Visualization: The Beacon and the Television

Visualizing your goals and dreams is a part of succeeding in your life and career that you can't avoid.  I am a big advocate of having a vision for your life with as much detail as possible.  I want you to not just see, but be able to taste, hear, smell, and feel the vision you have, as big and bold as possible.

Yet, if you know me and read this blog, you know that I also decry a lot of the "visualization" exercises and self-help approaches out there.  I despise "The Secret" and it's offspring and it's siblings; the idea that if you visualize it it will happen, the dream-and-be-positive exercises, and all the rest.  Yes, I advocate visualization while decrying some visualization methods and exercises.

There's a reason for what seems to be inconsistency.  This reason is not visualization itself, but the attitude taken towards in the various exercises people promote. I'm all for having big dreams, as visceral as possible – but its what those visualizations mean to you that changes what they can do for you.

It's the difference between the Beacon and the Television.

"The Beacon" approach is when you dream something that is visceral and meaningful and powerful – and then it acts as a guide.  When you let your visualizations of a better life be a guide, you can then find a path to reach those dreams, because even if that path is erratic or confusing, you at least know where you're going.  When you know where you're going, you can get there or at least get close.

"The Beacon" is when the dreams guide and drive you and you get results.

"The Television" method of dreaming is when you have your big dreams but don't connect with them or let you guide you.  When your dreams don't connect to you they're shallow entertainment at best, or escapism at worse.  When your dreams have no deep connection, when you'd rather dream than follow the dream, you can't get anywhere.

"The Television" is when your dreams are just on a screen in your mind, you watch them and you think "how great," but they don't guide you or drive you on.

The shallow self-help stuff I complain about takes "The Television" approach of "watch the dream on the screen."  It doesn't call to you or guide you, it's just something you observe, almost passively, thinking how great it is.  Just saying something is great doesn't make it happen.

I think some of "The Television" approaches to visualization take this strange, shallow view because it's less upsetting.  When your dreams are great burning beacons they compel you forward, you go through hell for them, you work hard, you face deep challenges.  When your dreams are images on the screen in your head, you don't have to deal with following them, you just hope they happen and think how cool they are.

So dream big, deep, and powerful.  Visualize your future strongly and forcefully.  Just make sure you follow the beacon as it burns bright.

– Steven Savage