Strategies for Staying Sane: The Power of Imagery

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Bill and Bob were good friends for many years who met while starting out as entry-level employees at a large corporation.  They both developed an interest in golf and would play together regularly.  Over the years, Bob seemed to enjoy more frequent promotions than Bill and his golf handicap inproved faster that Bill’s, too.  When Bill asked Bob to what he attributed his success, Bob answered with one word, “visualization.”


Not everyone can picture scenes and events in their minds as clearly as photographs, but we all possess the ability to conjure up images with varying degrees of clarity. For example, if someone asks you how many windows are in your house, you will surely be able to form a picture of your house in your mind’s eye and count them.

Everyone has heard about the power of positive thinking, but the power of positive imaging is even greater. In most cases, before you are capable of actually doing something, you first need to be able to picture yourself doing it.

Suppose you want to ask your boss for a raise. Can you visualize approaching him or her and asking for more money? Can you actually see yourself doing so? If your answer is “No,” if you say “I can’t imagine myself doing that,” it is pretty obvious that you’ll probably avoid the actual encounter •-~ and you’ll probably remain at your present salary.

On the other hand, if you can picture that scene, if you can see yourself calmly but assertively stating your case as to why you believe you deserve a higher wage, chances are that you will take action.

Many famous athletes choreograph their moves in imagery before going into action. For example, champion skiers imagine themselves negotiating almost every inch of a slope, champion tennis players picture themselves executing successful shots, and ballerinas and gymnasts will practice their moves as much in imagination as in actual rehearsal.

What we are getting at is very simple but extremely effective.

  • If you really wish to succeed at something, picture yourself doing it successfully over and over again.

Obviously we are talking about visualizing success that lies within your reach. You will not succeed in doing the impossible no matter how much imagery you practice.

One of the most powerful methods is called coping imagery.

  • Picture yourself coping with difficult events. See yourself managing, perhaps struggling or battling, but nevertheless getting through it — attaining success.

This exercise done repeatedly can enhance the likelihood of your actual success in many situations. What we are recommending, in effect, is structured daydreaming. Try it out and see what a difference it can make.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

Please help us by shopping at Amazon through this link! Thank you!