I had a vision. My vision was that I would write an article in Psychology Today which would generate a significant amount of controversy.  I made up a vision board which consisted of cut out pictures of people arguing and also people shaking hands in a cooperative setting. I pasted on a copy of the cover from Psychology Today. I had a picture of my computer on there as well. Scattered among the pictures were words like writing, success, and attaining goals. Well, my vision came through, exactly as I dreamt it. My last article on throwing away your vision boards did indeed generate controversy and through the controversy, there was an increase in understanding and the generation of some new friendships; widening my social circle.

So, now that this has come true, do I need to write a retraction to the previous article about throwing away your vision boards. No, I apologize to the believers—I don't believe that my goal achievement had anything to do with putting these things on a board. The article that I wrote before the last one, become an Editor's Pick—an Essential Read. I neglected to say that I also had those words on the present vision board—that I saw this last article also getting that distinction. I also had the number 10,000 written all over the place; referring to me knowing that I was going to get 10,000 views. Well, it did not get picked as an Essential Read and it received less than 2000 views. So, is it a partial success?

Here are the facts as I see them.

1) Even if everything that I had dreamt, wished, or visioned had come true, my success would still be anecdotal. It would have all of the statistical significance of a miracle. Anecdotal at best.

2) I have had many other successes in my life and had no vision board to base them on. I finished medical school and graduate school, received many certifications, honors, distinctions and awards, and even won many competitions. All without the aid of a vision board.

3) I have had vision boards that did not result in success. In fact, when I was publishing my first book, The Blame Game, I created a vision board with the author of the Secret providing an endorsement for the book. It was quite an extensive vision board. I followed all of the recommendations; no negativity, no doubts, visualized it as if it had already happened. I wrote to the author and asked for the endorsement - expressing that I knew that it would happen because I had visualized this. I was told by the administrative office that she did not write any endorsements. I explained that this was impossible because I had visualized that this had already happened. However, it was not to be. So was it my fault because I did something incorrectly, or was it the the vision board just didn't work. Proponents of vision boards would obviously blame me for not doing it well.

4) Some fortune tellers are predicting that Obama will win the election and some are predicting that Romney will win. After the election, there will be some fortune tellers who will turn out to have been correct and some will have been wrong. This does not necessarily mean that the ones who were correct are better at predicting the future, since I could have the same luck by randomly picking one of them. The vision board may have made a difference but it ain't necessarily so.

5) Without sweating (or at least without action steps), visioning has only a minimal advantage over wishing. Even Joyce Schwarz, the Founder of the Vision Board Institute believes that achieving your goals requires more than a typical vision board, it also requires Action. The Vision Board Instittute promotes a system incorporating such things as gratitude, belief, acknowledging, and ACTION into vision boarding. I applaud them for bringing vision boards to the next level.

6) In an interview, Ms. Schwarz stated that the power of the vision board comes from your Reticular Activating System. I agree with this concept. What that means is that the power of the vision board comes from YOU! From your brain and your thoughts. The board is not magical beyond the magic with which you empower it. Thus, whether it is actually on a board or you have figured out another way to wrap your brain around focusing on your goals, it can still work.

7) In the previous article I listed several well-performed, randomized, controlled studies which support the notion that visioning an outcome may be detrimental while visioning a process may be beneficial. I will not repeat too much of the previous article but to give a few examples: college students who visualize doing well in an exam, study less and perform worse than those visualizing how, what, and where they will study. Golfers and tennis pros visualizing training perform better than those visualizing winning. While I was criticized by a proponent of vision boards for my "traditional medicine" approach (I assume this means relying on peer-reviewed, well-performed research), there are several real advantages to visioning a process. It is a mindful approach which keeps us part of the game. It keeps us involved and aware. As Dr. Ellen Langer (Psychology Professor at Harvard) has demonstrated very well, many times, a mindful approach is a healthy approach. Mindfulness is associated with greater satisfaction and a multitude of health and wellness benefits. Focusing on outcome dissociates yourself from the process and even attempts to eliminate the process. Not only will you not enjoy the journey, but you will not benefit from any lessons along the way. Its a lose situation, for even if you are lucky enough to achieve your goal, you will still lose the joy of the journey. It's a "winning the lottery" approach and as many people know, happiness that comes from winning the lottery is transient at best. A mindful approach—visioning the process, the training, the how, is always a winning solution, even if your original goal is not attained.

8) Buyer beware: If you read the comments on my last article, you'll see that there are a number of references which were presented as counter-arguments to my claim about the lack of vision board power. I encourage you to check out these references and make up your own minds about their validity. I have broken down these references into two types. The first are well-controlled, randomized  studies published in peer-reviewed journals which support my contention that envisioning the process has merit. No argument there. But that is not what a traditional vision board does. The second type of reference is anecdotal evidence of peoples' experiences and beliefs. These stories should have no greater impact on you then me telling you that I was able to achieve my goals by always carrying my favorite rabbit's foot with me - call me and I'll tell you where I got it... I also think it may have been in  part due to me pushing my feet into the swamp land down in Florida. Let me know if you want to buy any from me - they're going fast!

9) There are millions of people who practice vision boarding. I have tried searching the literature without success for well-performed, controlled, blinded, peer-reviewed studies which demonstrate a significant improvement in test scores, competitions, goal achievment, success, happiness, subjective well-being, etc. for those creating a vision board focusing only on positive outcomes without an associated action. If anyone can refer me to any such studies, I would be grateful and I would retract some of my comments as appropriate. I do not have a bias against vision boards. I have a bias towards utilizing health and wellness techniques that work.

I also know of no scientific studies which demonstrate the benefit or necessity of actually doing this on a board versus putting it on a recording or writing it in a journal, etc. Any studies?

In contrast to many vision board proponents—I beieve we should focus on the why, how, when, and where you will make it happen. The "what" (the vision) is the first step—not the only step.

As I'm a proponent of action—please take a few moments and write a comment below.

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About the Author

Neil Farber

Neil Farber, M.D., Ph.D., is an adjunct Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. He is a retired physician, life coach, hypnotherapist, researcher and the author of Throw Away Your Vision Board.

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