As we embark upon a new decade, you might be getting inundated with messages about all the ways you can change or transform your life. We often see markers such as the start of a new decade as the perfect opportunity for a fresh start, a clean break, or a powerful pivot toward something new and fulfilling. It’s exhilarating, I know!
Maybe you’ve been inspired by your friends’ social media images of their vision boards for the year 2020. Perhaps you’ve even been thinking about the new car, house, career, or look that you’re going after this year. If you’ve decided to lean into the “Law of Attraction” (the notion that all thoughts turn into things, and you can attract what you want in your life by visualizing it) to accomplish your goals, that’s awesome, and I truly believe it can all be within our grasp. There’s only one little problem: The Law of Attraction often isn’t enough. Here’s why:
A study out of UCLA looked at the differences between when we visualize the desired outcome versus when we visualize the outcome and the required process for achieving it. College freshmen were asked to either visualize receiving a good grade on a midterm exam or to visualize the good grade as well as the study habits they would use in order to achieve a good grade on the exam. The results were fascinating.
Given society’s obsession with the power of visualization, one might automatically assume that the group who visualized receiving the favorable grade would increase their odds of getting that grade. This study, however, found that the opposite was true: Those students who visualized only the good grade (and not the process by which they would achieve it) actually scored lower than the other students.
Why? Researchers believe that if we engage in a fantasy, but we don’t consider the steps we must take to bring it to life, we end up convincing our brain that we’ve already achieved it. Think of it this way—if we believe the “win” is already in the bag, why would we bother showing up for practice? Yikes. Y
ou can see how that type of thinking could set us up for failure. Those students had so successfully envisioned their grades that they ended up studying far less than was necessary to bring their vision to life. You don’t want to trick your brain into believing you already have something, because you run the risk of undermining your ability to go out and get it.