by Jason Voss, CFA, CFA Institute.
Meditation provides investors with many benefits. Below are meditation tips from the newly released Meditation Guide for Investment Professionals, the full version of which is available online for CFA Institute members.
Visualization meditation, or creative visualization, is a basic meditation practice that features a tremendous variety and depth of techniques. As such, it is difficult to adequately describe in concise form.
As with the previous articles in this series — on how to start meditating, open-monitoring meditation, and focused awareness meditation — the work summarized here is derived from the combined efforts of neuroscientists, psychologists, and practitioners.
What It Is: Creative visualization is a widely known and accepted technique, similar to Vajrayana Buddhist practice. It is also known as Mikkyo and Shingon, among other terms. In general, creative visualizations require you to follow a guide who asks you to visualize different possibilities. In sports, for example, athletes may imagine themselves running the perfect race, executing a flawless drive in golf, or striking the ideal shot in soccer. Those preparing for presentations also frequently visualize the various aspects of their speech, the audience’s reactions, the likely questions that will be asked, the perfect answers to them, and so forth.
Scientific research demonstrates that the imagination-enhancing benefits of creative visualization do not depend on the particular technique. Instead, they accrue from the visualization’s activation of the creative faculties of consciousness. So if you are trying to build a better financial model, you do not have to visualize financial modeling. Research shows that creative visualization alone will improve your imaginative and multidimensional thinking.
- Choose a focus for your visualization. What do you want to achieve? For an investment professional, the goal might be to become a great investor, better understand the macro environment, identify the assets in a portfolio that are risky or need trimming, gain insight into the executives at a particular firm, or develop creativity. The possible focuses and goals are limitless. Once you identify the goal, write it down. As you proceed to author your creative visualization, record the steps that follow. Author a script, and then read it into the Voice Notes function on your smartphone so that you can control the pacing and duration of your meditation.
- Find the time and space to relax. Most visualization meditations require at least 10 to 30 minutes to activate the creative parts of consciousness. If creative pursuits are new to you, you may need some practice to become accustomed to this way of thinking.
- Imagine achieving your goal from the point of view of each of the senses. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like in your body? What does it taste like? What does it smell like? For example, if you are trying to identify which assets in your portfolio may have hidden risks, you might imagine the sights associated with such a realization as you consider each of the assets. You may picture the logo of a company catching fire, or hear an explosion when your mind settles on a particular firm. Activating each of your senses improves the quality of the visualization, and deepens your creativity. Whatever the sensations you want to achieve, record them.
- Imagine achieving your goal from the point of view of your emotions. How do you feel? How do you respond? How do others respond to you? Are you disappointed? Anxious? Elated? Calm? What is the right emotional context for what you want to achieve? Perhaps you experience many emotions. Make sure these make it into your creative visualization. Record them.
- Imagine achieving your goal from the point of view of your intellectual understanding: What do you think? “I have just discovered the greatest alpha opportunity of my career”? Or “I am so glad I discovered that landmine of a company before it was too late”? Make sure that your thoughts are varied and capture the full richness involved in attaining your goal. Again, make sure you write down these thoughts.
- Imagine you achieve your visualization. Each of the preceding steps creates the setting for your visualization. They construct the context and evoke the experience of attaining your goal. Now, imagine yourself achieving it. If you are having a deeply creative experience, then your visualization should reflect what the real experience would be for you. Who is there when you achieve the goal? Are you alone in your supreme and secret realization? Are you surrounded by cheering throngs? Are you on a sports pitch? At an awards ceremony? Make sure to record the details.
- Use strong language to describe the experience. For example, if your goal is to be a great active manager, you may say, “So much alpha is attained for my clients that alpha now bows down to me!” Or if you prefer something a little less self-centered: “So much alpha flows from my ideas that it creates a river larger than the Amazon.” Notice that many of these words are symbolic. Other examples might include, “bare white walls,” “ceilings that soar,” “the great hall,” and so on. By exaggerating the language, your mind stretches past its normal experience of the world and engages your creative faculties. Review your creative visualization script. Is the language strong and evocative? Does reading it make you smile? If it doesn’t evoke a response, rewrite it and include language that excites and motivates you. To be creative means to create something new, something unexpected, and something that you haven’t quite seen before. Make sure you grant yourself this creative leeway as you construct your visualization.
- Absorb the experience. After you have created your visualization, you need to experience it. Read through your visualization silently or, better yet, out loud. Allow yourself to be moved by the unfolding production. Immerse yourself in the visualization. Spend some time re-experiencing what happened to you. What seem to be the important details of the visualization? Was there one image that surprised you? Was there an emotion that struck you as significant? If so, write them down.
- Practice the visualization until the focus is realized. Now that you have created a visualization, you can return to it as an exercise. The more you engage in the practice, the greater the meditative benefits. Remember that if you are using visualization to activate your creativity or to improve your ability to think holistically or multidimensionally, all you need to do is to engage in your visualization practice and then return to the activity when you need greater creativity or clearer thinking.
In the next installment, the Meditation Tips for Investment Professionals series will conclude with an exploration of compassion meditation.
Please feel free to share your experiences with visualization meditation in the comments section below.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image credit: ©Getty Images/Kaligraf
This post was first published at the CFA Institute's Enterprising Investor blog.