Use software to imagine your future

virtual front yard

“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” –William Arthur Ward

Computers can dramatically increase our ability to imagine a desired outcome.

I first noticed the power of computer imagery to capture my imagination while playing computer games. I have spent many enjoyable hours having what felt like authentic intellectual and even emotional experiences in compelling imaginary environments. Of course you know the “environment” is just lit pixels on a flat screen, but that fact quickly becomes secondary to the real experiences you are having in that imaginary world.

On one level you know the screen you are viewing is just a two-dimensional representation, like a movie screen or television. Yet the arrangement of those lit pixels gives our minds enough cues that we fill in the blanks, and the experience can feel quite authentic. That experience is different from reading a book or even watching a movie, because you can “walk” around in that world and become one of the actors. The line between the plot of a fictional story and what is happening to the real you becomes blurred.

I have frequently wondered how we could use this immersive quality for endeavors more nourishing than simply entertainment. Is there a way we could use our computers to visualize ourselves in imagined situations that would lead to outcomes similar to actually having those experiences? It seems like it should be possible since our subconscious minds can’t tell the difference between what we visualize and what is real.

One of three primary themes that emerged in my New Year collage is home improvement. There are a number of projects I’d like to work on, and most of them involve some design and/or decision-making. Since I’ve already made a few of those design decisions previously and have been dissatisfied with the results I thought it might be helpful to visualize them with software this time around.

I researched several options and decided to spring for the latest version of Punch! Home Design Architectural Series 4000. I was a bit hesitant to do so because a version I had tried in the past was nearly prohibitively hard to use. It’s still not for the faint of heart, but has been greatly improved and has a very robust feature set. I have been able to build a serviceable model of both my home and surrounding yard in a few evenings. It’s a fairly complex model, as both the house and yard have multiple levels.

The software is useful for experimenting with different options, as you would expect. I’m also noticing an additional benefit that is pretty cool. The tools are sophisticated enough to model the existing features of my home very convincingly. That is triggering the same phenomenon I observed while playing computer games: my mind fills in the reality gaps and some part of me has the experience of actually being there. When I “walk” around in the virtual model it does not just feel like A house – it feels like MY house. When I add things to it that I’d like to build I have the virtual experience of being in my house with those changes already implemented.

I spent several hours yesterday evening working on a garden and patio design for my front yard. It was lots of fun to play with different layouts and building materials. By the end of the evening I had arrived at a decent design and had spent quite a bit of time inhabiting my new virtual patio. Before quitting for the evening I used the software to take a “snapshot” of the 3D world I had created, and I liked that picture so much I saved it as my computer desktop background.

This morning when I stepped outside to leave for work everything looked wrong without the bamboo and trellis. Where were the pavers and the new fountain? Apparently since I had spent the whole evening before imagining the new front yard my mind has already moved on to that reality.

When I got to work and turned on my laptop I realized that my picture of the model has taken the computer background hack to a whole new level. All day I have felt drawn to the background picture and really excited about it. Seeing that image keeps reminding me about my ideas for the yard, and makes me feel really enthusiastic about following through on the project.

That computer background is not just a digital picture on a screen. It’s a frequent reminder of pleasant time I have spent hanging out in a convincing visualization of my desired future. The changes I want to implement in my yard have already occurred in my imagination, and those changes are being massively reinforced by the imagery I have created for myself. Apparently that’s a really powerful combination.

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One Comment

  1. Calyn
    Posted January 12, 2007 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Your site has opened my eyes to new possibilities/tools for the work I am doing!
    Thank you!

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