A vision board can help refine your goals and serve as a willpower-free prompt
In the professional world, the term cut and paste applies more to word processing than creative endeavours, but collage is making a comeback among life coaches and psychologists tapping into the science of visually aided imagination. Creative visualisation or imagery is among neuroscience’s more exciting strides since it reduces the effort required to achieve things once thought to require sheer discipline, and can even enable performance and results beyond what seem ordinarily possible (athletes may be able to lift more weight after imagining doing so). “Consciousness can shape reality,” says NY Times bestselling author, O columnist, and life coach Martha Beck. “If you believe you can do something, you’ll try and maybe succeed. If you don’t believe, you’ll always fail because you never really try – it seems pointless.
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The number one reason people don’t achieve their goals is because they believe they can’t. Period.” Beck, who has authored Finding Your Own North Star, among several other books, suggests one way to achieving your goals, and tapping into that “mental magic” is to create a vision board. “Basically, vision boards are collages of images you’d like to see take shape in your own future,” says Beck. The key concept underscoring the efficacy of vision boards is known as ‘selective attention’, she says. Beck uses the example of focusing on the word ‘blue’ and repeating the word over and over and noting what happens. Suddenly, several blue objects you didn’t before notice will appear around you. “We know now that consciousness brings matter into being where there was energy,” says Beck, “The conclusion is you’re literally creating some of this stuff.” While vision boards can be revelatory in life-changing ways, their impact may be more subtle. Alternatively, if your focus is too much on the present, the sense of urgency and fear may undermine motivation and even promote self-sabotage. The trick is to apply the principles of present-moment affirmation to the board itself. “I’ve made several vision boards that bombed out, and some that were so successful that the hairs on the nape of my neck prickled for months,” says Beck. “Years ago I glued up a headline that said MAKING AFRICA WELL.
I thought it was a joke – oh, sure, like I could do that – never expecting that a few years later I’d be invited to speak in Africa and while there meet folks who are healing African ecosystems. Suddenly, I found myself volunteering to work with them.” The main reason vision boards fail, Beck says, is because people choose images that belong to a broader cultural belief in what they should want or what constitutes a good or successful life rather than what they intrinsically desire. It’s important to choose images that appeal to your ‘deep self’ and that provoke an emotional response, even if you’re not sure what it is or why you feel it. “The board itself doesn’t impact reality; what changes your life is the process of creating the images, combinations of object and events that will stick in your subconscious mind and steer your choices toward making the vision real,” Beck says.
THINK, CREATE, BECOME
STEP 1: Find images or words that bring you joy; things that invoke a positive emotional response – ideally they actually ‘move you’, causing you to lean forward or smile or laugh spontaneously, Perhaps you feel your eyes lift, visualising a scene you find appealing. Importantly, be guided by intuition or your immediate responses, not your rational mind; it’s an overused phrase, but let go of preconceptions (you may still be able to repay the mortgage if you do go and volunteer in Namibia).
STEP 2: Once you’ve accrued enough images and words to cover your board, take a bird’s eye view and see whether they all belong. Do they all earn a place on the board you’ll be using to envision your future? Do any undermine you; are any toxic or based on old ideas or those belonging to other people (think parents or partner or well-meaning friend)? Do any fail to elicit a positive or interested response? If any words or images don’t earn a place, discard them before you get to the glue. Then get pasting until you’ve covered your board.
STEP 3: After taking a moment to admire your creative flair and finding a place for your board – think hallway or kitchen – the real work begins. While the board will facilitate connections and insights, it won’t research visas, call the bank or speak to your boss about telecommuting. “This is the zone of reality creation: regularly picturing delights that don’t yet exist, emotionally detaching from them and jumping into action when it’s time to help the miracles occur,” says Beck. No matter which life area your vision belongs to – career, finance, weight loss, health or relationships – vision boarding can be an effective tool.