to 48 Days, because it helps you get to your dream job and dream life in practical, minimal steps. Read them.

Am I excited? Oh yeah. I’m still spending more time planning than actually doing, but I think I’m on the right road to the future I want.

Huzzah, world! Here comes a crazy white girl!