I read a book recently called A Guide to the Good Life, which is a practical guide to Stoic philosophy. The entire point of the book is to give you tools and strategies for living a happier and more tranquil life. It introduced me to several techniques I’d never thought of and quickly became one of my all time favorite books.
My favorite technique from the book is called “negative visualization.” To explain the technique, I have to first give a little context.
It is human nature to always want more. More money, more food, more fun, etc. Consider the man who decides he wants a new car, an Accord. He thinks to himself that once he has that car, then he can be happy. So he works his ass off to earn enough money to buy the car. At first he’s ecstatic. After he’s had the car for about 6 months he starts to take the car for granted. He doesn’t appreciate it like he used to. It doesn’t go as fast as he thought it would, and the seats aren’t actually that comfortable. So what does he do? He decides he wants an Audi, and so the cycle continues.
You may not be able to relate to the car analogy, but I can almost guarantee every one reading this can see this phenomenon play out in their lives in one place or another.
Negative visualization is the practice of wanting what you already have.
Here’s how you do it:
Take the things that mean the most to you. Your mom, your husband, your kids, your career, etc. Periodically, you should imagine your life without those things. Imagine your husband leaves you or passes away. Imagine you get fired. Etc. Imagine with as much detail as possible your life without these things you love most.
By doing this, and then realizing you still have those people and things, you can start to appreciate what we already have more.
The way I do this most often is while I journal. I use the 5 Minute Journal, and during the gratitude section is where I practice negative visualization.