From a very young age, I have been a competitive athlete. Until age 13, I was a competitive gymnast at a world renowned gym in Southern California, Charter Oak Gymnastics. The owner and head coach of Charter Oak was so gifted as a coach that he landed a job as the Assistant Head Coach to the USA Women’s Olympic team in 2000. This came well after my time as a gymnast, but his build to that position started well before my time. He understood that a successful athlete needs more than just training in a particular field. He invested time and money into us beyond the skills of gymnastics, which included weekly ballet classes along with a meditation/visualization coach. Every Friday night, we spent time lying on the floor, with our eyes closed, being guided through visualizing perfect routines. We used these sessions to create a mental image of what we wanted in real life. It was these Friday’s nights that helped me understand how regular visualization can actually train the body to follow the mind. Long after my days as a gymnast, I still use visualization to help me get more clear on what I want in real life, both in sport and beyond.
Most of us have heard that we learn in one of three ways: kinesthetic (through touch), auditory (through hearing), and/or visual (through sight). However, when you consider the amount of neurons in the brain that are devoted to vision, it is easy to argue that humans are mostly visual beings. In the brain, there are hundreds of millions of neurons devoted to visual processing. These neurons take up approximately 30% of the cortex, as compared with 8% for touch and just 3% for hearing. In recall tests, humans are able to recall images with much greater accuracy than word recall. This is likely because visually seeing an image creates associations with other knowledge about the world which helps us recall them more efficiently than words alone.
Beyond the anatomy and physiology of the brain, many of us are familiar with the philosophy of "the law of attraction". This philosophy is the belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person's life. When we imagine our body taking an action (like a back flip on a balance beam, for example), our brain will quickly run through that action to help the body understand what it needs to be done in order to achieve that action. When you consider the power of positive visualization and the law of attraction, there is no tool more powerful than a vision board for making your dreams a reality. A vision board is a physical object that can and should be seen daily in order to help you move towards what you want in real life.
Here is how it works:
1. Start by imagining your life as it is now. It can be helpful to use a tool, like a wheel of life, to help you get more clear on different areas of your life and how satisfied you feel in each area. Once you know where you are, you can imagine where you want to go. Do you wish you were more successful in a specific area of your life? If so, how? For example, if you desire financial freedom in 10 years, but you are currently spending more than you are saving, it might be desirable to make a few adjustments to your life to obtain your goal of financial freedom.
2. Once you know where you want to go, imagine exactly what that looks like. Close your eyes and picture it (this is the visualization part). To carry on our example from above, what does financial freedom in 10 years look like? Does it look like hiking with friends on a weekday? Or traveling to Europe? Or sleeping in and taking naps whenever you feel like it? Whatever financial freedom looks like to you, you need to be able to see an image that makes you feel how you want to feel in 10 years when you obtain your goal.
3. Next, find objects that represent your vision. You can use catalogs, magazines, business cards of people that inspire you, books, and anything really that helps you feel the way you want to feel. Cut or rip them out and start a pile of your objects.
4. Once you have a pile of images, words or objects that sums up your future vision, find an object to attach them to. This can be as simple as pinning them to a bulletin board, or as creative as sticking them to an object. I personally use the wheel of life to help me get clear on my vision before I create my vision boards. Below, you can see a picture of one of my original vision boards where I took 1 image from each category on my wheel of life and found a picture that best represented where I wanted to go in that specific area of my life that year.
5. Lastly, and the most important part of the entire project, is place your vision board in a prominent area. You need to SEE your board regularly. Body follows mind, so the mind needs to use those hundreds of millions of neurons devoted to vision to see your dream. The brain will use these images to prepare the body for the actions it sees before you. Consistency is key. If you create a vision board and store it away in a secret location, your vision is less likely to come to life. If you already have the healthy habit of brushing your teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day, placing your vision board in your bathroom and creating the habit of looking at it every time you brush your teeth can add up to a powerful mind body connection over the course of days, weeks, months and even years!
It is important to have fun with the project (which usually means wine for me). No part of the final project needs to be perfect. As a matter of fact, if your vision starts to shift as the months pass by, it can be quite easy to add new images to your board either covering up images with less meaning to your now, or adding them in open areas on your board.
Not only is your vision board a great way of keeping your eyes (and mind) on your goals, but it is a powerful way of helping push those goals into reality.
Tiana Rockwell is a certified nutritional therapist, avid endurance athlete and dark chocolate lover. She believes that by eating REAL food, we can balance our body and reach optimal health and wellness!