Visualizing success or constructing failure?

The psychology behind vision boards

An inspirational vision board.
Supplied by Flickr

Vision boards have been all the rage for several years now – cutting up magazines and printing quotes seems like it could give you the motivation to achieve your goals – but the psychology behind vision boards provides mixed reviews.

It’s the first week of classes and homework hasn’t started to pile up yet, giving you an hour of free time to plot your future in the form of a vision board. You cut pictures out of old magazines, print quotes from your favourite songs and books, and plaster them onto a piece of Bristol board, hoping that it inspires you to attain your goals and dreams. But is this art project a key to success, or is it setting us up for failure?

When I was growing up, I was encouraged by my parents and teachers to create a vision board to motivate myself to take the right steps to gaining ambition. I cut out pictures of doctors and hospitals, big houses and boats – all of the things that I pictured in my “perfect” future.

The idea of vision boards is based on the law of attraction: positivity attracts positivity and negativity attracts negativity. In other words, it follows the notion that if you project your positive aspirations into the universe, they’re more likely to become a reality.

As well as this idea of positivity, some people believe vision boards are a fun way to unlock the power of your imagination. For these people, the benefit of creating a vision board is to explore and organize their thoughts to always have them on their radar. Having your goals constantly displayed in front of you allows them to be ingrained into your subconscious and inspires you to live in a way that will help you reach them.

Furthermore, many psychologists agree that it’s a beneficial form of therapy for people who struggle with depression, low self-confidence or for people who are motivated by challenges. Vision boards can be a healthy way to be reminded that a positive and bright future is possible.

But a vision board might actually be more detrimental to achieving your dreams and creating one might not be doing you any favours.

Many research studies show that when you fantasize or idealize your goals, your motivation and energy to achieve them actually decreases. In contrast, having realistic fantasies and more attainable goals is associated with higher rates of success.

These researchers state that when we’re focused on thinking about our future, we end up tricking our minds into thinking we’ve already achieved these goals. Regardless of whether our goals are reachable or impossible, we forget about these obstacles because we’re too busy enjoying the feeling of having achieved them. In turn, we often don’t work as hard when challenges actually arise.

Personally, I find that like anything in life, you have to find what works for you. If you’re someone who tends to find motivation from challenges and obstacles, a vision board may be something that will work for you to organize your thoughts. However, don’t let the joy of simply the thought of achieving your goals consume you to the point where you lose the motivation to work towards them.

With the school year starting up and knowing we’re soon to be extremely busy, taking an hour out of your day to make a vision board may not be the worst idea. But while you’re printing, cutting and gluing, remember it isn’t all you need to make your dreams become a reality.

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