10 reasons why visualization doesn’t work to make your dreams a reality

According to the majority of self-help gurus, visualization is the best way to make your dreams come true.

What you have to do is imagine your dreams coming true and you’ll find that they come true without fail.

You could think about anything you want: money, love, fame, other people’s respect.

This is supposed to work because there are no limits to what people can imagine and the Universe doesn’t say “No”.

But is this really how it works?

I don’t think so, and in this article I’m going to explain my reasons for suggesting that visualization doesn’t work in making your dreams a reality.

1. There’s a difference between your dream and the steps you need to take to get there

Your dream or goal is just the result you want to get.

But getting that result doesn’t happen in a magic way and it requires you to take certain steps.

For example, you may want to make $100,000 from your blog by the end of the year.

This is something you can imagine because this is a concrete number, something that can be dreamed about.

But the advice offered by self-help gurus is that you need to visualize having the $100,000. You need to feel it at your core.

The problem is that there’s a big difference between the end result of earning $100,000 and all of the many steps it takes to get there.

When we’re asked to visualize our dreams coming true, we neglect the steps necessary to get there.

But this isn’t the only problem…

2. Visualizing our dreams encourages us to think in all or nothing terms

I’m often asked what my purpose in life is.

And I used to define my purpose in terms of having a global impact.

I wanted to “go big or go home”. Aim for the stars and maybe you’ll make it to the moon, I told myself!

The problem for me was that I ended up feeling like a complete failure because my dreams were so far from my reality.

I shared my story in my recent video, “the hidden trap of trying to improve yourself”. Because my dreams were so big, I wasn’t able to embrace the little wins along the way.

When I shifted my guiding purpose from the “big dream” to something much more grounded, I managed to really unlock my personal power. I created much more momentum in my life.

At the time, the wins felt small but I learned to celebrate them. Looking backwards, I’ve achieved far more from this way of being than when I was obsessed with my dreams.

This is because…

3. We achieve more satisfaction from the journey than the outcome

What makes a dream or goal more meaningful is the steps you have to take to achieve it.

It’s the journey that matters, not the outcome. This is something people seem to forget about when they’re trying to use visualization for their dreams.

When you’re trying to visualize your dreams coming true, you’re putting all of your attention on what’s going to happen in the future, not on what you need to do right now.

And there’s a lot of satisfaction to get from what’s here right now.

4. Visualizing makes us “blind” to the success we’ve already had

When you put so much emphasis on your dreams coming true, you tend to undervalue what you’ve already accomplished.

The little successes are there but they’re ignored. You’re not having an emotional reaction to them because you’re on “auto-pilot”.

I’ve noticed this pattern in myself: whenever I’m visualizing my dreams coming true, I somehow manage to discount the things that only a few days before I counted as big wins.

And it’s not just about your own progress…

5. Visualizing makes you subservient to the expectations of others

Depositphotos 213911696 L 10 reasons why visualization doesn't work to make your dreams a reality
Credit: DepositPhotos

When you focus all of your attention on your dreams, there’s a danger that you’ll become subservient to the expectations of others.

This is a big trap for me, because I’m always trying to impress people. I’m trying to prove my worth and value.

But my way of being has become a hindrance because I keep taking actions that don’t align with my deepest desires.

Here’s the key point:

When I try to visualize my dreams, I end up imagining achieving the dreams that come from other people around me.

In my mind’s eye, I imagine myself impressing people in my life. I dream up goals for myself that will make my family and friends happy. I try to gain recognition from society for my achievements.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to impress people in your life. But there is something wrong when you live your whole life based on the expectations of others.

And in my case, visualizing keeps me trapped in the expectations of others in the forms of external dreams.

But visualizing has another negative effect…

6. It creates a lack of focus in our own lives

By obsessively focusing on the result of your dreams, you’re not giving enough of your attention to the step that you need to take today.

And you’re also not investing enough energy into the small wins that are already happening all around you.

I’ve become very self-aware about this over the last few months. Whenever I’ve been visualizing my dreams coming true, I feel like I’m stuck in a loop.

I get intense feelings of frustration and anger because I feel like nothing is happening. But as soon as I allow myself to enjoy the present moment, I’m able to fulfill my desires more quickly.

Giving up on visualization and embracing the present moment is the key thing that’s enhanced my personal power and brought focus back to my life.

7. It takes away our sense of accomplishment and happiness

Here’s the thing:

I don’t want to pretend that my life is getting better.

I’ve known that I’m going in the right direction for a while now but I’ve never been happy with the results. There’s always something missing…

I’ve talked about this in my video, “the hidden trap to improving yourself”.

Watch the video here.

We can easily get sucked into the trap of thinking that our lives are improving when they’re not.

But when we stop trying to impress others and become an observer in our own life, we’ll see the process in action. We’ll see how the hard work that we’re doing on a daily basis is making a real difference.

And you know what? That’s more important than the end result…

8. Visualizing makes it easier to focus our energy on the wrong things

The truth is that if you’re only focusing on your dreams, you’re not going to get them.

The most important thing to do is focus on the small things in life. The things you needed for your dreams were small wins, not the end result of your dreams.

And this is where I found my purpose in life…

9. It’s difficult to find your purpose in the future

My life was in a bit of mess 5 years ago.

I was failing in business, completely exhausted, and had some serious breakdowns in my relationships.

This was all happening when I defined my purpose in terms of changing the world. I was attracting so many toxic relationships in my life and I wasn’t able to create any momentum from the little wins I was experiencing.

Then in 2018, something quite remarkable happened.

I learned from the shaman Rudá Iandê that it’s a common mistake to try to find your purpose in the future. We’re encouraged my society to visualize a different life for ourselves than what we’re currently living.

Instead of doing this, Rudá taught me a method to finding purpose not in the future, but from our past actions and how we carry ourselves in the present moment.

This single realization has been the key to reformulating my life. It was such an important realization that I decided to share these key teachings in my latest YouTube video.

Visualizing my purpose was completely the wrong approach. Instead, I had to define my purpose in relationship with the actions I was engaging in every single day.

And that’s why the biggest problem with visualization is that…

10. Visualization takes you away from the present moment

When you try to focus on your future dreams, it’s easy to get trapped in thoughts about the past or the future.

But there is so much power and magic happening right now.

I made the mistake of thinking that being in the moment is a weakness.

I thought that focusing on my dreams was all I needed to do because it would take me towards my purpose. But this just didn’t work for me.

Once I stopped focusing on my future dreams and started honoring the present moment, everything started to fall into place.

So what’s the alternative to visualization?

Ultimately, we need something that takes us away from past memories and thoughts about future results…

… And brings us back into the present while enhancing our personal power.

I share how to do this in my latest video. Check it out and leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think.

Watch my video on “the hidden trap of improving yourself”.

Finding the harmony in visualization: Where it truly shines

While I’ve expressed my reservations about the excessive reliance on visualization, it’s worth acknowledging that it’s not entirely without merit. As with many tools in life, it’s about understanding when and how to use it.

1. When visualization aligns with action

Remember the example of wanting to make $100,000 from your blog?

While merely imagining the money in your bank account won’t make it so, what if you combined visualization with a solid, step-by-step action plan?

Picture yourself working diligently on your blog, engaging with readers, marketing effectively, and gradually seeing the monetary results.

Visualization, in this case, isn’t just about the end goal; it’s about energizing and motivating you to undertake the practical steps to get there.

2. The subtleties of emotional resonance

When I was struggling in business years ago, I realized that visualization was not entirely at fault for my failures.

Instead, it was how I was using it. I was fixated on impressing others, on achieving grand dreams that were disconnected from my true self.

What if we use visualization to connect with our authentic desires, to picture ourselves living in alignment with our core values?

This form of visualization can provide emotional resonance, a kind of inner compass guiding us towards what truly matters.

3. The dance between dreaming and doing

There’s a hidden dance between dreaming and doing, and it’s where visualization can play a beautiful role.

Dreaming without doing leads to stagnation, while doing without dreaming may lead to a life devoid of inspiration.

Visualizing our dreams and then grounding them in actionable steps creates a synergy where one feeds the other.

Imagine your dreams as the fuel, and your actions as the engine. The dance between the two can drive you forward in a way that is both inspiring and effective.

The art of mindful visualization

So here we stand, at the crossroads of dreams and reality.

Visualization, as I’ve come to understand, is not a flawed tool but a misunderstood one.

Used wisely and in harmony with action, reflection, and authenticity, it can be a powerful ally.

It’s not about rejecting visualization but about embracing it in its proper context.

Let’s not allow ourselves to be blinded by the glittering promises of effortless success.

Instead, let’s learn to use visualization as a brush to paint our dreams, and our hands, minds, and hearts to build them.

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Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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