The idea of a vision board or collage helping you achieve success may seem silly, but there are neuro-processes involved. Neuroscientist and author of “The Source” Dr. Tara Swart examines some of the neuro-processes involved.
Vision boards train your brain to recognize opportunity
Seeing images on a vision board trains your brain to notice opportunities that it otherwise might not have recognized. That is because of a neural process called “value tagging” — a process that imprints thoughts onto your subconscious and removes irrelevant information. The brain credits a higher value to images than to written words. So the more you look at these images, the higher up they move in your brain’s importance ranking.
Swart (who prefers the phrase “action board” to “vision board”) says that looking at images every night before you fall asleep will imprint them even more effectively.
When you sleep, dreams, lucid thoughts, and creativity occur. According to Swart, if you have focused on something — especially something new — directly before sleep, these images are likely to dominate your dreams, a phenomenon called “the Tetris effect.” When your psyche embeds these images, they are used as visual guidelines, and your brain will filter out things it decides are irrelevant.
To vision is to experience
Another way action boards work is through visualization. Swart says that when you look at the pictures on your board, you should visualize what it would feel to be there. To our brains, there is little difference between the actual experience of the thing and a strongly imagined vision.
It’s been shown that imagining something can bring concrete benefits. Studies have demonstrated that people who imagine themselves flexing a muscle can actually achieve gains in strength.
Reduce stress of taking action
It’s recommended that you place your action board in a highly visible place, like on your desk or next to your bed. Swart says that using an action board on a regular basis can help you make better decisions, and it could help improve willingness to act on achieving your goals.
When you try something new, the body normally produces a stress response, releasing adrenaline and cortisol. But when you view images repeatedly, your brain no longer sees them as new, and this fear response is decreased.
Swart says: “The process reduces the physiological fear response to any new situation or person, making you more likely to take healthy risks, collaborate and embrace opportunity.
Vision boards alone don’t get you to your goals. It cannot just be that you create a fantasy image of your ideal life and wait for your life to magically change. You’ve got to do things too and move yourself toward that.”
Take your time to create an action board that feels authentic to you. Your board should inspire you and reflect your biggest wishes. Don’t rush, or put your board together with randomly selected images — the pictures should speak to you deeply.
An action board helps prepare your brain to design your life. Creating your board and seeing it every day activates numerous pathways in your brain. It sends a strong message — visualizing what you truly want is far more powerful than simply thinking about it.
What to use, and how to use it
You can use anything for an action board, from a poster-sized board to a piece of paper. Flip through magazines and newspapers for images. You’ll be surprised how many resources you have lying around the house or tossed in the paper bin.
When you think you’re done, return to your resources for another round. This process is best done when you are not in a rush — coach yourself to fine-tune it. To create a powerful impact in your brain, it is best to use images rather than actual words from your magazines.
In addition to using visual representations, it’s beneficial to also use metaphorical representations of what you want to achieve. For example, if your goal is to move to another house, images of home interiors make sense. But to trigger the subconscious and emotional parts of your brain, rather than just the conscious and logical parts, try metaphorical images — for example, an image of a bright sky to represent the feeling of freedom.
Metaphorical images are powerful because they send message to your subconscious. This allows your brain to use value-tagging and abstraction to see and take opportunities that you might have missed otherwise.
Most of our dreams contain symbols, where our subconscious creates metaphors to make sense of the things we have seen, thought and experienced. You can steer your subconscious with images, especially non-literal ones. Metaphorical images also make your action board a bit more personal, as you are probably the only one who understands the true meaning of the images. This might make you feel a bit more comfortable placing it in a prominent position in your home.
A lot of people use sites like Pinterest to create vision boards or collages. While Pinterest can be a great source of images, it’s not a good place to create the actual board. To trigger your brain, you need to see the images on a regular basis. You can search for images for your board on a place like Pinterest — but it only works if you then print it out and add it to your physical board.
Creation of your board
When you’ve collected your personal images, group them on your desk or the floor according to themes. Then, intuitively select images from these groups and start adding them to your board. You can group them according to categories like work, family, leisure, housing, health, etc.
Lay the board flat on a table or the floor, so you can arrange the images loosely. Don’t glue them on yet — this keeps it open to changes. Place the images that are most important to you in the center of the board.
There is no right way to do the rest — just do what feels right. You can place the images grouped together the same way you stacked them, or you can connect some of them by laying them on top of each other. Use your intuition to decide how many images you want to add. If you are the type of person that likes and benefits from space in your mind, make sure you don’t clutter up your entire board — this might be overwhelming.
Once you feel you first draft is done, step back and look at the board in its entirety. Take a break and relax a bit before coming back to it. Remove any images that no longer feel right for you. These might be images you were drawn to immediately when collecting images, but don’t let that hold you back from removing them now.
Now, go through your stack of images again to see if there are any that you didn’t notice before, but you’re drawn to now. Find a place on your board for these new images. When you are done with the second draft, leave it for a minimum of 24 hours.
One last review
After a day or two, check in on your board and make any final changes — then glue it all together. If you are comfortable with it, you can let someone close to you review it with you before you make it all stick. But the most important person is you.
Once your board is finished, find the perfect place to put it. Your action board needs to be in a highly visible place, where you’ll be able to see it at least once a day. Your action board is perfect way to review your personal mission and your Limitless Personal Goal. With the action board in mind, you have a better feeling about what you desire. Use this to create, review, and fine-tune your mission and goals.
This article is an excerpt from my book. Interested in reading more?