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Michael Santos

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Brendon Burchard is a best-selling author and personal coach. In his books on pursuing success, he wrote about visualizing outcomes. He noted that inexperienced personal development teachers always tell audiences “to visualize,” but often in a tragically limited way. They tell audiences to visualize nothing but victory. High achievers know that it’s even more critical to envision themselves at the point where they want to quit and then see themselves working through the struggle.

There is a good chance that people working through Prison Professors’ courses live in challenging times. 

In today’s message, I want to share a story about the power of visualizing outcomes. Course participants may find a way to use this concept to transform their lives.

After reading the story of Socrates, I got inspired to change my life. Despite knowing I’d be in prison for multiple decades, I could see the potential that would open if I chose to lead a better life. 

When I finished my term, I wanted to build a career. I could empower myself by visualizing the outcome I wanted. 

Since I began serving a 45-year sentence in a high-security penitentiary, many people that served time alongside me had ideas about the best way to adjust. From their perspective, the best way to serve time would be to forget about the world outside. 

That adjustment strategy existed for people in jails and prisons across America. The outcome from such an approach, however, usually translated into more problems. 

Too many people leave prison to find challenges with unemployment, underemployment, or homelessness—many encounter more problems with the law. 

When a person spends multiple decades in prison, the mannerisms of the penitentiary become a part of life. Those mannerisms evoke preconceived ideas about a person’s ability to contribute meaningfully and positively to society.

By leaving prison with the mannerisms of the penitentiary, I thought I would have a more challenging time opening the opportunities that would lead to success. I had to visualize what I could do with the resources around me to overcome. 

Rather than making a name for myself in prison, I wanted to connect with leaders in society. Those people, I believed, could lead me to a pathway for new opportunities.

As a result of that visualization, I used to write unsolicited letters to leaders. If I read an article in a newspaper about people I believed could advance my cause, I would try to connect with them. 

For example, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the need for more prisons and longer sentences. Professor John DiIulio, of Princeton University wrote that we needed longer sentences. 

I disagreed and wrote a letter to explain why I thought his thesis missed the mark. By writing to Professor DiIulio, I opened a line of communication with one of the most influential penologists in the nation. We began a correspondence. 

In my eighth year, he coordinated a field trip for a group of his students from Princeton to visit the federal prison in Bradford, Pennsylvania. That visit opened an opportunity to teach a group of Princeton students from the warden’s conference room. I tell that story in my book, Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Sentence.

I wrote hundreds of letters to people that did not know me. Some of those letters resulted in finding mentors. They would visit me in prison, and they became vested in my success over time. With their trust, I felt compelled to prove worthy, giving me the fortitude to keep going, even when times got tough.

When we visualize positive outcomes, we can take action to make the seemingly impossible possible.

  • What do you visualize as the best possible outcome for your life one year from today?
  • What do you picture as the best possible outcome for your life five years from today?
  • What do you envision as the best possible outcome for your life ten years from today?
  • In what ways do the visualizations you have for your life at different stages relate?
  • How does visualizing your success differ from fantasizing about what you want in life?

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