Tag Archives: Wishcraft

A Circle of (Imaginary) Friends

At some point, even the most successful people on the planet suffers setbacks and self-doubt. As someone who’s moderately successful but still learning, I often have to fight my way through the secret convictions that 1. someday people will discover that I can’t write worth a damn and 2. my mother is right and my hair or whatever I’m wearing at any given moment looks awful.

Hopefully if we confess our doubts and flaws to our family and friends, we will instantly be reassured that we are good and smart and that our dream of starting a heavy metal band of retired electricians isn’t stupid. Sometimes, though, our loved ones don’t understand our ambitions, or because they’re not mind readers, they don’t say the exact words we want to hear. And some people don’t have others around them willing to offer support and encouragement at all.

At that point, it’s time to pick out a charmed circle of imaginary friends to be our advocates. No, I have not gone off to Looneyland. Harnessing mental imagery works — look up the benefits of biofeedback if you don’t believe me. Barbara Sher refers to this process as ‘finding cheerleaders’ in her book Wishcraft: people we admire giving positive feedback about our endeavors. And the cool thing is, we can pick anybody we want!

The imaginary friends can alive, dead, male, female, celebrities, historical figures or fictional ones…it doesn’t matter, as long as you pick them for other reasons besides being cool or famous. For example, here’s my circle of imaginary friends:

-My late grandmother:  As an aspiring concert pianist who set her ambitions aside for love and marriage, she understood that every choice has a price, and that those things not attempted are not gained. She’d say, “If it means that much to you, you should try to put that retiree band together.”

Bette Davis: In my mind, she represents the flip side of Grandma. She was a tough, scrappy, ambitious artist and she didn’t whine when she had to make sacrifices to get what she wanted. I imagine her saying “If you want a geriatric metal band, you’d better make damn sure everybody knows what they’re getting into.”

– Maksim Chmerkovskiy: The Slavic slave-driver is a hot-tempered and outspoken, but this is why he’d be the voice telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back to work. My guess is he’d sound like this: “So you’re old. That means you’d better get your butts off the floor and start playing, because you’re only going to get older.”

Michelle Kwan: The years she spent climbing to the top of the figure skating world did not impair her grace on or off of the ice. “Always make the next performance better than the time before.”

George Clooney: Okay, I did pick George partly for his looks. But he combines intelligence and a work ethic with a sense of humor, so I’m not completely shallow.  He’d be the one thinking of possibilities: “You could go on the road and tour retirement communities.”

The idea here is that even positive feedback from Imaginary Friends is still POSITIVE. It’s a way to trick yourself into seeing your own good qualities and encouraging yourself to work on your dreams. And you thought I was crazy.

Who, real, fictional, alive or dead, do you admire so much you’d like to have them in your circle of imaginary friends? What would you like them to say to you?


Dream On!

No one accomplishes anything in life without goals.  We hear this every day on talk shows and read it in newspapers and online.  This is because it is true.  Unless we establish reachable goals and stick to them, we are subject not only to what life throws at us, but to our own short-sightedness and bad habits.  Goals are proactive.  Goals are concrete, unlike wishy-washy dreams and ‘what-ifs’.

Of course, writers live with ‘what-if’.  That’s how we spin ideas into words on a page.  I’ve never heard a writer say “I just thought of some great goals to write about!”  For that matter, I’ve never heard a business person explain that “I started this business to sell my wonderful action plan.”  Goals tells how we’re going to achieve something.  But dreams remind us of why we should put in all that hard work.

I call them dreams.  Others refer to their vision, or their aspiration.  Under whatever name, they are unique as our DNA and just as necessary to our existence.  Show me someone without a dream and I’ll show you someone living in a form of poverty.  Dreams give us something to hope for.  Who wants to live without hope?  I don’t, because that is called despair.

“Ha,” you mutter.  “Dreams are fine for creative people.  But I’m just a banker.”  Or “a beautician.”  Or any other occupation.  If you think you’re out of dreams, as soon as you finish reading this, go find a copy of the book ‘Wishcraft’, by Barbara Sher.  Seriously.  Get to a bookstore, library or open a tab to search for it online.  I’m sure it’s at B&N.com or Borders.com.  Beg, borrow or buy it for yourself.

One of Sher’s exercises is to write down your ideal day.  Not a day in the life you have right now, but a day in the life you (probably secretly) have always wished for, be it as a movie star or a cabinet maker or a stay at home mom.  What we crave defines not only our wants, but our needs.  And when we know what we need, we can figure out the smaller, reachable goals to get it.

My own ideal day includes a large old house (and the staff to clean it!), writing in a garden and a glamorous red carpet event in the evening.  At this point, the day as a whole is achievable only on the holodeck of the USS Enterprise, but many elements are do-able by themselves.  Think I’ve gone off the deep end?  Maybe, but I used to dream of being a published author, too.

So dream on!  Dream big!  I told you a little of my wildest dreams…what are yours?