Here are articles on visualization

Physics used to justify wishful thinking

[Today’s note is a bit of humorous whimsy, completely unrelated to anything I usually blog about.]

I’ve been thinking about the two-part Get-it-Done Guy episode on visualization, and it’s given me an idea. There’s a long history of people misunderstanding physics and using the misunderstanding to promote whatever their belief system of the moment is. Physics brings legitimacy, and the belief system of the moment brings wish fulfillment and the bonus of not having to think too hard. (After all, the math you need to understand real physics… Oy! So complicated!)

Quantum mechanics is where this happen the most. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics—that the universe is simultaneously many different states until an observer measures it—become the New Age justification for the belief “You can wish for what you want and it will happen magically and without any effort on your part.”

Last night I was watching a physics documentary and realized that no one’s built a cult around Dark Matter, yet. Let’s start now1:

There’s a universe full of dark matter that we can’t see or interact with. In fact, the vast majority of the universe is dark matter. Though it’s called “dark,” it’s actually where God, angels and heaven, are. Think of it as just another dimension, as proven by the quantum mechanics “multiple universe” hypothesis. Send me $19.97 and I’ll send you an official Dark Matter Contact Certificate that is guaranteed to attract your angels from the nearest dark matter hub. With your angels at your back, you can do anything! Bake a perfect upside-down cake! Become rich and famous! Live in mansions and drive Bentleys! Drive the wrong way down one-way streets! Jump out of airplanes without a parachute! Even go scuba diving without the tank!!!2

Quantum mechanics is USEFUL! Physics is FUN! And potentially profitable!

1 It worked for L. Ron Hubbard, it can work for us!

2 Any actions undertaken by you are entirely your responsibility. We make no claims of any sort as to the safety of taking dark-matter-inspired action. After all, if your angels don’t like you, or decide that they want you to join them, that sky-diving expedition could end badly. That would be the angels’ fault, and yours, for trusting your angels in the first place.

Establishing a new habit

Today’s Get-it-Done Guy episode deals with how to form a new habit. Becoming more productive, setting new years resolutions, brushing your teeth differently … any sort of behavior change involves, well, changing behavior. Unfortunately, humans aren’t very good at changing behavior.

I’ve been fascinated for years by psychology and the human brain. I read research into cognitive and social psychology, behavioral finance, brain-based science, and so on, always looking for stuff that works to help develop new skills or change old ones.

I do all this because I love learning, and really enjoy anything that helps me do it better. One of the most effective models I’ve found for understanding how humans think is NLP or neuro-linguistic programming. Developed in the 70s, it’s considered a pseudo-science and not taken seriously.

I found, however, that I could use it and get effective, repeatable results. To this day, I teach elements of it to clients and friends and get demonstrable, measurable results.

Over time, various areas of science are independently discovering elements of NLP. Just this month in the January/February 2011 issue of Scientific America Mind, there’s an article discussing how we talk and think about the world in ways that correspond pretty directly to our bodies. In NLP, we call this “organ language” (I am shouldering a burden). Another NLP phenomenon called “submodalities” suggests that we speak literally about our internal world. “Things are looking up” would suggest that the speaker is making a mental picture and positioning it in the top area of their mental field of vision. I suspect submodalities will be next on the rediscovery agenda.

This Get-it-Done guy episode is the NLP “new behavior generator.” When it was developed 35 years ago, no one knew about mirror neurons, and sports psychology was in its infancy. Today, visualization is established as producing measurable results in sports performance. I’ve attempted to capture the essential elements of the actual behavior change technique, while augmenting it somewhat with poisoned apples and the occasional lesson in introspection and emotional self-management.