Updated: Nov 3
I think growing up in foster and residential care can make you stronger, once you get your mind right. That means deciding if you want to live your life as either a victim or a hero. Victims cannot get beyond their problems and limit their lives by seeing everything in shades of grey. Heroes figure out how to conquer their problems and imagine a rainbow of possibilities.
If you can picture what you want in your mind, you can make it happen in your life. This is
called “visualization.” You probably already do it when you space-out or daydream or fantasize about something. The problem is: kids in foster and residential care often visualize negative results. It’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that mixes-up the pain of the past with worrying about the future. This unfocused way of thinking limits the odds for good things to happen. Remember when you worried so much about something that it actually did happen? That’s an example of using visualization to create the life you don’t want.
Visualization can also create the life you do want. Profession athletes and Olympians use it to
stand out in their sports. Research shows that when someone imagines they are doing a task their performance of that task improves without physically doing anything. Visualization opens up the mind to endless possibilities.
Visualization techniques are not complicated. What’s important is that your thoughts remain
positive and that you really, really want what you visualize. Try to think about the best possible
outcome. A positive attitude promotes positive energy. Negative thoughts and lack of
commitment are the enemies of visualization. These techniques will help you visualize and
achieve what you want in life.
Know exactly what you want. Focus your thoughts on what you want in life and why you want it. You have probably done some daydreaming about your ideal life. You can turn your dream into reality, if you want it enough. Wishing something will happen and visualizing how to make it happen are not the same. Question yourself. Why do I want it? What do I have to do to get it? How much do I want it? How hard am I willing to work for it? What if I fail? This will help to clarify the importance of your dream and your level of commitment to achieving it.
Write it down. Put your vision on paper or a white board, so that you can see it every day and fine-tune it. Include the important details. Don’t just say I want to live somewhere warm, say I want to live in a pink stucco beachfront cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Be specific. Writing down and revising your vision reinforces its importance and increases accuracy.
Print an image. If your vision includes living in a pink stucco beachfront cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida, find a picture of it and turn it into a print you can hang on your wall. If graduating high school or vocational school or college is your vision, find a photo of someone who looks like you in a cap and gown and put it where you can see it. This is a great visual reminder of your end-goal.
Relax and avoid distractions. Find a good time and quiet place to be alone and escape into your vision. Relax your body and focus your mind. Do not smoke, drink, eat, listen to music or do anything that breaks your attention. Visualization is like practicing meditation or yoga or even martial arts. Focus is the key to success.
Include all your senses. Imagine your feelings as you cross the stage to accept your diploma or the soothing sound of waves kissing the shoreline by your pink stucco beachfront cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes and emotions make your vision real.
Divide your vision into small parts. For example, visualizing yourself owning a beauty salon or barbershop means looking at everything involved in reaching the end-goal, like taking classes, getting certified, apprenticing, building a client base, applying for business licenses, buying equipment and a bunch of money issues. The first part is taking classes, which also has its parts, like applying to beauty or barber school, coming up with the money to pay for classes and materials, completing the coursework and passing the exam. Visualizing and then completing one part at a time reduces problems and ups the odds for success.
Practice visualization regularly. Five or ten minutes per day should be enough, once you’ve learned to concentrate. Getting into a habit of visualizing keeps you focused on achieving the outcomes you want.
Stay the course. Do not give up on your dream. That’s what victims do. You are not a victim.
You are the hero of your dream. Heroes don’t quit; they suck it up and try harder. If you’re tough enough to survive a broken family, a broken heart and a broken child welfare system, you can accomplish anything, if you want it enough to make it happen.
Visualize it! Achieve it! Live it! *
*Adapted from our book, Beating the Odds In and After Foster and Residential Care