Picture this... Vision needs action, just as action needs vision
Actress Gabrielle Union recently revealed that she makes a vision board displaying her dreams, hopes and ambitions, every year.
This year's board, she added, includes photographs of a cosmetics line, Machu Picchu and a baby.
Sure if you don't ask, you don't get…
For the uninitiated, a vision board, or dream board, is a creative visualisation tool that was popularised in 2006 book The Secret.
Author Rhonda Byrne suggested that readers find images and words that represent their aspirations in old magazines before gluing them to a poster board, and positioning the board in a prominent place. Over time, the visual imagery is supposed to impress the subconscious mind, making goals more attainable.
I'm a big believer in visualisation but I never made a vision board. This is partly because most of the visions boards that I saw during The Secret craze looked like luxury goods catalogues, and partly because I wouldn't know what to say should a house caller ask why there was a picture of Brad Pitt holding a puppy stuck to my wall…
I also began to wonder if the people cutting glossy perfume ads out of magazines understood that vision needs action - or did they assume creative visualisation was a slightly more sophisticated version of making a wish while blowing out the candles on a birthday cake?
Visualisation means envisioning yourself achieving your goals before you actually do so, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it works.
One of the most cited studies, by psychologist Alan Richardson, found that people who visualised themselves shooting basketball free-throws for 20 minutes a day over a period of four weeks improved almost as much as the group that had physically practised the shots.
It should be noted that the participants in the mental practice group worked alongside an expert in sports visualisation: they were told to feel the ball in their hands, hear the sound of it bouncing on the court and see it going through the hoop.
Celestial thinkers might say that this is the 'law of attraction' in action. Terrestrial thinkers, on the other hand, would argue that 'neurons that fire together wire together', and there is nothing at all mystical about this phenomenon.
Either way, it's effective, which is why countless Olympic athletes use what many of them call 'imagery' as part of their mental training.
"Visualisation, for me, doesn't take in all the senses," said US freestyle skier Emily Cook. "You have to smell it. You have to hear it. You have to feel it." Closer to home, Conor McGregor is an especially vocal advocate of the 'law of attraction'. "If you have a clear picture in your head that something is going to happen and a clear belief that it will happen no matter what ," he said, "then nothing can stop it."
It's a persuasive pitch, but on the path to success, vision needs action, just as action needs vision. Athletes couple mental training with intensive physical training or, to put it more bluntly: they don't visualise while lying on the couch.
It's an obvious truth, but one often overlooked by self-help devotees, who sometimes think intensive visualisation is more than enough.
It reminds me of the old joke about the down-on-his-luck man who asked God to help him win the lottery. When his numbers didn't come in, he went back to the church, and prayed even more intently.
Weeks passed, and still he hadn't scooped the jackpot. So he went back to the church, got down on bended knee, and asked for divine intervention. "Please God," he said, "I've prayed and prayed and prayed. What do I have to do to win the lottery?" This time, there was a blinding light. The clouds parted, and a booming voice came down from the heavens, and said: "Buy a lottery ticket."
People make vision boards in the hope of hitting the jackpot but sometimes, like the man in the joke, they don't take the first step towards their goal.
There's no use putting an image that represents a lucrative job offer on your vision board if you're not sending out CVs. Likewise, what's the point of having romance on your vision board if you rarely venture beyond your tried-and-tested routine?
As Michael Bernard Beckwith says: "Don't look for your dreams to come true; look to become true to your dreams."
Of course, this is easier said than done. The truth is that vision boards suit certain personality profiles best. They are an effective tool for people who are persistent, proactive and single-minded; people who can clearly see the path in front of them, and the route that they need to take.
Vision boards work a treat for people like Gabrielle Union because they have found the sweet spot between dreaming and doing. The people on the wrong sides of that particular Venn Diagram (that is to say, most of us) need to understand the interplay between vision and action before we go searching for the Pritt Stick.
If you're the type of person who spends more time dreaming than doing, a vision board will only further cloud your focus with faraway fantasies. An 'action plan' is the more practical option.
Instead of thinking towards the ultimate ambition, focus on the next step that you need to take in order to get there, and pin a visual that represents this task to your wall.
If, on the other hand, you're the type of person who spends more time doing than dreaming, then it's better to explore creative thinking techniques before you pin your hopes on a vision board.
There's an old saying: "Vision without action is daydreaming and action without vision is a nightmare." A vision board only becomes effective when we learn to integrate the two.
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