Russell Bishop Blog

#27 – Imagination: Energy Follows Thought

Imagination: Energy Follows Thought

We know that trying doesn’t do it and we have suggested that keeping a clear focus on your desired outcomes is critical, but we haven’t really talked much about how or why it works.

Remember earlier on when we talked about communication? We deconstructed the word and found two component words – common and action – which lead us to the notion of acting in common.  Acting in common required a shared focus on a commonly held goal, result, or purpose. We said that it is critical that everyone be on the same page in order to produce a quality outcome and that it is the outcome that matters more than the actions taken.

That discussion had a lot to do with getting two or more people aligned, communicating and producing desired results. But what about producing a desired outcome when it’s only yourself? OK. I know we also said that no one really is independent and that fits here as well. However, at least for the moment, let’s pretend that it really is just up to you.

We also talked a bit earlier on about awareness, choice and decision making and used the old cliché, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.”

Now we need to add a couple more principles in order to begin putting this all together.  The next principle is one we call, energy follows thought.
Have you ever noticed that what you tend to think about a lot has a way of coming true?  This one may take a bit more of the old “what if” thinking to get there. I can imagine that some of you are thinking, “wait a minute – I’ve thought a lot about (fill-in-the-blank) and it hasn’t come close to happening.”


That may be a critical word to consider. Yet. It hasn’t happened yet.

Hang with me a moment. There could be a number of issues in play here. Remember we just got through talking about conflicting beliefs? It’s also possible to hold conflicting desires.

If one part of you is focused on, say, ice cream, and another part is focused on being more physically fit, you may have an inner conflict. That one’s easy to see. Other conflicts may be a bit more hidden from view. Hence, the earlier advice about awareness. Building awareness may be one of the keys to unlocking your ability to create life as you want it – becoming aware of inner conflicts could be very important in moving forward.

One way to surface those conflicts while at the same time moving toward what you want is the ability to use your creative imagination. Imagination is another one of those “ion” words – the suffix means “requires action.”

One way to play with the word imagination, is to change it to “image in (and) act it out.”  What does that mean you might ask? Well, it means to hold a strong image or picture in your mind of what you would like to have be true in your life, and then ttake steps toward it.

The first part, very much like the section on common-action, is to get clear on the ideal or preferred outcome and keep a strong image of that in your mind. As you do so, you may find sooner or later that you come to one of those forks in the road – which one do I take?  Whereas the last time the road forked, you had no real criteria for choosing, you might now!

Which one is more likely to lead toward that inner vision of my desired outcome? By holding steady to the outcome, you may find that your mind starts to filter the data coming at it (remember the reticular formation?). And, in the filtering, you may become aware of choices not previously seen. Hence, new criteria emerge for choosing which fork to take.

Now, let’s get back to “energy follows thought.” If you persist long enough in just about any inner vision, you will probably find that things start lining up to support that vision. That could be as simple as thinking about a particular food that you like to eat when none is around – have you ever done that and found that your mouth started to produce saliva as though you were actually eating the food that isn’t there?

That’s one tiny example of energy following thought.

Remember the reference to ice cream a bit ago? Well, I’m one of those ice cream junkies.  On more than one occasion, I have found myself at home at night, tired from the day, relaxing in front of the TV, when my mind turns to ice cream. I have been known to sit there with side thoughts coming in about one of my favorite flavors and pretty soon the side thoughts become main thoughts.

The more I persist in those thoughts, the more I really want the ice cream. If I persist in the imagination, which I have been known to do, I may find myself heading out to the car, driving to the store, and returning with a pint of Haagen-Daz. I have been known to do this. Have you?

Again, just a minor example of energy following thought. Enough, perhaps, to begin looking more deeply at the process and how you can use it to your advantage.

Here’s another, related, but slightly different version.

Can you remember the last time that you moved where you lived? How about the exact day that the move took place? If you are like most of us, the day was met with a combination of excitement (change) and dread (all those boxes).

As the moving van arrived or your friend’s truck or however you moved, you probably found yourself full of energy to get the move done. You had probably been thinking about the move for some time and had a pretty good idea of where you were moving and what things would be like in the new place.

The amount of change from your current to your new home was significant. The van showed up and you tackled the task of loading things up with great energy and focus. Once the van was loaded and it took off, your attention probably turned to where you were moving. Again, a significant gap existed between where you were and where you were headed. And, again, lots of energy to get there.

Once the van arrived at the new home, you probably couldn’t wait to get the furniture and all those boxes unloaded. Stuff flew off that van. Once inside, you probably got the big pieces in place first and began stacking boxes in various rooms. Sooner or later, the new home was beginning to take shape.

And then a funny thing began to happen: you probably found that the amount of energy you had for getting things unpacked began to dwindle. Sure, you were probably tired and you probably laid off the dwindling energy to tired and hungry. So you ordered your pizza or went out for something to eat and basically called it a day.

Sound familiar? It gets better. What was the next day like? No longer tired and hungry, you began to tackle the job of unpacking boxes. This probably started with a fresh spurt of energy, but that spurt probably began to ebb, and more quickly than the day before.

Within a day or two, you probably had most, but not all, of the boxes unpacked. You may even have hung some of the pictures, artwork, etc. And then another funny thing happened: somewhere along the line, you probably said to yourself, “close enough.”

And so began an interesting phenomenon: the closer we get to the outcome, the less energy we have to complete it. If your ideal outcome had more precision to it, one that included everything being in exactly the right place, then you likely would have been driven to complete the unpacking process.

However, if the ideal outcome was “just get into the new home and be able to function” or something like that, then you probably found the energy and enthusiasm for completing the task began to drop.

If you’re like most people, you may even have a box or two still unpacked, or a picture or two still not hung. Some have moved that same box or two several times and never do get around to unpacking them.

The ice cream and moving examples represent the simple side of energy following thought. If this notion seems to fit, then it is time to take the principle deeper, much deeper.

Returning to one of the very early parts of this book, let’s again think about the symbols vs. experience version of what do you want.

You can look at either column as it relates to your life. Earlier we said that most people pursue the left hand side (symbols) hoping that the right hand side (experiences) will show up somehow.

For now, we can look at either side. If what you are after in life is found on the left hand side or the right hand side, I’ll bet you can find examples of areas where you have been successful in bringing about the object or experience of your focus. You can probably find examples where you have gotten part way, and still more where you aren’t even close.

Please do take a moment and see if you can get at least a rough list in place that corresponds to these three categories: got it, part way, not even close.

Now, let’s take a look at one or two from each column. My guess is that if you can look at the list and look at yourself with equally dispassionate honesty, you will probably find a pattern emerging.

For those items that you find in the “got it” column, you can probably identify specific actions you took to get there along with a very real, inner focus and commitment. You may also find that at one point in time, each of these areas carried with it a strong sense of desire and belief that you could make it happen. If we could look back in time, we would probably notice that some part of you kept thinking about what it would be like to get there, imagining different things you could do to get there, and perhaps even mentally “practicing” both what you would have to do to get there along with actually experiencing the outcome.

Kind of like imagining eating the food that winds up in the saliva showing up, persisting in thoughts and images about desired outcomes tends to tell the mind, body and emotions that we are serious about this object of focus. That focus, in turn, tells the mind to find ways to get there. The more you hold the thoughts and focus on the outcome, the more you begin to produce the energy necessary to get there.

Does this sound at least a little bit familiar?

How about the list in column two, the “part way” column, one I sometimes call “sort of.”  Do you have things or experiences that “sort of” work for you? Do you have projects that you have started and seemed to drift away from over time? Have you pursued some goal, whether it be improving your golf or tennis game over to accomplishing something at work over to creating your dream house, only to come up short?

Now there are at least two different versions of coming up short: one version is about talent (could I really expect to become a world class golfer, tennis player, skier, etc)?  Another version is about commitment and follow through. Have you started taking lessons (golf, tennis, etc) and then found that you never did get around to actually practicing what was taught?

If you recognize the started-but-not-completed phenomenon, then you may be able to recognize that you probably ran out of inner steam before you ran out of things to do about accomplishing the goal. If you ran out of inner steam, my guess is that you did not have a very clear inner picture of a successful outcome and, even if you did have a clear picture, you probably did not persist in revisiting that image very often.

If you have ever followed a sport very closely, then you have undoubtedly read about top performers who from the time they were very young, kept imagining that they were being handed the trophy for being number one, or for breaking a record, or for winning an event.  Basketball players talk about imagining sinking the winning basket. Skaters talk about taking bows at the Olympics as their perfect scores are flashed from the judges. Golfers talk about lining up the putt to win the Masters. All kinds of performers talk about having pictures of their heroes and their records in their bedrooms growing up.

All of these are examples of energy following thought. You may notice that each of these kinds of success stories start with a clear vision of the outcome (winning, receiving the trophy, making the shot, hearing the applause, etc) even though at the time, the person may have only been a ten year old kid “with a dream.”

The more that ten year old persists in the “dream,” they more they practice toward it.  There are all kinds of stories about kids and adults who practice until dark. Where do they get the energy? Well, it starts with thought! And a well imagined outcome. And a constantly positive self image or belief.

(If you want to watch something incredible, showing an inspiring example of someone following an inner vision into outer reality, check this link:  ( This is a story that was broadcast by Bryan Gumble about a 5 year old boy who has a perfect golf swing and never took a lesson. There’s more to the story than golf, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.  Just watch it – you will be amazed!)

You and me? We may miss a basket, blow a putt, or fall on a simple jump and then begin to tell ourselves a set of negative stories. “See, I told you you weren’t good enough.” “It’s hopeless – who are you trying to kid?” And all kinds of other negative stories.

Now, the thing is, your body doesn’t know the difference between a well imagined thought and reality. It really doesn’t matter what thoughts you persist in, the body and mind will simply do their best to provide the energy necessary to produce the outcome you hold inside.

What happens if you hold one set of thoughts (imagine winning the US Open) and another set that contradict (not good enough, too small, never will happen)? You probably got this one already – vector addition. Conflicting thoughts, beliefs, self images lead to conflicted outcomes.

And that’s just what we tell ourselves. How many others out there are all too willing to add to the negative self talk? “Come on – who are you trying to kid?” “Who do you think you are?  Tiger Woods?” “Stop dreaming – get real.” “You’re just setting yourself up to be disappointed.” And oh so many more.

Now is this starting to sound familiar?

Look again at the “part way” or “sort of” column and see if you might recognize a few areas where you have held conflicting thoughts or conflicting self images. True, everything that ever winds up in the “got it” column had to spend some time in the “part way” column.  Only, “part way” and “sort of” are different. “Part way” is, well, part way. Can you tell the difference between something that is part way but on the way versus something that is part way and stalled?

One easy way is to keep track of what you tell yourself inside about the journey, the current status and your efforts to date.

And it gets kind of complicated here as well. Just because you hold a strong vision of an ideal outcome doesn’t mean you will get there, or even that it is worth going after. Do keep in mind the symbols vs. experience split.

It’s pretty easy to dismiss some of this notion by noting the obvious. For example, in sports, there will only be one number one at any one point in time. So what does that mean? I shouldn’t “try?”

Having worked around some world class performers in a number of areas, ranging from golf, tennis and skiing to world class business performers, one thing I have found that they all hold in common, is an unrelenting focus on their ideal scenes and successful outcomes.

Sure, most have stumbled along the way, even “failed.” But they always get up one more time than they fall, and they stay committed, both inwardly and outwardly, to their dream. One thing for sure is that very few top performers, regardless of the arena, got there by settling for “sort of.”

Remember the story about unpacking and how many of us settle for “sort of” unpacked?  That was an example of what happens when we get close enough to the vision, that the energy just kind of runs out.

Tiger Woods is a great example of someone who has achieved the pinnacle of his profession, and then reinvents himself over and over again to get even better. He talks about breaking all time records, and then setting new standards for himself in terms of getting better and better. Every time he gets close to a goal, he seems to create more goals that keep him stretching to get better and better. He started as a young child with Jack Nicklaus’ records on his bedroom walls – in part, they served as inspiration and imagination reminders of what we wanted to become. And has he ever!

(Sure, it’s easy enough to dismiss Tiger and other world class performers as exceptional athletes. The only thing is, how many other exceptional athletes crash and burn before ever coming close to fulfilling their promise? Having worked with many, I am of the opinion that one thing separates the great from the near great and that has to do with their inner focus and ability to “image it in and act it out.” I don’t know one top performer who says they don’t have any inner images of success, much less a negative one.)

There are examples of other top performers who got there once and then just kind of disappeared or at least fell far back in the pack. If we were to delve into those stories, we would find examples of many who achieved a vision and then simply failed to refresh the vision. Without a significant, compelling vision and corresponding thoughts about attaining it, we just seem to run out of energy to get there.

Lastly, let’s look at the third column, the “not even close” column. What kinds of thoughts are you holding about what lives in this third column? My guess is that these are areas that have very little active thought or imagination stored in them. Do you have any visions or dreams or thoughts about what it would be like to attain them? Do you spend much time recounting the visions, dreams or thoughts? Do you have competing stories you tell yourself about not being capable, worthy or realistic?

My guess is that at least one on these “not even close” items resides more in the category of “sure would be nice, but I can’t see it ever happening.” Or, “people like me (us) never have that kind of luck.” Or something similar. What about it? Sound familiar?

Hopefully, you are seeing some differences between the three columns and how you think about yourself and your outcomes. We’ll come back to this subject again, adding even more layers into the process and looking at what you can do to accelerate your ability to achieve your dreams.

For now, let’s turn our attention to the subject of commitment.

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