I don’t have a charming, Victorian, mountain house in Aspen. I also haven’t visited Kyoto during cherry blossom season, nor have I been to that yoga retreat in Bali I’ve always dreamed of.
A check for a hundred thousand dollars hasn’t mysteriously been deposited in my bank account, nor have I miraculously woken up one morning to find myself effortlessly slim, confident, famous, fabulously wealthy, healed of all ailments, or universally loved. Not yet, anyway.
Looks like my vision board just isn’t working! So what do I do?
I love vision boarding and have been making vision boards for years now. I think I saw the technique on Oprah once (not even joking), and liked the idea of cutting and pasting pictures and inspirational words that represented my greatest desires, all in one space where I could see them each day. What can I say? I like arts and crafts, but looking at a concrete representation of my goals really does help me keep them in mind. It gives me motivation to work hard to achieve the life I want.
Visualization is a valuable tool for manifesting our desires. Whatever we focus our energy on will naturally grow. This isn’t magic. It’s logic. But sometimes it seems like all of this manifesting isn’t really working. We’re stuck in the same job, we still haven’t met our soulmate, and we continue to drive a car that’s duct taped together while living paycheck to paycheck. It’s disheartening, to say the least. This wasn’t in The Secret!
So what are we doing wrong? (Honestly? Probably nothing.)
It’s hard to create miracles out of thin air when we’re feeling discouraged. So here’s what to do when that vision board doesn’t keep its supposed promise:
Remember that it’s Just a Piece of Paper (or a computer file, or a Pinterest board). A vision board doesn’t have any mystical powers over our destiny. But we do. We create what we want and don’t want through our thoughts and ideas, and through the way we choose to perceive the world around us. Years ago I pasted onto a board that I wanted a book deal, but I didn’t get the book deal by sitting around waiting for a publisher to come knocking. I wrote. I got rejected. I kept writing. I self-published. I freelanced. I never stopped writing even when I was constantly getting rejection letters. It took me an entire decade to finally get a book deal: 10 years of hard work and persistence. So was it the vision board that made it happen? See what I’m saying?
Practice Gratitude. The best way to experience abundance is by being thankful for what we have now in this present moment. If you master this, you won’t even need a vision board because you will know that you already have everything.
Resist the Urge to Blame Yourself. This isn’t productive and will only manifest negativity and self-pity and prevent us from being content right now. When our vision boards don’t produce instant gratification, it’s not because we didn’t do it “right” or that we’re “bad” at manifesting or because we somehow brought misfortune upon ourselves. Maybe what we think we want isn’t really what’s best for us now. Maybe our manifestations are in their infancy and we need to learn patience while they’re still in transit. Perhaps the more important lesson in this situation is learning to let go of certain needs and expectations.
Make a New Vision Board. I do this a lot to stir up my creative energy. Usually the new board ends up being very different from the old board, meaning that my desires and focus have changed and that the old board no longer serves me, which explains why it wasn’t working.
Move away from material things. Real abundance is not about speed boats, super-model girlfriends, four star resorts, and flying first class. When my vision boards began to include more abstract concepts such as self-acceptance, peace, compassion toward others, and meaningful connections with like-minded people, they started “working” miraculously. And quickly.
Look for Themes in what you Paste. Our real desires are never about material things. We think they are, but this is an illusion. If we want the trappings of wealth, the real theme is that we either want security or admiration, usually both. The desire for admiration is really a desire for love and acceptance, usually from within rather than from other people. Want a fancy house? Maybe that’s actually a symbol for a stable, comfortable home life. Want to travel the world (I do!)? This could be a symptom of boredom—a need to connect with new people, a lack of daily movement, or a desire for a change of scenery and some excitement. You can find that without journeying thousands of miles. Figure out what the material thing you want really represents a lack of in your life, because seriously, no one actually needs a private jet. Then focus on healing the feelings of lack, and I guarantee you, your vision board experience will change dramatically.
Lower the Bar a Little. A couple years ago I was going through a very dark time and I got mad because it felt like exactly zero of my wishes were coming true, so I decided to do an experiment and see if I could put being rich and famous on the back burner for a little while and practice manifesting a few simpler, smaller things. I thought if I could do this I might build up some more confidence and be able to return to my big dreams with some renewed vigor. I put a bluebird, a black cat and a book shelf on my vision board. I began to look everywhere for these things and lo and behold, I saw an entire flock of bluebirds at my grandmother’s house, I found the bookshelf I wanted in someone’s garbage, and my neighbors moved and abandoned a friendly black cat that decided to adopt me as its new mom. True story. I added a couple more things after that, and I found those things too. (Still working on the Aspen house, however.)
This is a Chance to Exercise Faith. This may be difficult to accept, especially when we’re at particularly unpleasant parts of our lives, but we are always, in every situation and every location and every frame of mind, exactly where we are supposed to be in every moment. And being okay with that, and being able to sit with the discomfort and dissatisfaction until it passes knowing that we really are in the right place on our path even when it seems like we’re lost, is the very definition of faith.
Don’t get discouraged if things aren’t magically appearing immediately, and stay positive. Our journeys are all different and sometimes the real lesson in manifesting is learning what we really need, rather than what we think we want.
When we learn to have faith, to be thankful and to focus on finding meaning rather than acquiring things, we can all live the abundant lives of our dreams.
Author: Victoria Fedden
Image: Marissa Bracke/Flickr
Editor: Emily Bartran