Are you a good problem solver?

If so, think about a problem that is currently stressing you out.

It could be in your work, your relationships, anything. However, it must be realistically solvable (ending world hunger will have to wait for another time).

Got your problem?

Okay, now think about which of these methods will be most effective in coming up with a solution:

1. Create a plan

Spend the next week researching, brainstorming, and coming up with a plan:

  1. Learn more about your problem.
  2. Think about what you can do to solve it.
  3. Write down your next steps.

2. Event-simulation

Spend 5 minutes/day for the next week mentally rehearsing how this problem arose:

  1. Visualize the beginning of the problem: go over every detail that lead to the first incident.
  2. Visualize each step since: what happened to make things better or worse since then?
  3. Visualize the actions you took: remember what you said and did at each step.
  4. Visualize the environment you were in: where were you, who was around you, and what did they say?

3. Outcome-simulation

Spend 5 minutes/day for the next week visualizing the problem being resolved and being free of the stressful situation:

  1. Picture the relief you feel.
  2. Visualize your satisfaction having dealt with the problem.
  3. Picture the confidence you will feel in yourself knowing that you have successfully dealt with the problem.

Which of these methods do you believe will help you solve your problem most effectively?

Review them again.


Have your prediction?

When researchers put 3 groups of participants through this actual practice, the event-simulation group greatly out-performed the other two on almost every measure. [1]

Before the week was even over, the event-simulation group started taking action towards solving their problem—and many actually did!

They were also more likely to:

  • Seek out advice from others.
  • Feel positive about themselves and their situation.
  • Report that they learned and grew from the experience.

These results seem to make no sense. When you think about it, they were visualizing failure, yet somehow they felt even more positive about themselves than those who visualized success!

So why did the event-simulation work so much more effectively?


What you may think:

Visualization is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that your brain will actually treat visualizations the same way it treats real events.

When I first started as an entrepreneur, I tried to harness this power through the “law of attraction.” According to this law, if I visualized people investing in me, co-founders partnering with me, and customers loving my products, then I would believe these have all actually happened. [2]

Ideally, this would give me the confidence and willpower to make my visualization a reality.

So I visualized success every day...but it wasn't my confidence that increased, it was my frustration.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was getting frustrated by the fact that there was such a wide gap between my daily struggle and what my mind believed I had already achieved.

So I gave up the practice; thinking that "it’s just not for me.” But really, it was because I didn’t know how to reach those outcomes. I didn’t know the process it took to get investors, recruit cofounders, or make sales.

Sure, I could visualize the result, but I had no idea what the process was to actually achieve that result. My mind was frustrated because it didn’t know the right path to the success I was visualizing.


You may visualize yourself in possession of wealth, achievement, or whatever goal you are working toward, but if you don’t know the path from where you are to where you want to be, it will simply create this same gap in your mind.


What you may think:

So why is event-simulation better at filling this gap? How is it possible to find the right path to success by visualizing your previous path to failure?

To answer these questions, let's see how event-simulation works in practice.

Imagine that you have been struggling to create an exercise habit for a long time. No matter how hard you try, you always end up procrastinating your trip to the gym...then another...then another...and eventually you give it up altogether.

See what happens when you use event-simulation in this situation:

  1. Visualize your first thoughts of skipping the gym. Go over in detail everything that lead to you feeling that way.
  2. Visualize each step since. What happened from your initial thoughts to your eventual procrastination? What about the second or third skipped trips?
  3. Visualize the actions you took. Remember what you thought, said, and did at each step.
  4. Visualize the environment you were in. Where were you, who was around you, what did they say?

Going through this exercise allows you to see the problem with a new perspective. You can understand the process you go through from your initial motivation to procrastinate, to eventually saying, “I’ll go tomorrow.” And then confronting the fact that you probably skipped that trip too.

At each step, you would have also seen how other factors throughout the day affected your ultimate decision. Factors which you may be able to avoid next time.

I forgot to bring my gym bag to time I will get it ready the night before.

I ate an unhealthy lunch that made me feel time, I will pack a healthy lunch.

I was stressed from a long day of time, I will see if the morning works better.

Not that any of these will magically change things, but added together they might be just enough to help you make the right decisions.


Compare this practice with visualizing that you have the body of a pro athlete or a swimsuit model…Is it any wonder that event-simulation is more effective?


What you may think:

Okay, but what about planning?

The first problem with planning is that it normally doesn't take an account of the past. We focus on finding a new strategy, rather than finding out why the last one failed.

So, we try endless "8-week abs programs" and never become aware of the unpacked gym bag, unhealthy lunch, or failed attempts at evening workouts.

The next problem is that, as humans, we are overly optimistic about our abilities to execute our plans (why procrastination is a universal problem).

On Sunday night, we believe we will have all the willpower in the world to go to the gym on Wednesday evening—forgetting how exhausted we felt last Wednesday evening. [3]


Event-simulation helps prevent that issue by forcing us to do what is known as a "reference class forecast." It helps us assess the reality of the past, like remembering how tired we were last Wednesday evening, and account for the factors that led to failing our last goal.

This helps immensely in setting a clearer path for the future. [4]


Okay, but what about reaching success with a completely new strategy? If you can't simulate your own events, how do you find the right path?

Back my story from the beginning, in addition to my attempts at visualizing success, I also started reading the top books and biographies of some of my greatest heroes in athletics, business, and creative fields.

As this site thoroughly demonstrates, these stories struck a chord with me that visualizing success didn’t—and there is solid evidence why.

When researchers study the brains of people reading a story, they find a similar pattern as when doing an event-simulation. We visualize each step of their story unfolding in our own minds to understand how the person reached success for failure.

As we visualize ourselves in their shoes, we naturally apply relevant steps to our own path. [5]

The best example of the power of this phenomenon is when Arnold Schwarzenegger read the story of Reg Park. He learned how Park started from humble beginnings, built himself into a bodybuilding champion, and then became a movie star. [6]

Sound familiar?

This story helped Arnold face relentless criticism from friends and family without giving up on his dream. Arnold had confidence because the path to achieving his dream was already set by Park—he just needed to follow it. [7]

The best method for finding a path to success you've never reached, is to follow the path of those who have already achieved it.


Visualization is a powerful tool for reaching your goals. But visualizing the results, without knowing the process to achieve it, might just leave you frustrated by the gap between where you are and where your mind believes you should be.

A far more effective strategy is to visualize your failed attempts of the past to determine the factors that led you off your path. With that awareness, you can make effective changes to increase your chances of success.

Then when you're ready to go to the next level, learn the story of someone who has already reached it. When you learn the path someone has already taken to achieve your goal, you will naturally visualize yourself in their shoes.

And even if you can't take every step they did, at least you know the way to the top.