Why Vision Boards Actually Help You Achieve Your Goals
Vision boards have been the topic of a few conversations I’ve had recently. I always thought of vision boards as a fun, inspirational craft. Mod Podge and magazine scraps came to mind quickly, but I didn’t see vision boards as the intentional mindset tool they can be. But friends keep telling me that vision boards play an important role in their goal achievement. It was an intriguing trend, but I just didn’t ‘get it’.
Until this week. I’ve been continuing my research and writing on intuition and decision-making. This week’s reading led me to an idea that has helped me understand the role vision boards play in our psychology and decision making.
And that idea is accessibility.
What is accessibility and how does it relate to intuition?
Accessibility is essentially how easily thoughts come to mind. The more accessible a thought, the quicker it comes to mind and we form a judgement on it.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s a pretty simple idea.
For example, imagine you are about to put a spoonful of soup in your mouth and someone says to you, “Watch out, it’s spicy.” The first thing your brain is going to be on the lookout for is spice. The idea of spiciness was very accessible to you because it was suggested right before taking the bite. You were primed to identify spice, so you will notice it before you recognize the rest of the flavor profile or temperature of the soup.
Intuition is deeply connected to accessibility. Our intuitive thoughts come to us spontaneously and often we can’t trace their path or understand exactly why we think/feel a certain way.
As I discussed in last week’s post, intuition is primarily pattern recognition. The more familiar we are with an idea or circumstance, the more accessible the intuitive decision will be for us.
So familiarity is one way we develop accessibility to thoughts, but there are more. Other factors of accessibility include how important an idea is to you, priming and focus.
Vision boards help create selective attention
Focus. This is the idea that made the vision board craze come clear to me. When you focus on specific ideas, or goals, it creates selective attention. A vision board is usually created with bold words, phrases or imagery depicting the life you want.
This focuses your attention on these things. You see your vision board day in and day out, and it changes what your mind looks for in the world.
You likely start seeing more messages and opportunities relating to the concepts on your vision board. This is because your mind is primed to see them.
For example, if on your board you have ‘Growth,’ ‘Paris,’ and a picture of someone running a marathon, you might start seeing books, billboards and online advertisements all supporting these ideas.
This has profound effects on us humans. For one, we tend to get super excited. It feels like the whole universe is aligning and affirming the vision we’ve pieced together on the vision board.
It also adds personal responsibility into the mix. If one of your vision board items is to run a marathon and you keep seeing messages about races or training groups, you’re more likely to act on them because it feels like they are there FOR YOU.
Now, I really hope I’m not taking any magic out of the vision board idea for you. In fact, I think this knowing what’s going on in our brains actually adds more magic to the practice. It’s leveraging your psychology to make your intuition work in your favor.
I used to be skeptical about vision boards because it seemed like a waste of time to me. I thought I’d be better off just ‘working’ on my goals. But now that I better understand the inner workings of my brain, I not only think they are ‘worth the time’, I think they are very important!
What we focus on creates our reality
Having control over our thoughts is one of the most difficult, but most important disciplines to cultivate.
If what you look for is what you’ll find, we need to take some serious responsibility over what we’re looking for.
I’ve been thinking about how this pertains to our culture’s current push for mental illness awareness. In many ways, I agree it is an important discussion. I think we need to reduce and remove stigma surrounding people suffering from mental illness.
However, I don’t agree that filling up our Instagram feeds with messages that anxiety is normal is a positive thing.
I get frustrated when I hear conversations with women (in my observations this has been a highly gendered trend) using mental illness as either an excuse for their situation or a bonding tactic.
It’s false empowerment. Being ‘freed’ to be real about your mental illness isn’t the solution, or the real issue. The real issue is the mental illness, and seeking treatment and coping strategies should be the first step.
The dangerous position we put ourselves in when we make mental illness the story, is that it can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anxiety, stress and depression can become our story rather than a factor in our story if we focus on them too much.
I know this from personal experience. And I’ve seen it play out in too many loved-ones lives. If you self-identify as an anxious person, you will expect yourself to act anxious in stressful situations. This is not what we should be focusing on.
How much better it is to focus on stories of courage, strength, peace, confidence and grace.
Positive thinking is ancient wisdom because it works
This isn’t a new perspective, but it may be applied to a new realm of life and current cultural trend.
When I consider vision boards, the power of our thoughts to create reality and the discussions on mental health, I’m always brought back to scripture. I’m fascinated by connections between psychology, research and Biblical wisdom.
Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Think on lovely things and the reward is God’s peace. Yes, please.
This sounds a lot like how vision boards work. When you focus your attention on something, that thing will be your reward. So be intentional and wise what you choose to focus on.