Let’s get real for a moment: Sometimes dreams can be a real stick in the mud.
There, I said it. Wouldn’t we all just drop what we’re doing and go live our #bestlife if it was really that easy? The problem with dreams is sometimes they need to be put off so other priorities can be addressed first, like building consistent income.
So many variables can keep dreams on the back burner, but since it can be effective, I encourage you to pick a dream and start visualizing it today.
Mirrors In Our Minds: The Biology Behind Visualization
Visualization is often promoted by therapists, hypnotists and yoga teachers as a relaxing and theraputic technique. However, without a biological understanding of why it works, the process of visualization might leave some people skeptical about its validity. Exciting neurological research is offering surprising new insight into how our brains function though, and this may start to explain the biology behind visualization.
In the early 1990s, researchers discovered a type of neuron in human brains, called mirror neurons, which we now know are vital to our human social experience. Research published in Current Biology explains, “Mirror neurons are a class of neuron that modulate their activity both when an individual executes a specific motor act and when they observe the same or similar act performed by another individual.” In simpler terms, our brains record certain actions when we do them or when we see someone else doing them.
So far, it’s clear that mirror neurons have a major role in human empathy and infant learning, but what’s less studied is their involvement in visualization.
It’s known that some professional athletes practice visualization as part of their training, either by watching video of their past successes or by mentally going through their sport, and it’s hypthosized that mirror neurons are the reason it works. Those practices activate areas in the brain that activate when athletes compete in real life and this allows them to practice a successful outcome before it ever happens.
Dream Planning: A Personal Exercise
Since mentally rehearsing something can be as real to your brain as actually doing it, I believe that visualizing your dreams is a worthwhile cause. Along with the biological benefits that come with visualization, you’ll glean practical information about your goal. You’re likely to discover possible obstacles, necessary resources and even some things that make you say “that’s easier than I thought.”
To start this process, pick one dream that you wish could come true. Write down everything you think you would need to make it happen then spend some time researching each item. This will put your mind in a creative state as you bring your dream to life.
To give an example of what this process might look like, I planned out a pretend dream: a two-week trip to Vietnam. Here’s what I came up:
Flight: Roundtrip flights are available from NYC to Vietnam (Estimated cost: $750-$1200, so $1000)
Passport: A new or renewed passport is needed (Estimated cost: $110)
Visa: A visa may be purchased upon arrival at a main airport (Estimated cost: $50-75). A Cambodian visa can be obtained at a border entry point. (Cost: Unknown)
Itinerary: Land in South Vietnam, visit Cambodia via Chau Doc for four days, come back and travel up to Hoi An and Da Lat for a week, then go back to Ho Chi Minh City and fly out (Estimated cost: $500 includes food, entertainment and extra money just in case)
Lodging: Hostels and hotels are available ranging from $10 to $100 per night (Estimated cost for 14 days: $700 at $50/night)
Travel in Vietnam: Motorbike, bike, taxi, bus or train are all options (Estimated cost for 14 days: $150)
Total estimated price (2019): About $2,500
Truthfully, this is one of my own dreams. I picked it because I almost forgot about it entirely, probably from the grind of daily life.
When I started planning the faux trip for this article all of my passion for going flooded back to me. I felt joy in planning every detail and in the end I realized this trip is more affordable and attainable than I thought. Overall, it was a positive exercise that I can use as a blueprint for the real trip when the time comes.
Hopefully planning out your dream will fill you with happiness, excitement and inspiration, too.
Make Your Dreams Yours: Treadmill or Live Well?
After you plan out your dream, you could try applying techniques from the previous parts of this series to fund it.
First, you could add a dream fund into your budget as part of your true expenses. Since, for example, a renewed passport or new luggage may be needed, saving up monthly for those items may be a good idea. In addition to adjusting your budget, you could focus heavily on making as many small sales as possible. Making incentives for fans to purchase lower priced content could bring in money faster than trying to sell higher priced items. Regularly advertise your promotions on social media and watch the sales add up!
Whatever path you take to fund your dreams should be yours though, and money should just be seen as the tool to make them come true.
There’s a concept called the hedonic treadmill which explains the idea that money can’t buy happiness, and I find it interesting. It states that we all have a baseline level of happiness that is maintained even after experiencing a devastating loss or significant gain. Adapting to loss or gain allows us to keep an even level of joy independent to our circumstances.
Some people can’t regulate their hedonic treadmill though, and their happiness does depend on their external circumstances. This is why some people become wealthy but not happy. They compare themselves to their wealthy peers until they feel badly about themselves. This can cause a strong desire to acquire “more. Often however, “more” isn’t enough to stop them from finding new people to compare themselves to. They are running on a metaphorical treadmill, unable to get off.
Designing your dream life starts and ends with you. No amount of money, materials or elite social connections can ever fulfill an unsatisfied heart. Cherish your dreams as reflections of your own uniqueness and only run on treadmills that you can get off of. Dream on!
Anouk Gilmour is a registered yoga teacher at the 200-hour level. Eight years after trying camming in college, she is an amateur adult model again.