We would meet up once a week, four friends (three girls, one guy), a pair of scissors each and a Glu-stik or two, a teetering pile of magazines to share. We weren’t precious about the images we’d cut out: “Anyone want a tropical island?” “Over here!” “It’s all yours”, handing over the glamour ad for Bora Bora to the recipient who longed for it most in reality. It wasn’t just fickle holidays we dreamt of but imaginings far more permanent like life partners (we were all single at the time), tearing out pictures of love interests (impossibly handsome male models, avatars for husbands-to-be – one friend had Prince Frederick), babies and dream homes (plenty of both in magazine-land).
We took it lightly, of course. Just a bit of harmless fun while our lives were unmapped and uncomplicated, toying with the concept that anything could happen. That dreams might come true.
But we meant it too. These pictures – ripped from glossies catering to the aspirational – were everything our hearts desired.
Vision Boards, as they’re known, were all the rage at the time, thanks to The Secret (that cult DVD about manifesting your desires with a little too much slant on the material), contemplating our visions for our future and glueing them on a piece of A3 cardboard blue-tacked to the bedroom wall. The premise being that by focusing on what you want, it’s more likely to come into your orbit. We’re drawn to what we think about most (or the conjecture is it’s drawn to us – good and bad), so it’s in our interests to be specific.
And then we got on with our lives. Visions boards fading in the sun, peeling off their flimsy backing, shoved in boxes with all the moves. Forgotten about.
Several years later, a weekend away with uni friends. All of us mothers by now, one living overseas, relishing this rare snatch of time together. One brought with her The Wish, a board game about manifesting your dreams with prompts along the way to catapult you into action. We sat up one night playing it. Between us we wished for new homes, the courage to leave a toxic relationship, moving to Spain for a year, getting a film financed. Something about making these pledges in front of women who know and love each other well held us to account (there were tears) and pretty soon, all of it came to be.
The Wish creator, lawyer turned spiritual teacher Louise Laffey, says there’s a simple explanation. “A wish is just an idea we want to turn into real life form” she tells me. “If we think it, it’s in our realm of possibility. Give yourself permission to have that experience. Then take action aligned with making that happen”.
And she would know. Louise created The Wish after the idea came to her – as these things are wont to do – in the middle of the night and she spent 24 hours non-stop “downloading” the information until the game was up. Since then it’s been been played by some 30-thousand people in 20 countries.
Louise believes manifesting is a “skill set” that improves with practice. The only difference between those who live their dream lives and those who don’t is self doubt. Habitual negative thinking keeps us stuck as we limit ourselves by what we believe is achievable. We have to consciously create new neural pathways in the brain to change our ways.
It’s not really about the sports car or skiing in Aspen (although wouldn’t be nice), rather it’s the fundamental underlying states we all crave – belonging, love, connection, mattering to others. “When life flows and things go well, life gets easier”, says Louise. “Wouldn’t you like to get good at it?”
“Every moment is pregnant with the next moment of your life”, says comedian Jim Carrey, who famously “manifested” $10m after writing himself a cheque for that exact amount when he was a struggling actor. “Our intention is everything”, he gushes, all teeth. The manifestation bandwagon is a teeming one, the consistently content attributing their great successes to their imaginations. Like my friend, Leonie, recently divorced, who penned a modest wish list: love, baby, book, yoga, and had it all by year’s end.
I recently unearthed my own dusty vision board eight years on. And there it is: children (two of them), another book published, fulfilling work and, yes, even the tropical island (not owned, just visited). The house – mid-century, an unintentional detail – is uncannily like the house I ended up in. There had been love (I forgot to specify forever), I’ve learnt to meditate, and forged more enriching friendships.
Now it’s back to the drawing board.
This article was first published in Sunday Life Magazine and DailyLife.com.au on 12th June 2016