12/05/2011 08:51 am ET | Updated Feb 04, 2012

Create Your Own Miracle: The Power Of Visualization

Need a miracle in your life? Perhaps you just might be able to create one using your own ability to imagine and visualize. While the first place to start may well be with your own thinking, there's more work to do if you want that miracle to arrive. Not all miracles are perfect, nor do they come packaged like Hollywood would have us believe. However, if you're willing to use your own imagination and back it up with the requisite work, miracles do occur. The first step toward finding out if you're on the miracle list is your own willingness to sign up for the possibility!

Surely you have heard or read about Tim Hemmes, the quadriplegic young man who was able to use his mind and imagination to move a robotic arm and touch his daughter for the first time in the seven years since his tragic motorcycle accident in 2004. Tim's story, along with that of his University of Pittsburgh neurosurgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara and University of Pittsburgh professor of neurobiology Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D., provide compelling evidence of the power of holding a positive focus and doing the work necessary to back it up.

Want to watch Tim's real-life miracle? With a little help from Dave Templeton and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, here you go:

But Positive Thinking Just Doesn't Work -- Or Does It?

For years now, I have been writing and teaching about the power of holding a positive focus and how doing so can lead to creating more of the life you want rather than the one you settle for. The self-appointed critics out there have had a field day trashing the idea, despite reams of science on the subject. In a fit of pique two years ago, I even put up an article entitled Why Positive Thinking Just Doesn't Work. That little article went viral.

The basic premise: positive thinking doesn't work, positive action does. But how do you take positive action without having some kind of positive outcome in mind? Positive thinking is not sitting around wishing things were different or pretending that things are just peachy when they may actually suck. However, imagine asking Tim about the role of a positive focus in overcoming his tragedy and what the process has been like for him. As you saw in Tim's video, focus, perseverance and hard work are all part of the process:

Ask anyone who has overcome tragedy of one kind or another and you will discover that the difference between those who languish in what has befallen then and those who have made lemons into their lemonade comes down to holding a positive focus and then doing the best with what you have left. As my friend W. Mitchell often says of his own paralysis: "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do. Now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left."

Tim's story is remarkable in many ways. To begin with, Tim immediately recognized and accepted that his life had changed and changed radically. However, despite the enormity of what had befallen him, Tim apparently held firm in his belief that he will one day recover the ability to move his arms and legs again. While he may not have had any way of knowing how we might be able to accomplish this "miracle," that did not deter him from holding strong in his vision.

Even Monkeys Can Visualize

All the while Tim was undergoing his ordeal, Dr. Schwartz, the neurobiology researcher, was busy teaching a monkey how to mentally direct a robotic arm in order to feed itself marshmallows. Electrodes implanted in its brain allowed the mechanism to read signals from neurons inside the part of the monkey's brain known to control arm motion. As the monkey focused on feeding itself marshmallows, the arm "learned" to move and accomplish the task. Thank God the monkey hadn't read that visualization or imagination don't work.

Dr. Tyler-Kabara, who installed the device in Tim's brain that would eventually communicate with the robotic arm, said that Tim had a strong sense of personal motivation and a vision that paralysis could be cured. As she says in the video clip above, the potential exists to rewire the body so the paralyzed person can eventually wind up moving their own limbs simply by the act of visualizing or imagining the action. The explanation: The neurons in Tim's brain that generate motor signals and movement are still there, still functioning just as they are in able-bodied people. Neurologists know that when you imagine doing something, the neurons still fire right along even if the body isn't moving at all. Apparently, imagination actually works!

I'd love to hear from you. How have you used your ability to imagine and visualize to create change in your life? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)

If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, "Workarounds That Work." You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)