Imagine That! Interview Part #3 of 3

Peter: Talk to me about mental movies.

James: I’d like people to understand that we always create mental movies in our head. If you look at what you’re doing for dinner tonight or what your plans are for tomorrow or what you’d like to do in the future or a goal, you’re creating a script. That script, the mental movies, is the way the primitive brain works on the elephant level.

So when we create mental movies, in essence we’re unleashing the imagination to move us towards the mental movie. There’s a couple of rules about that. One, the subconscious of the elephant can’t hear a negative suggestion. Don’t think of pink elephants. I’m just kidding. 

Be careful when you cross the street you might be hit by a car. That’s a terrible suggestion.

Don’t fail. That’s a terrible suggestion.

Because what you always want to create a mental movie that leads you where you want to go or someone else where you want them to go, not where you don’t want them to go. Mental movies is how we create our life, our experience.

When people taste the lemon they’re creating their experience, correct?

Peter: Right.

James: Right out of their focus. So how we mentally visualize is creating our experience.

If I sit here and think of something that happened from my past that’s horrible, I get depressed. I’m creating my experience and I’m responsible and accountable for that. If I look at something that I passionately want to do in the future and convey that passion to you, I’m not only creating my experience, I’m helping create your experience. The way the mind works is we will move in the direction of what we think. We can go back to all the Zig Ziglers and the wonderful people who would have helped me over the years, psycho-cybernetics says a lot about this, except now that it’s all based in brain science.

Peter: When we talked about true leadership and the neuroscience of affective leaders and we talked about the fact that you have to write down a mission statement and you set these goals and they’re measurable and there’s ways that you can track your progress; with imagination, how do you establish any kind of metrics around creativity?

James: The metrics, you go back to if you’re imagining a goal then you measure the goal. When you form a mental movie, you are essentially one making the invisible visible. What do I mean by that?

If I said to you, make a mental movie about picturing a bunch of blonde people walking around. Picture those that have blonde hair glinting and then I have you walk out in Rockefeller Center with the mindset of a blonde person, who are you going to notice first? You’re going to notice blonde people.

You just have to take that metaphor to any stage you want from customer service to forming pictures and image of what that means, to establishing a goal and all of a sudden, you’re going to… the law of attraction sounds metaphysical, right? But it isn’t; it’s based on neuroscience. You’re going to start to see what you imagine.

One of the exercises I do in my talks is I have everybody look around the room and notice everyone who is wearing red or maroon or orange. I have the entire group, maybe 200 people, 500 people or 1,000 people close their eyes. I say now, raise your hand if you can remember the general direction or the article of clothing of the people wearing red, maroon or orange. All the hands go up. I say open your eyes. Look at all the hands. Close your eyes. Now I want you to raise your hands if you can remember the direction of the article of clothing of all the people wearing green. Open your eyes – 2 or 3 hands out of 500 are up. Isn’t that interesting?

What you’ve just done through the imagination is you made the invisible, visible and the visible, invisible. Does that make sense?

Peter: Absolutely.

James: Why shouldn’t it work any different in hiring people and interviewing people.

Peter: Right.

James: Why should it make any difference of the people you hire? Of course, if you have your mindset and your clarity about the type of person you want on board that’s enthusiasm, that has all these attributes, you’re going to start attracting the right people in your life. If you want to get a little further about this, hey your listeners can look around at the people in their lives and ask the question, “whoa, I don’t want that person in my life, why are they there?”

Peter: Right.

James: Because you chose them. Why did you choose them? What do you need? It’s going back to fear, which is part of the Imagine That, is what’s the payoff for having fear or any fear? There’s always a payoff. Who or what do I get to avoid? Who or what don’t I get to have? When you start to look at the essence of it, that’s pretty powerful stuff and then you recraft your imagination. You use the power of the imagination to reframe your thinking and then you have to do certain things.

This just doesn’t happen by thinking about this once; you do have to do affirmations. All the people that come to see me create that picture image mental movie of what they want and then I teach them a deep relaxation visualization. They do this twice a day, 10 minutes a day and there has never been a time – and this is a brash statement to say from somebody who’s been in the business this long but I will say, there’s always a positive result. There can’t be because that’s the way the brain works.

Peter: Wrapping up here, James, what can we take away from this conversation to help us really make our imaginations more productive on a daily basis?

James: I would start by a little self reflection. Self reflection is, start to be aware. Awareness is the key to all this, and it’s not something that we usually do because the world moves too fast.

Start to be aware without judging of the kind of view that we have of people. Are we positive? Are we negative? I’m not saying negative is wrong; we could talk about that too because sometimes it’s okay.

Secondly, start to use “isn’t that interesting?” Play with it. Write it down right now as you’re listening “isn’t that interesting” and for the next day, use that to become aware of any negative thought and you’ll know if it’s negative because your body is going to feel crummy. You’re going to feel a weight in your chest. You’re going to feel this. You’re going to feel anxious. You’re going to feel stressed. The imagination can control stress, too.

Take “isn’t that interesting” and stop for a moment and reframe the thought. And what that means is if I catch myself with a negative thought there’s always a picture and an image attached to it. Just take a moment and reframe it in a positive thought. Recreate the mental movie and play and act as if. It’s a childlike ability that I ask people to do with this because you have to become a child. Using the imagination is about you.

Try the gratefulness exercise. Before you go to bed, write down 3 things for what you’re grateful, circle one in the morning. Do it for a week if you don’t want to do it for a month. Those things immediately will start to have you reframe your mental movies and pictures and start to harness the imagination.

Peter: That’s really interesting.

James: Imagine that!

Peter: Imagine that. James, thank you so much for speaking with us here on TotalPicture Radio. This has been a very interesting and enlightening conversation.

James: All my great pleasure, Peter. Thank you for having me.

Peter: Thanks.

We’ve been speaking with James Mapes. You can contact James through his website We welcome your comments on our interview today. You’ll find this podcast in the Leadership Channel of TotalPicture Radio; that’s