The subtle tricks to building an effective vision board

by Pamela Slim

If you have been around the field of personal development in the past 20 years, you have surely heard of vision boards as a great way to graphically illustrate your hopes and dreams, as well as increase the likelihood that you will get what you wish for.

Martha was recently on Oprah talking with Louise Hay and Cheryl Richardson about the Law of Attraction.  Helping to demystify  “the secret behind The Secret,” they discussed practical ways to attract more of what you want in your life and less of what you don’t.

Martha and Cheryl brought their own vision boards as examples.   Martha’s included elements of friends and spirituality, as well as a picture of a dog that now hounds her to go for a walk.  Cheryl’s included a picture of a man representing her future groom (who later appeared, and married her).  The show also featured two young sisters, Dominique and Brittany, who demonstrated that you are never too young to put the Law of Attraction to work.

If I would have known about vision boards at age 12, I would look like Cheryl Tiegs, be married to Tony Orlando, and have the Bay City Rollers play at my wedding.  It takes the expression “Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it!” to a whole new level.

But since I am putting together my first vision board at the age of 41, I tuned into a conversation with Martha and Master Coach Theresa Anderson for some tips on unconventional ways to create an effective vision board.

The basics

The mechanics of creating a vision board couldn’t be easier:  get a piece of poster board, glue, magazines  and scissors and cut and paste to your heart’s content.  If you are really motivated, go to the scrap booking section of your local art store and get some fancy stickers, colored paper or other creative materials.

Beyond the basics – how to make the experience much more powerful

What these basic steps fail to take into account is the impact of our social selves on the visioning process.  If we let our brains run the show, we can end up with a board with more bling than Mr. T, but devoid of real purpose and emotion.  This is unlikely to attract much of anything except dust on a shelf.  Instead, consider these tips to super-charge your vision board:

  • Create the “anti-vision board,” either literally by creating a board with images that make your stomach turn, or just by thinking about all the things that you don’t want in your life.  The metaphor Martha used when describing this is the feeling of jumping in a deep diving pool, then pushing off the bottom to shoot up and see how high you can go.   When you know what you don’t want, it can help clarify what you do.  It is related to Chapter Two of Finding Your Own North Star which I wrote about in a prior post, Was Nancy Reagan right?  How just saying NO can change your life.
  • If you just grab the magazines lying around your house,  you may miss images that represent a future you haven’t yet imagined.  Instead, go to a bookstore that has a really great magazine selection and play the Hot-Warm-Cold game:
    • Get as calm as you can by relaxing, breathing deeply and imaging an extremely positive experience in your life (a “+10 for those familiar with the scale).
    • Stand in front of the magazine rack and squint your eyes so you can’t read the words but you can see the outlines of the images.
    • Grab any magazines that jump out at you, regardless if they make sense to your rational mind (Bug Collectors Today, Maxim, Off-Road Vehicles and Martha Stewart Living may be odd companions, but don’t question it!)
    • Go sit somewhere comfortable and leaf through the images.  Weed out those magazines that truly don’t resonate with your body.
  • Feel, don’t think your way through the exercise.
    Our rational minds imagine our futures in neat, organized steps.  So it is very tempting to search for images by thinking things like: “What is the logical next step in my career?’ or “What kind of man would make me happy?” or “What tropical destination is most affordable for a family of five?” Martha says: “To act without thinking is almost unthinkable in our culture!  Powerful action can occur without any thought.”
  • Observe your process of making the vision board; it can clue you into the way you operate in life. So if you take too much time looking for the “ideal images,” you may find that perfectionism gets in your way.  If you never make time to complete the exercise, you may find that you spend so much time taking care of everyone else’s needs that you neglect your own.

While doing these things, watch out for these 5 DON’Ts:

  • Don’t be seduced by the marketing.
    If you flip through one magazine for too long, you will get pulled into the advertising trance of the images and words.  Tune into how the images are making you feel:  anxious, jealous, joyful, trapped?  Pick out the images that make your body feel great – like the way favorite food tastes when you are hungry.
  • Don’t stick with what’s possible.
    If you have a big pile of images that don’t seem to go together, don’t worry about it!  You may not know what a fly fisherman in Montana and a yurt in Mongolia have to do with each other.  Don’t try to make a rational connection, just accept that both images mean something to your Stargazer self.
  • Don’t look at the images in a conventional way.
    Turn the magazines upside down and look at the images as designs instead of literal pictures.  Notice how your body reacts.  Many people will lean towards images that feel right, and lean away from those that feel wrong.  Others notice a very “open” feeling in their head or chest towards attractive images and muscle tension when viewing repelling ones. As you gaze at these images, your mind may try to identify their literal form.  Martha says:  “Knowing what that thing is will not help you as much as picking it without thought.”
  • Don’t fall for clichés
    While researching for this post, I thought I would see if there was software available for this traditionally homemade activity.  And I will be honest:  every site I visited made me want to vomit.  Because they contained, along with slick sales letters and cheesy audio greetings, extremely materialistic and cliché images:  Palm trees.  Beaches.  Fast cars.  Dollar signs.  Beautiful women.  In short, every get rich quick symbol possible.  The point is not that you can’t have a picture of a palm tree and a beach on your vision board.  But only include these images if you are magnetically attracted to them.  Don’t put anything on your board that doesn’t feel extremely juicy and appealing.
  • Don’t settle for second best.  If you get a strong feeling that you want to interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show but can only find a picture of your local consumer affairs reporter, leave the space blank!

Why does a vision board work?
While many claim the power of vision boards are rooted in the Law of Attraction, Martha explains it a bit more simply:

“When you put your attention on something, you experience more of it. Maybe it is created by a magical force of attention. At the very least, you are going to selectively pay attention to these things you like once you selectively start to gear yourself to focus on them more.”

Once the board is created, how to get the most of it:

  • Don’t cling to it.  Put it where you can see it, and think “this is a picture that makes me happy.”
  • Don’t get frustrated that you don’t have it yet.  As much as you can, detach from outcomes.
  • Take a picture of it so you can look at it outside of its physical location.  You could store it on your cellphone and flash on it while in line to pay your light bill.  Or you can save it on your laptop at work and view it while pretending to analyze a sales graph in a meeting.  Per the points above, this is not so you can become obsessed by the images, but rather to have a pleasant glimpse into the future that awaits you.

Other fun, inspirational sites to stimulate your creative thinking and collect images:

  • istockphoto – use keywords to search from a gigantic database of beautiful photo images (this is a paid service since it compensates the photographers who contribute photos, but the quality is exceptional).
  • Our favorite creativity coach Christine Kane wrote a post about her own experience with a vision board, which she followed up with How to Make a Vision Board which got a healthy 97 additional comments from readers!
  • PostSecret is an amazing blog project where people create anonymous postcards with their deepest secrets.  It is another great place to get inspired by hand-created images, and the power of the authentic voice.
  • 2008 Design Trends has some beautiful web design images that can stimulate your design eye.
  • The cool picture of the day site has some really unusual and creative photos.

Finally, if you want to listen to Martha describing the process herself, check out How to Create a Starlight Vision Board.

I hope that you enjoy the process of creating your vision board as much as I did!  Please share your tips or comments on making effective vision boards here.

Comments

  1. says

    Ah, I do love vision boards. I’ve written about them as well. Mine is in progress perpetually and, because I am busy, I use a bulletin board and shove things on it as I find them in the hopes of actually putting glue stick to foam core one day. I saw a great photo of Eat,Pray,Love author Elizabeth Gilbert and realized I’d love to work with her some day. Who did not love her adventures? I’ve got Martha up there, that is fer shure.

    I’m looking forward to watching your vid of you making one!!!

    BTW, flickr has a great group that posts copyright free images called: Collage Images that is a great resource as well: http://www.flickr.com/groups/collageimages/

    Happy Thursday!

    Kelly

  2. says

    Hi, great start. One of the aspects you don’t mention is creating boards for special occasions in your life — getting married, having a child, going back to school, launching a business etc. I cover the opportuntiies for those in my blog http://www.visionboard.info and in my upcoming book THE VISION BOARD: Unlock the Secret to An Extraordinary Life by Harper Collins Publishing, Collins Design, fall, 2008. One section that early reviewers love is the info about Visioning and creating your Vision Statement. The board creation is only part of a process that will change your thinking and change your life. ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

  3. says

    i’m currently working on my 2nd vision board. (i did the 1st one a couple of years ago and it just didn’t ‘feel right’ anymore — although, i did bring some of those images over.)

    when i did my first one, following my gut and my instincts, i was surprised at how much getting married showed up. (i almost hate to write that, not wanting to come across as the ‘typical woman desperate to get married’, but there it is.)

    now, i have wildly improbable goals included (shooting a cover of vogue someday), as well as having found a photo of what would literally be my dream house.

    i find a vision board to be a good reminder of choices i make in each day. am i living the way ‘that person’ would live and making choices that take me in that direction? i don’t necessarily have to be able to obtain the yoga pose that appears in a ‘health’ area on my board today, but have i eaten right and worked out today? or did i sit on the couch blogging? (ha) it’s a great external reminder.

    thanks for including links to places to find photos. and that’s another suggestion that i have. if you can’t find a picture of matt lauer? search the internet. i guarantee one is out there.

    all the best!
    deb

  4. says

    Hi Martha and everyone else… tuning in to this “Greetings” Welcome to a New World of Peace, Love’njoy and in Harmony with Respect and “Living Choices!”
    I have been doing Treasure Mapping for over 20 years – previously known as a Self Esteem Collage, then a Dream Board, then a Love Map, now a Vision Board. Since 1990 I have been facilitating groups, first friends, (who still do it) then friends of friends then others in our neighbourhoods with tremendous results. As my journey has evolved over the years so have the workshops of course. Like you Martha, I now put a star in the centre with a photo on it – if they have one – Knowing Who We Are in the Centre of our Being, how life supports us and how we radiate out into each aspect/area of our Life. I also ask them to personalize it and add the words “I AM”… to what the pictures represent to them. I do them in silence so they too can listen to what moves them, Soul’s emerging, Spirit’s Calling – or whatever words the choose. Some people file them ’til next year, others work with them in different ways from 16 secs. Power of Intention to scrap booking and putting a laminated photo in their wallets to keep with them… to setting their goals, and Masterminding intention to experience the Law of Attraction/manifestation, etc.,
    The results are amazing and awesome too. Actually I take information to share and support the journey with me and Finding Your North Star is one of them (By you I see now … thanks a million) and the history of Treasure Mapping (Unity) Make Your Life a Master Piece (Peter Legge) to name a few “tools” I use to inspire and uplift the experience. I am delighted to be on this journey with you all – and you can check out my website for Testimonials of participants here in Canada, Vancouver, Surrey, Langley, British Columbia as well as New Zealand. I did them on holiday with my friends when I was in New Zealand. Kia Ora and Blessings Raywyn M.E. “Kiwi” in Canada
    http://www.ask4success.com

  5. says

    Hi Martha,

    I have found the coolest and most effective tool to help with the visualization process – a great vision board software called Mind Movies Creator.

    It was created by Ryan Higgins to help others visualize and manifest the life of their dreams. See a video and find out why here http://www.squidoo.com/vision-board-software

    A Mind Movie allows you to create a vision of what you want, together with your Favorite song… the one that makes you feel good, the one that makes you want to dance, the one that makes you smile and sing along.

    It’s like a 3 minute slide show/movie of your perfect life.

    I’m trying it out now.

    I’m having fun making my own vision board/mind movie.

    And because it’s a software, no need to cut up magazines!

    Thanks for you blog.

    Eric

  6. Lori says

    i was going to suggest flickr for images, but i see kelly partially beat me to it.

    you can simply use the search feature on flickr to find great images of anything you want for your board.

  7. says

    I so appreciate the breakdown and clear steps given to building an effective vision board. Even more, I love the explanation of why this will work! I will definitely present this to my clients in a much more effective manner in the future. Of course, giving all due credit to the amazing Martha Beck.

    I’ve done vision boards in the past, it’s not only time to make a new one, but several, there’s just so much I want to do!

    Thanks again for your incredibly insight and guidance,

    Sandy Walden

  8. says

    Hi Martha,

    Vision boards work! I’ve been practicing this technique for a while now — with a little modification. Basically, my vision board has been the magnetic side of my fridge. I now call it my magical fridge, and here’s why.

    The first time I posted my dream on my fridge was during a military move a little over a year ago. My husband had travelled to the area to which we would soon move. He collected brochures from different builders in the area. I fell in love with a picture of one of the houses, but it was out of our price range. So, I placed that photo on my fridge, but marked down the price to a number we could afford. Long story short: With the real estate market in decline, we decided to rent initially instead of buying. We found a beautiful rental online for a very agreeable price. Soon, we discovered — the house we had rented in our price range was the EXACT floorplan of the home on the side of my fridge!

    But . . . this is when the story becomes truly amazing. I tried this same technique again. I’m always entering these HGTV dream home giveaways each year. This year I noticed the myhomeideas.com site was also giving away a house near our hometown in Florida. I placed the photo of the beach cottage on the fridge — not really expecting to win, but I wanted to declare to the universe that this beach home was my “Some Day” Dream come true. My “some day” came sooner than planned.

    I WON THE HOUSE!!!! The story of this amazing win is on the myhomeideas website (including my winning phone call where I mention posting the photo on the fridge). You may also find more of the story (along with another amazing “some day” story that happened a couple weeks prior to the win) on my blog listed above.

    Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for playing a role in my dream come true!!!

    Leisa Tobler

  9. Jack says

    This article is incorrect. Demystifying “The Secret” is far more accurate. “The Secret Behind The Secret” with the originator of all of these ideas, Abraham Hicks, is very clear indeed and needs no “demystifying”. “The Secret” with it’s incomplete second version that the majority now own, is the incomplete package.

    Abraham Hicks always give a complete and THE most comprehensive coverage of all of the tools you now use. Credit where it’s due.

    Hi Jack:

    Thanks for your input. The title “The secret behind The Secret” is not actually our title, it is the name of the Oprah show that Martha was on.

    It seems there are all kinds of views when it comes to Law of Attraction/The Secret, so I certainly appreciate your perspective.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    All the best,

    -Pam

  10. RaiulBaztepo says

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  11. says

    I am not really convinced of the validity of a “vision board”. I know people put goals to paper and try to see how they measure up sometime later but I am not sure how posting pictures of things you know you like will help you get there.

  12. says

    hi dear martha , nice article
    I think that the Vision board has great importance in the life of each of us and I would like through success skills to show people this importance and knowing their way in life to achieve their goals.
    have a nice day .

  13. Molly says

    I was first instroduced to the Vision Board concept in the mid 90′s while in the process of a career change. Being new to the idea I was very intrigued and luckily had a wonderful career coach to guide me. I was confouned by the result of my vision board as even the smallest detail I had envisioned became a reality, seemingly with little or no effort on my part. You have provided this important information for free. Bless you.

  14. says

    great post, I am a compulsive vision board creator and love the process. I am always thrilled to learn something new. I love your comment to go beyond the ordinary and just go with images that make your heart sing. Juicy food for the subconscious mind, to bring our dreams and desires into our lives. It’s where the magic is.

  15. says

    nice post, it is really amazing on how it can help us focus on what we want. turning the vision boards to video will make it more entertaining and fun to visualize the things we want to achieve. Thanks

  16. aniruddha says

    I am really alone as far as creating my vision board is concerned. Neither do I have the privacy nor the material to create my vision board on paper. But at the same time I believe in the concept and would like to do it on my laptop. I lack the resources ,at present. to buy any snaps online but I REALLY NEED to come out of the mess (emotional, financial due to someone close stealing all my earnings ). Come what may,I am going to make a personal vision board

  17. says

    Vision boards are very important, after all, you can’t hit a target that you can’t see!

    Although when it comes to business success, it is very important to plan your intellectual property well, especially your trademarks.

    I have recently been working on a “mind map” for my new business and it has proven to be one of my favourite “go-to” documents when I go a little off track.

    Great post, thank you!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I was flipping through some old issues of Yoga Journal magazine tonight, thinking about the New Year. I marked some pictures to cut out and add to my vision board – a set of three square-shaped bulletin boards lined along the wall above my writing desk that contain pictures and words of my goals, hopes, and dreams. Most of the photos and words that end up on the board are career related, but I do have “health visions” too. This year, I want to take my yoga practice to a new level. I chose some arm balances, some forward bends, and a meditation pose. Some of the poses seem like they’d be impossible for my body to ever achieve, but I like the way they look and the way I feel looking at them, so I included them. Do you have a vision board? If you want to create one but don’t know where to start, here’s some practical advice.Š [...]

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