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When Life is Perfect, Take a Snapshot

. . . And despite how the world appears on television, it is positive, optimistic people who create the greatest, most lasting achievements. Be one of those people.
Karl Palachuk

Karl W. Palachuk
February 1, 2006


Many years ago, when I had my first consulting job, I remember driving to work. It was a long ways. I drove from the south end of the county to the north end of the county–about 45 miles total. Three days a week I had to get there for a 7:00 AM meeting. So, I was basically on the road from 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM.

And I still remember a certain point in the drive when I would find myself saying “I love this job.” Every day. I liked the people I worked with. I liked the company that owned my contract. I liked the company that paid to have the work done. I liked everything about it.

That’s why I took a “snapshot” of that job.

A snapshot is an old term from the early days of photography. It means to take a picture quickly, as opposed to setting up the scene. Ansel Adams set up his photographs. He never just pulled out the camera and snapped a picture.

A mental snapshot can be taken any time. You simply stop and make mental notes about what you’re experiencing. I’ll give an example of a positive snapshot. Let’s say you’ve just taken on a major new project. You’re very happy. Intellectually you know that, down the road, things may not be so smooth. But right now, you want to bask in the good feelings. Here’s what you do.

First, take some quiet time so you can focus on this wonderful moment.

Second, close your eyes and think about why you’re happy right now. What elements of this experience do you like? Does it make you feel like a winner? Does it remind you of some other pleasant experiences.

Third, open your eyes and make a picture in your mind. What visual cues will help remind you of this moment? Is there a smell or a flavor you want to remember? Is there anything else that’s memorable about this moment and this experience?

Fourth, wrap it all up. Go through the memory again. Where are you? What do you see? What do you feel? Mentally put your arms around the experience and pull it close to you.

Finally, give it a name. You might say “This is what it feels like to win a contract.” or “I am absolutely the best person for this job.” Say the words out loud and associate them with the sight, the smell, the feel.

The more time you give yourself to go through this, the longer that memory will last. As you go through these five steps again and again and again, you make impressions inside your brain. The more you go through it, the more it sticks.

Intoxication and Hangover

John P. Sisk was one of my favorite professors in college. In February 1972 he published an article in Commentary Magazine (www.commentarymagazine.com) entitled On Intoxication. In that article he spells out a very powerful theme that exists in literature as well as life.

We all enjoy intoxication of one kind or another. It might be power, or money, or fame: whatever intoxicates us at the moment. And with all intoxication comes hangover. Perhaps not a pounding headache, but the realization that great victories also have great challenges.

For example, making the big sale is intoxicating. But the hangover comes when you start laying out the details involved in delivering the promised goods. The new job is intoxicating, and the first week on the job is usually pretty good. But at some point, the challenges overshadow the great victory.

That’s why it’s so important to take a snapshot of the great moments in your life. You’ll want to come back to this place, this time, this moment. Taking a snapshot gives the ability to return to the moment of triumph. And that may just be the extra support you need to get through a tough time.

Important safety tip: Don’t take negative snapshots. In other words, don’t spend your emotional energy fuming and aggravating yourself over a bad experience. Whether you intend to or not, this will create a snapshot that will stick in your brain.

Let it pass. Don’t dwell on the negative. Reinforce positive feelings, emotions, and experiences. Maybe you will even be strong enough to bring back a positive snapshot when you have a bad experience. This takes practice. Most people never do this.

Instead of dwelling on the negative, pull out your “photo album” of positive snapshots from time to time. Dwell on the highlights of your life. Sometimes (very often) people get caught up in the daily grind and don’t take time to focus on the positive.

Pull out that mental photo album and recall the great moments in you life. Relive graduation, getting married, having a baby, buying your first house. You have total control over your conscious mind. Choose to dwell on the high points of your life and it will make you a more positive person. It will also make you more optimistic.

And despite how the world appears on television, it is positive, optimistic people who create the greatest, most lasting achievements. Be one of those people.

 “Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.”
— Cicero 

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