How to create a vision board to design your future

Creating a vision board can be a surprisingly effective way to focus your intentions. Dr Tara Swart, author of The Source, explains how.


Sometimes the things we desire in life – a dream job, a successful relationship, a lovely flat – seem far out of reach. In her ground-breaking book The Source, neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart explores the science behind the ‘law of attraction’, popularised by phenomenal bestsellers such as The Secret, and demonstrates that we can all train our minds to grab the life-changing opportunities that otherwise pass us by. Creating a vision board, or ‘action board’ – a collage that represents everything that you aspire to – can be a surprisingly effective way to focus your intentions and construct a life that’s true to your innermost wishes. In this extract from The Source, Dr Swart explains how to create one.

Getting started

It’s important to take your time to create a board that feels authentic to you, is inspiring and represents an accurate reflection of your innermost wishes. It’s not something to rush, or to put together quickly with random positive images that you like – it must speak more deeply to you in terms of what the images represent, now and into the future.

An action board will be the ultimate manifestation of priming your brain to design your life. The fact that you create it with your own hands and see it every day in full colour activates numerous pathways in your brain (tactile, visual, emotional, intuitive and motivational), sending them the core message about what you truly want far more powerfully than just reading a list or thinking about your goals from time to time will ever do. Harnessing the concept of selective attention, combined with the neuroplasticity of behaviour change, reaps results.

What to use and how to use it

You can create an action board on anything from a piece of A4 card up to a massive poster-sized board. As well as the card, all you need is a stack of magazines or sources for images, scissors and glue or spray mount. You can look online for images but there is greater power in selecting images with the power of touch, so to speak. Even when you think you’ve found all the images you need, return to the magazines or get some new ones. This process benefits from not being rushed, stepping back and coaching yourself to fine-tune it. To create a really powerful impact on the visual centres of the brain, I suggest you use only images and possibly numbers – but try to avoid words. (Obviously, if you find a phrase or a quote that really resonates with you, you should use it.) One exception is the exact amount of money that you would like to earn; if this is important to you, that figure should appear boldly in numbers on your action board.

It is a good idea to use at least some metaphorical representations of what you want to achieve, rather than only direct representations or concrete examples. For example, if you are looking to move house then attractive interior décor images make sense, but to trigger the emotional and subconscious parts of your brain as well as the logical and conscious parts, you could use less literal images. You could use a picture of a balloon to remind you of the importance of being free from burdens, or a chosen icon that speaks to you to remind you of the qualities of your best self.

Such metaphorical images are very powerful as they message your subconscious, allowing you to use abstraction and value tagging to spot and grasp opportunities that you might have missed otherwise. Just as you sometimes dream in symbols, with your subconscious creating metaphors to make sense of your experiences and thoughts, so you can direct your subconscious with imagery, particularly when it’s non-literal. Metaphorical images also make your action board more private, and less obvious, which may make you feel more comfortable about placing it in a prominent position in your home.

test 2

Making your action board

To start making your action board, take the stack of images you have collected and group them on the floor or your desk according to their themes. Next, use your intuition to start placing some of these images onto the card – just loosely, don’t glue them yet. Put the things that are most important to you in the centre and/or near the top of your board. Group images in areas of the board according to whether they relate to work, love, health or travel, etc. You can keep the different life areas physically separate on the board or ensure that they are all touching and connected somehow if that feels right. Think about whether you want more space in your life and make sure your board is not crammed full if you do.

Once you have completed your first draft of the board, look at it as a whole. Step away and take some time out before coming back to it. Then remove any images from the board that don’t feel right to you, even if they were particular images that you were drawn to when you first found them. Now go through all the magazines again and see if there are any images that you didn’t notice the first time but which you are now drawn to. Find a place for them on your board. Once you have completed your second draft, leave it in a safe (breeze-proof, pet-proof and child-proof!) place for at least 24 hours.

Take a break and look at it again

A day later, or at the next opportunity you have, survey your board and make any final changes, then prepare to make it all stick! You might like to show it to one other person you trust before you immortalise it, asking them to challenge you about a few of the things on it, such as ‘Do you really want this?’, ‘Have you asked for as much as you deserve?’ or ‘Is there anything else you want that you might have missed out?’ Once you are sure you have answered all these questions, paste all the images on to the board and, next, find the perfect place for it. Your action board needs to be placed somewhere highly visible to you so that you see it at least once every day.

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more