Creative Visualization. Its the basis for the Law of Attraction, The Secret and all sorts of other books and philosophies about the power of your mind to see things and make them happen.
My friend came to my house the other night in tears. “I’m exhausted by trying to be positive all the time, ” she explained, ” and I didn’t even know I was negative to begin with.” She had seen a psychic who told her she had to train her mind to attract what she wanted. Instead of attracting anything, her whole life was a paranoid and forced and non-genuine effort to have these thoughts.
What was going wrong?
I am always most curious about people and philosophies that make their money by telling people they can get what they want with secret information and mind games. I truly believe that our minds have magically complex and wildly unexplored powers, but, ultimately, its only those with a plan and action that will typically make things happen. There’s no secret pill to this. Some schools of feng shui deal with this fantasy witchy-poo land of “secret” information and I get handfuls of messages each week from people in confusion and terror after being told by one of these practitioners that they have bad luck or bad fortune (more on this here).
Yes, you can absolutely have a better life if your thoughts are pure. But…your thoughts don’t become pure just by will and obsessive fantasy.
Psychologists Oettigen & Mayer did awesome studies on the effect that fantasy (and note, I’m not talking sexual fantasy, etc, though any fantasy that becomes your primary mode of thinking is not balanced) has upon a life. Fantasy is not visualization, my friends. This awesome article in PSY Blog explains:
The difference might sound relatively trivial, but it’s not. Expectations are based on past experiences. You expect to do well in an exam because you’ve done well in previous exams, you expect to meet another partner because you managed to meet your last partner, and so on.
Fantasies, though, involve imagining something you hope will happen in the future, but experiencing it right now. This turns out to be problematic.
The researchers found that when trying to get a job, find a partner, pass an exam or get through surgery, those who spent more time entertaining positive fantasies did worse.
Take those looking for a job. Those who spent more time dreaming about getting a job, performed worse. Two years after leaving college the dreamers:
- had applied for fewer job,
- unsurprisingly had been offered fewer jobs,
- and, if they were in work, had lower salaries.
On the other hand those who entertained more negative future fantasies were more likely to achieve their goals. Similar results were seen for the other goals.
Although positive fantasies were associated with failure, positive expectations were associated with success. People who had positive expectations about finding a partner, recovering quickly from surgery and passing an exam, did better than those whose expectations were negative.
Recall that expectations are built on solid foundations while positive fantasies are often built on thin air.
So, my friend I was talking about earlier was falling prey to the dangerously unproductive world of fantasy when applied to important things in life, and it wasn’t feeling great! I mean, imagine the pressure to spend every moment fixated on an outcome, and, worse, imagine how paranoid one would become if every thing that went “wrong” was a function of some stray thought. It’s bonkers.
Visualization, on the other hand, that allows you to practice a skill in your mind, explore an emotion or an idea, even imagine on a cellular level that your body is operating a certain way: this has all been proven to be magnificently important in creating great outcomes in life and health. Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain is one of my all-time favorite books for imaginative exploration and creative stimulation. That said, even Shakti Gawain would tell you that no matter how much visualizing you do with no matter how much emotion that Brad Pitt is going to ditch Angelina and marry you, well, that’s not gonna be helpful. You could have met a great guy in all that time. And no matter how much or how “hard” you think about something, there’s little to no guarantee that it will work with just your mind- rather than your full life- geared toward an objective. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Not everyone was meant to have the same life. We were all meant to be grateful for our lives and do the best we can.
What do I mean by all of this today? Live!!! See how to create what you want to create and do it. Rather than feeling somehow entitled, focus and make it happen in the real world. Your causes have effects. Concentrate on execution of plans, working with people who challenge you in positive ways to grow in areas where you are stuck… Think awesome thoughts, yes, please, but DO. DO. DO THINGS. Don’t believe the hype. Dig into life. That’s how change happens!