After going through a list in my mind of what to write to help people thrive in the New Year, I settled on an out-of-the-box subject – Magical Thinking.

Thank goodness for magical thinking. What would we do without the possibilities of miracles? For humans, hope springs eternal. We wish. We pray. We repeat affirmations. We hope. We have limitless and often nonsensical symbolic rituals to insure success. We cross our fingers, wait for the planets to align, wear the same piece of clothing to insure success and on it goes.

Our dreams of extraordinary possibilities are what keep many of us going through the darkest of times and the – often perceived – unfairness of life. Magical thinking is often the antidote for the fear of diminished expectations or the fragility of existence. We believe in mind-over-matter, evil, good, destiny, luck, superstitions, jinxes and more.

Everyone is susceptible. You and I are hard-wired, in our brains, for magical thinking. Magical thinking is the deeply primal, life-enhancing ‘rush’ that is triggered in your brain by words and images. You might look at magical thinking as believing in things more powerfully than either evidence or experience justifies. It elevates you to possibilities.

And, most of the time, we are not even aware when our imagination takes flight to this enchanted land. When it does, we enter the realm of living in positive illusions which, at its best, can lead to confidence and optimism. Positive mental states are linked with psychological and physical health as well as success.

Magical thinking can trigger what is called the ‘placebo effect’ – which, under the right circumstances can, sometimes, change your physiology, improve health and heal. The operative word here is – sometimes.

Is magical thinking always a good thing? Does it always work? That depends on your expectations and your willingness to see reality, and your commitment to put in the hard work.

When I was a young boy, I ordered a crystal radio out of a comic book. I was excited and inspired by the picture in the comic showing a young boy with a big smile listening to his favorite radio programs. When the package arrived, I eagerly opened the box and was crushed when I saw hundreds of pieces that needed to be assembled. I had to work hard to make the radio the reality I had imagined.

In the film, “The Secret,” there’s a scene where, after visualizing a new bicycle, a young boy opens the door and, like magic, it is there. That bit of magical conjuring is not really representative as to how manifesting goals works.

It not only takes fervent belief and making friends with reality, it takes hard work. In fact, your magical thinking will only manifest into reality by a combination of planning, commitment, hard work and the awareness when your magical thinking is working against you.

Yes, there is a very dark side to magical thinking – and that emanates from the false beliefs we hold – including myths, superstitions, biases and negative thinking.

Please believe this: If you look for reasons not to even attempt to achieve your goals, the world will provide you with even more reasons. Fear, doubt and self-defeating habits contribute to negative expectations which, in turn, sap your creative energy. Blame, rationalization, procrastination, feelings of unworthiness and fear of failure or fear of success – lurk as potential barriers. Looking to the wrong people for permission, support or cheerleading can also blind-side you.

Expecting your dream to magically manifest only because you say positive affirmations, visualize the ideal end-outcome, or pray – doesn’t, in itself, assure success.

1. Do a reality check. Stop and ponder what part of your thinking is magical. This is not in any way meant to be about blame or doubt. Full disclosure: I pray in gratitude every day and employ focused imagination/visualization often. I do my best to be aware when fear is whispering in my ear; I re-frame my thinking – and I have pretty much overcome blaming anyone or anything for what happens in my life.

2. Write down one single realistic, achievable goal that you want to work on right now.
3. Take a moment, project in the future and visualize it as already achieved, as if a miracle happened and you have what you desire, mentally, physically, emotionally, socially or physically.
4. Identify, specifically, what has to change for you to achieve your goal?
5. Choose one small, simple action step you can take today to move toward your goal.
6. Visualize your success outcome often and commit to taking one small action step at least five days a week to achieve your ideal end-outcome.
7. Take 5-10 minutes a week to do a reality check of how you are moving forward. If there is a barrier, ask what negative belief you are holding that could be acting as a barrier.
Remember, your choices always come from within and you can choose, right now, to use the positive side of magical thinking to create an exceptional life.

Author's Bio: 

Speaker, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” for extreme success, peak performance coach, author: Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner’s Guide to the Mind.

James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best- selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach. For over 30 years, James has been an ardent student of human behavior and dedicated to helping individuals, teams and organizations identify and break through barriers to reach their goals and achieve success. He encourages people to be open to new ways of thinking, and his goal is to help everyone make the “quantum leap” toward more creative, productive and confident lives. For both businesses and individuals, his message promotes an innovative, powerful way of thinking and provides a new-found mastery over their imagination and perceptions so that, in his words, “the invisible becomes visible and the impossible becomes possible.” The results have been nothing short of extraordinary, creating key breakthroughs in both organizational and personal excellence.

James Mapes’ success as a speaker and highly regarded authority on the imagination, creative thinking, communication, managing change, organizational problem-solving, successful teamwork, leadership and coaching is due to his early training as an actor and experience as a theatrical producer. In 1969, he graduated from California State University with a Master of Arts degree in theater and speech. He then worked in repertory theater, off-Broadway and directed two of his own theater companies, amassing dozens of television and movie credits. As a performer, he developed a unique stage presence with a special talent for connecting with his audience. Mapes’ work has earned him appearances on CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America and Fox Family Channel, among other media outlets.

As a recognized business speaker and performance coach, James has spoken to hundreds of public and private companies in more than 70 countries. His clients include financial institutions, software companies, the military, the healthcare industry, financial institutions, training and development divisions of large corporations and major non-profit organizations. Companies, associations, universities and business schools including – IBM Corporate, U.S. Coast Guard, Lockheed Martin and The Princeton Center for Leadership Training – have quoted Mapes in training manuals and textbooks.

James Mapes personal goal of living an exceptional life is reflected in both his business activities as well as his recreational pursuits, which range from scuba-diving, ballooning, racecar driving, Kempo Karate, and world travel, to an avid interest in reading. His two highly regarded books are Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner’s Guide to the Mind and The Workbook: The Magic of Quantum Leap Thinking. His new book Imagine That! Igniting Your Brain for Creativity and Peak Performance is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2015 and his newest 2-CD program – Patient Pre-Op/Post-Op Healing Therapy – was released January 2013.

James Mapes presentations are personal, interactive and humorous. Above all, he creates results and makes a lasting difference in the energy level, commitment and productivity of each individual in his audience.

In the 1970’s, James became interested in the power of the subconscious mind. To better understand this intriguing area, he researched psychology, philosophy, neurology and eventually, hypnotherapy Neuro-Linguistic Programming. His expertise quickly earned him recognition as a clinical hypnotist, becoming highly effective in assisting clients in weight reduction, smoking cessation, the elimination of phobias and pain reduction for terminally ill cancer patients. As a skilled practitioner of regression techniques, he helped the New York City Police Department in “memory recovery” with both witnesses to, and victims of, crime and he has worked with professional athletes to help improve their performance in their sport.

James Mapes has created an ongoing series of self-improvement audio recordings and writes a syndicated newspaper column for Hearst newspapers in Connecticut and The Arizona Reporter. James also enjoys presenting his one-man show, Journey Into the Imagination at performing arts centers and universities around the country. He appeared on Broadway in 2003 and presented A Whirlwind Tour of the Mind at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan in 2007. When not touring, James and his wife divide their time between residences in Westport, Connecticut, and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.