Vision Boards and Magical Thinking

PM writes: “I was wondering if someone can be clear on the dangers of Dream Boards or Vision Boards. Is this New Age? I was invited to a party of with a group of women cutting out pictures of their wishes and glue them to a board to hang up and look at each day hoping that the ‘Universe’ will provide them all the wishes on their boards.”

Great question – and the short answer to whether or not this is New Age is an emphatic “YES!”

The vision board, also called a dream board, is the invention of New Age enthusiasts such as Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. As this blog explains, Canfield is a proponent of the very New Age Law of Attraction which posits that we can attract whatever we desire in life just by thinking/visualizing it.

Canfield applies this thinking to the vision board, which is a collection of pictures – photos, images cut from magazines, statements of affirmation, etc. – that represent a person’s dreams or goals which are tacked to a poster or bulletin board and put in a prominent place so that it can be viewed every day.

“I recommend you take a few minutes to look over your vision board at least once or twice a day. I like to review my vision board right before I do a guided visualization, so my goals are top of mind as I train my mind to attract what I truly want into my life,” Canfield writes. “I also like to review it every night before I go to sleep, in order to prompt my sub-conscious mind to come up with new ideas while I’m sleeping on how to achieve my goals.”

As he explains, vision boards are meant to serve as visualization tools in which you imagine your goals, and yourself achieving those goals.

“By representing your goals with pictures and images you will actually strengthen and stimulate your emotions because your mind responds strongly to visual stimulation… and your emotions are the vibrational energy that activates the Law of Attraction. The saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ certainly holds true here,” he continues. “Through the Law of Attraction, visualization also magnetizes and attracts to you the people, resources, and opportunities you need to achieve your goal.”

Canfield also likes to mix things up by including exhortations to “acknowledge the presence of God in your life” as well as to “acknowledge the Law of Attraction at work in your life” as if this will make the practice more palatable to Christians.

Regardless of who is promoting the vision board and the ideology behind it, psychologists such as Neil Farber, MD, Ph.D, say the whole concept of trying to imagine yourself into a better life can be detrimental.

He cites studies which found that those who visualize themselves scoring well on an exam or winning a tennis tournament actually do worse than those who visualize how they will go about studying for the exam or training for the tournament.

In another study, a group of overweight women in a weight reduction program were asked to imagine how they would react if tempted with delicious foods. Those who imagined themselves staying away from the foods actually did worse in real life than the women who knew they’d not only eat the food, but probably eat other people’s portions as well.

According to the Law of Attraction, the women who chose a more realistic visualization would be guilty of negativity and doubt but Dr. Farber says they were actually much better prepared to handle real-life situations with food.

“If you don’t look at and plan for potential obstacles, you will be unprepared mentally, emotionally, and practically for facing real challenges,” he said.

“Fantasizing about your perfect world and your perfect life may make you feel better in the short term but will limit your ability to transform your dreams into reality. Convert your vision boards to action boards. Dream about it, envision how you will realistically do it or get it, and then make it happen,” he advises.

While there is nothing wrong with creating a poster board full of your dreams and aspirations in life, to believe that this compilation and the visualizations it inspires has the power to change our destiny is to engage in magical thinking.

Instead, the Christian should place their vision board at the foot of the Cross and ask Jesus to decide which ones fit His plan for our life.

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