Our Personal Virtual Reality Machine

In Part One I suggested that the way our minds work is similar to the way Google Earth works: We can view a map (or situation) close-up and get all the detail, or we can view it from a distance (satellite view) and get an impression without the detail. We don’t have the mental bandwidth to process both at the same time.

Because we experience our world through our five senses, we tend to think in terms of these senses. Our inner theatre presents us with images, sounds, smells, tastes and touch sensations. It is irrelevant whether the sense is actually out there or created wholly by our imagination. Scientists have shown through brain scans that the same parts of the brain ‘light up’ whether an object is actually observed or merely imagined.

There is no difference between an inner theatre production created by our imagination and one generated from real inputs.

This mental confusion between external reality and internal reality is a very useful survival tool. It allows us to imagine and feel the excitement of a situation ahead of actually entering into it. This ability is functional if we need to prepare ourselves for an event, such as chasing a wild animal with a pointed stick, but can be debilitating and dysfunctional if we overload on anxiety and perform poorly.

Our powerful ability to envision a future as if it were here and now provides us with the motivation for everything from finding a new mate to developing a new product or building a business.


Getting the purpose (the ‘why’) for our actions formulated with clarity and passion provides us with a vision of a future state that is better than our current state.

Our virtual reality machine (our mind) is not too bothered about what we put into it. We can put unhelpful thoughts into it, such as irrational fears and worries, and they will be accepted and stored.

We also have the capacity to think positively about a future event. We can build a blockbuster 3D movie with sounds, smells, tastes and emotions. Our virtual reality machine will store whatever we tell it to.

Chris Martlew’s new book, Changing the Mind of the OrganizationBuilding Agile Teams, is available for pre-order at amazon.co.ukamazon.com, bol.com and other good bookstores.