Episode 25. Visualization and Pragmatism

Oct 3, 2016 | 0 comments

Show Notes

Building on our discussion on goals and process, we dig into visualization, “vision quests,” and the roles of these things in (fitness) success. This discussion also turned towards pragmatism versus positive thinking. This included the need for more pragmatism and realism, but also the potential dangers of pragmatism when you’re in a position of authority (teacher, coach, expert) and have influence upon others.


  • Scott thinks vision quests are ultimately process-related.
  • Mike thinks the benefit of goals — and by extension visualization — is that they give you focus: goals help you reverse-engineer the process that will get you there, visualization gets you more fully invested into that process. Visualization is like the connective tissue between process and goals.
  • A vision quest is about who am I being, who do I want to be, what kind of character do I want to show.
  • Kevin: how you do or approach one thing will often map onto how you do other things.
  • Mike mentioned, with respect meaning, Victor Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning, which describes Frankl’s time in Nazi concentration camps, and how some men and women were still able to retain meaning in their life, despite the horrific things being done to them.
  • Positive thinking by itself, without meaning, won’t get you far, especially when life throws really, really unpleasant stuff at you — and it’s rare that someone won’t go through that, at some point in their lives. “Assuming” you’ll be able to deal with it easily isn’t positive thinking; it’s arrogance.
  • For Scott it’s not about being cynical or positive, but pragmatic.
  • Mike is big on “implementation intention,” which is pre-planning how to deal with life’s hiccups. You need to do this practically and concretely (“what will I do if I have to stay late at the office?”), and in more abstract forms, since you can’t predict everything.
  • For Scott and Kevin you don’t need goals to go on real vision quests.
  • You also have to be willing to let go of older goals, and “graduate” to a different point in your life. For example, if Scott hadn’t let go of his physique goals, he’d probably be dead right now. There are many others in the fitness industry who didn’t, and they did die before their time.
  • A lot of the decisions you make will take you towards something or further away from it. Stagnation is always in some way a little worse than pure stagnancy.


  • Comparing yourself to others can be okay if you’re trying to be humbled, yet not envious, and using that as leverage. But just throwing in the towel because “Oh I could never achieve that” is… less useful.
  • Mike thinks, however, that pragmatism has limits — it can be very dangerous to impose limits on others, especially if you are in a role of a teacher, a coach, or something like that. Telling someone You can’t do ___ is — if there is ANY chance you’re wrong — actually a totally disgusting thing to say.
  • Kevin notes that you can still overcome this if someone says this to you, but for Mike those are the exceptions, and they’re why we always focus on those stories when they do happen. How often is a person’s potential squashed because someone in a position of authority, who had their student’s or client’s (or whatever’s) respect, told that person, “You can’t do something” when — in fact — they could have? Sure, it’s great when that person overcomes this. But there will be people who don’t, and not because they are “weak,” but because they just plain trust the person who told them.
  • Scott thinks Mike is being naive; Mike says yes, but that’s purposeful. The risk of being naive and wrong is usually all on the person being naive. Being pragmatic often puts the other person at risk.
  • Of course, as Scott pointed out, this goes both ways. Saying, “you can do it” to someone who should stop before they hurt themselves is not helpful.
  • Mike points out there there are studies in pedagogy where children are basically told they “can’t do something,” and it’s shown that this is 100% faulty perception on the part of those teachers, which in turn creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can say “Yes, but that’s not fitness,” but the point is to ask and dig into how much that kind of thing might carry over.
  • Scott and Mike basically agree on that: dig dig dig.

Links & Resources

Victor Frankl’s book, Man Search for Meaning