James Nesmeth was an average golfer. He generally shot in the mid to low nineties, but dreamed of improving. However, his efforts to raise his golf game were interrupted by the war in Vietnam.

Major Nesmeth was captured and became a prisoner of war, where he spent seven years imprisoned in a cage that was 4 and a half feet long and 5 feet tall.

During his imprisonment, he saw no one, talked to no one and had no physical activity. For the first few months, all he did was hope and pray for release. He soon realized that he had to find some way to occupy his thoughts or he would go insane.

Nesmeth devised a mental program in which he’d play his favorite golf course every day in his mind. He would visualize the experience to the highest level of detail possible. He imagined the clothes he’d be wearing. He thought about the smell of the freshly cut grass and the feel of the warm sun and gentle breezes on his skin. He’d see every tree, hear the birds singing and squirrels chattering, and envision every slope of the course.

Power of Visualization

“The beginning of accomplishing your goals and living your dreams resides in the power of visualization.”

He would then grasp the club, feeling its rough grip on his fingers. He’d imagine his stance and heft the club’s weight in his hands as he started his back swing. He visualized taking his practice swing, addressing the ball and hitting his shot. He’d watch the ball’s arc as it flew beautifully, coming to a soft landing in the center of the fairway.

In the real world, he was never in a rush. Golf was his escape, and he would take his time and enjoy every moment. He did the same in that small cage in Vietnam. He thought through every step and would even stop to get water, just as if he were actually playing a real round.

His imagined golf game took just as long as if he were physically on the course. He hit each shot and played every hole to its conclusion until the ball dropped to the bottom of the cup. He did this every day for 7 years.

Here’s where the story takes an amazing turn. Major Nesmeth was finally released and came back home to America. Physically speaking, his condition had deteriorated as much as you would expect after living in a tiny cage for so long.

Even so, soon after his return, he decided to go and play golf at his favorite course. Amazingly, he shot a 74. He hadn’t swung a real club in 7 years and had undergone indescribable physical deprivation, and yet he had cut 20 shots off of his average.

Modern neuroscience tells us that our brains are like plastic. They’re able to reshape themselves and continually function in new ways throughout our lives. More importantly, we have the ability to intentionally reshape our brains through our thoughts and experiences.

Reality is really about perception. The thoughts, feelings and emotions that go through our minds are what ultimately determine the content and quality of our lives.

Modern brain imaging has shown that imagining an event or circumstance triggers the same brain chemistry and functioning as actually experiencing it in real life. This means that we can train our brains and develop marvelous talents – and, therefore, results – purely through the process of visualization. James Nesmeth is a classic example of the power we have to visualize and then achieve incredible things.

If you want to achieve a goal, the best and first thing you should do is visualize the accomplishing of that goal in your mind. Napoleon Hill once famously said, “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Battles in life are won and lost in the mind, often before the events actually occur. When we change how we view ourselves, our lives and our future, we change the results we get each day.

The beginning of accomplishing your goals and living your dreams resides in the power of visualization. Learn to visualize vivid and positive outcomes in your life, and you’ll be well on your way to living the life you imagine!