My whole adult life I’ve faked being a legit martial arts teacher.  No one knows it, but I’m afraid of fighting.  Flash back to 1996 when I’m sixteen years old.  I’m training for my first kickboxing fight.  I’ve competed in karate tournaments, but this is the real deal.  Full contact kickboxing.  The goal is a knockout.  Unfortunately, the other guy has the same goal.  I’m scared.  I’m overpowered regularly by my training partners when sparring.  I stare at the mirror in the Upper Darby gym bathroom and cry from too many body shots.  I pour cold water over my face and wonder, “Why am I doing this?”
 
Man/boy looks in mirror

I’m starting with the man in the mirror.

 
My karate teacher said that everyone is afraid of fighting.  Anyone who says otherwise is either “crazy or lying”.  Coming from a man that looks like a vicious combination of The Terminator, Rocky, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, that made me feel better about my fear.  If this monster of a man who routinely beats the pulp out of me is afraid, maybe I can still be a fighter.  
 
The Terminator, Rocky, Stone Cold Steve Austin

Mix these three together and imagine that’s your karate teacher.

 
I lived in a gym culture where fighting was expected.  Hard sparring was the norm.  Facing your fears was your initiation into a club of confidence.  The great philosopher Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”  Truer words have never been spoken, but Mike left out the fighter’s secret.  You can train past the fear, past the pain, past your instincts to unlock your potential.  
 
Mike Tyson

Confucius, Aristotle, Tyson? “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

 
Fast forward almost twenty years and if you punch me in the face I’ll have a plan.  The fear still lurks hidden inside me, but you can’t see it.  Fear of fighting no longer holds me back.  Two tactics took me from scared sixteen to my current confident character: (1) belief in myself and (2) getting punched in the face.  Let’s skip getting punched in the face for now.  Really, you only need that if you’re going to fight.  I developed belief in myself through late night meditation sessions visualizing my future.
 
I’m the oddball.  I believe in visualization.  From training for those intense kickboxing fights, I know that visualization is immensely powerful.  For physical training it’s a bonus chance at practicing technique without taxing your body.  Visualization’s mental benefits are more mind blowing.  Time seems to slow down.  You feel like an actor in a slow motion replay responding Matrix-style to whatever life throws at you. 
 
Neo from the Matrix dodging bullets

Hopefully you won’t need to visualize dodging bullets like Neo.

 
I’ve completed visualization exercises from many different sources.  The habit in part 2 is a variation of the easiest visualization exercise I’ve found combined with the concept of your ‘Best Self’.  A summary of my results and a collage of images from this visualization exercise are below.  
 
My ‘Best Self’ has:
  • few but deep relationships with people who challenge me 
  • a clear mind and even temperament like a monk
  • a deep well of wisdom like a philosopher-scientist
  • a strong but mobile body like a gymnast
  • a dynamic presence like a world-class speaker
  • a unique gift for the world like a successful entrepreneur
 
Collage of Matt's Vision Images - Marriage, Best Self, Gandhi, Lincoln, Friends, World Health, Bruce Lee, Idea/Finance Guy
 
 
Read part 2 to learn:
  • the time each day when you’re free of your past and future
  • what your ‘Best Self’ is and how this concept can motivate you to change and
  • details on how to visualize your future and begin realizing your full potential.