Watch the video first.  It is enjoyable and fascinating on many levels to see how people react— or don’t— to the surprising discovery of money literally growing on trees.

This video once again confirms the “invisible gorilla” trick, which I wrote about on my blog Broke is Beautiful.  There is another even more stunning experiment in which a clerk ducks behind a counter and a different man pops up and most people do not notice the change at all.  (I could not quickly recall how to find the video, but you should be able to find it on Youtube with a little effort.)

In another experiment I read about several years ago, subjects were asked to rate how lucky they were. Then they were given a task. They had to read a newspaper and count the number of times a particular word appeared. In big block lettering in the paper was a line saying “Congratulations! You have won $100, come up to the experimenter to collect your prize!”

Most of the subjects were so focused on their counting task that they did not even notice the message. There was a correlation, however, between calling yourself “lucky” and seeing the message. The self-described “lucky” spotted it and won. The self-described unlucky did not. The moral as I understood it was that being open to the unexpected makes you lucky.

If you have a mental framework that allows for money growing on trees, you can see it.  If you do not— you will walk right by.

I have been generally critical of the positive thinking school that claims that visualizing an outcome vividly enough will draw it to you like magic.

Barbara Ehrenreich challenged this culture in Bright-Sided:

"In the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, positive thoughts were flowing out into the universe in unprecedented volumes… If anyone— deity or alien being— possessed the means of transforming these emanations into comprehensible form, they would have been overwhelmed by images of slimmer bodies, larger homes, quick promotions, and sudden acquisitions of great wealth.  But the universe refused to play its assigned role as a ‘big mail order department.’  In complete defiance of the ‘law of attraction,’… things were getting worse for most Americans, not better."

Experiments like the ones above have made me rethink my position on creative visualization a bit.  There is something to it- but it is not magic.  (Although I see nothing wrong with using the language of religion, mysticism and angels to describe it if you’re comfortable with that.)

There is a perfectly logical explanation as to why creative visualization might work, and some circumstances under which it will not work.  It does not work when the “request” or the visualization is too goal oriented, too concrete and too inflexible.

If you visualize a promotion and focus all your energies on that, you may not see opportunities to get what you really want— more security, more responsibility, more respect—from other avenues.

If you are determined not to diverge from your chosen path, you will fail to recognize the slightly different opportunity that is right in front of you. 

On the other hand, if you visualize what you would like to do in your life, and see yourself as someone who can do it— your mind is primed to see things related to this focus. That is why people often have the experience of finding an want ad for an ideal job on a newspaper they would normally have thrown away.  The person is looking for it, and it catches their eye.

It’s all about finding the right balance.  Being less rigid in goals can give a broader view, and keep you from having blinders, but articulating what you really desire, believing it is out there and there is a way to have it, allows you to spot opportunities. 

A mystically inclined friend calls it “intention without striving.”  This is the same sort of thing that people talk about when they “say a prayer and leave it in God’s hands.” Or when they say “believe in miracles.”

Be open to surprises.  They happen every day.