I have some potentially upsetting news.
All of those self-help gurus and law of attraction teachers are wrong.
You can’t have “literally anything you want,” no matter how hard you envision it.
(I know. Bummer, right?)
I’m not even necessarily saying they’re out to defraud you (although I suspect some of them are).
After all, “you can have anything you want, just by leveraging the power of your MIND!” is a seductive sales pitch. We all have minds; we all use our imagination on the regular; wouldn’t it be sweet if all we had to do to have LITERALLY ANYTHING WE WANTED was to do an effortful version of the daydreaming we tend to do anyway?
Alas…it doesn’t work like that.
Some might call me a pessimist for saying this. I once had a commenter angrily demand why I wasn’t “open to possibility” when I wrote something like this on my page in the past.
The thing is…you’ll never find a bigger believer in “possibility” than me. That’s why I do what I do.
I may not believe that we can have ANYTHING WE WANT in our lives simply by imagining it really, really hard…but I believe we can create lives that look and feel an awful lot more LIKE the lives we imagine than most of us realize.
I think we can create lives that look cooler than the lives we have now.
I think we can create lives that feel better than the lives we have now.
I believe we can construct lives that have a lot of the stuff in them that we might imagine in that fantasy life.
But it’s going to take a lot more than imagination (even though visualization is an extremely effective tool).
Creating the life we want involves a lot of focused attention.
It involves a lot of goal-setting. A lot of planning.
Creating the live we want involves a lot of doing things we’d rather not do, at times we’d rather not do them. It involves a lot of work that isn’t particularly interesting, stimulating, or fun.
Why? Because big goals— the goals you’re chasing when you think about “creating your dream life” are comprised of steppingstone goals. And steppingstone goals are comprised of even smaller component goals that must be attended to day to day, every day.
And a lot of those daily goals do not bear much resemblance to the big, life-defining goals you’re so hot to achieve.
Put another way: in order to create some (not even all!) of the overarching goals you think of as your “dream life”…you’re going to have to live your day to day life in a way that may not interest or stimulate you, often for long stretches.
It can suck.
Concrete examples of this are everywhere.
People want to be their “ideal weight” and have their “ideal body,” because they’re imagining what life will be like if they looked and felt a certain way. The thing is, to build a body that looks and feels that way, they have to endure things like workouts and diet plans that don’t, in the moment, feel particularly good…and they have to do it day, after day, after day.
People want their “ideal career,” usually because they desire a certain income level and lifestyle. The thing is, in order to build that career and income, they have to endure things like sacrifice and risk that don’t, in the moment, feel particularly sexy…and they have to do it day, after day, after day.
Now, visualization WILL help, with all of this. Visualization is a robustly research-supported technique that will reshape your brain, if you use it consistently and well.
But visualization is not enough.
There simply are no shortcuts to creating the lives we want to create. Not shortcuts like the ones certain self-help gurus want to sell you, anyway.
Make no mistake: my message ultimately is one of hope. I’m not a pessimist (if I were a pessimist about human potential, I truly wouldn’t be in the psychology or personal development fields).
We CAN create better lives.
But it’s gonna cost us.
Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter and never miss a blog or social media post!