Did you start your business because you had a vision? Most likely, you did, but how often do you actually envision your success? According to this TD Bank survey, one in five small business owners used some form of a vision board (also referred to as an action board) when they started their business. Of these, seventy-six percent say that their business is now where they had envisioned it at the beginning. I'm not sure about you, but I consider these results rather impressive.

Why do vision boards work?

Your brain is malleable and trainable; it can even rewire itself.  This remarkable capacity is referred to as neuroplasticity, and it allows you to train your brain for success. Visualization is one of the most powerful and efficient ways to do this. 

The rewiring process harnesses two key components: mirror neurons and neural resonance. Mirror neurons are vital to the learning process and planning our actions, as well as understanding the intentions behind them. Neural resonance is involved in focus and problem-solving. Visualization can help us to rewire our brains resulting in greater access to ideas, solutions, and motivation.

The selective attention involved during visualization imprints important things on the part of your brain that filters out unnecessary information and focuses on information that's relevant. Your brain laser-focuses on your goals and introduces you to the things you need to make them happen. 

Other benefits of visualization and vision boards.

Increases clarity and focus.

To effectively create a vision board that works for you, you'll need to identify your core values and clarify your vision and goals. Once you create your vision board based on this information, your images will help with further clarity and focus

It can reduce stress and doubt.

One of the reasons we stress out about things is because we're introducing new ideas to our brains. The concept of doing things that you haven't done before, or achieving something that we're not sure we can do can be terrifying. The  daily visualization habit will help these things feel familiar and achievable, thus lowering your stress response.

Here's how to create and effectively use your vision board.

Identify your top core values, as well as your vision. 

What's the most important thing in your world? I know that freedom usually tops the list for entrepreneurs, so I'll use that as an example. Once you've listed your most  essential values, identify a vision that incorporates them into the plan. What does freedom look like to you, and how will your business help you to achieve it? What needs to happen to introduce freedom (or another value) into your life?

Find images that represent your vision.

Think about images that reflect success (whatever that means to you). How will you know when you've achieved the freedom you crave? From altruistic achievements to the rewards associated with your success, what images can you use to represent your vision? To some, freedom means global travel, spending time with family and friends, and the financial freedom to build a whole other vision.

You can go through magazines to find your images; the internet is, of course, another resource. Sites like pexels.com feature the work of talented photographers, which you can download for free. (Be sure to tip them or give them a mention in social media.) 

Glue your images to a poster board.

I like to use a foam core board for sturdiness. You can arrange your images in any fashion. Try to avoid adding words; remember, this is about feeding the brain visuals. 

Spend two to ten minutes a day with your vision board.

Like exercise, if you don't do it, it won't work, so keep your board accessible. The first thing in the morning and last thing at night are ideal times to work with your vision board. If you look at your images before going to sleep, they will dominate your dreams and pattern your thoughts by embedding the images into your psyche. This gives your brain the information it needs to filter out impertinent information and allow in the information most relevant to your success.

Feel your vision.

This is the most important part of any visualization, yet few people talk about it. Our feelings send strong signals to our subconscious mind, which in turn informs the brain of what we want. Your subconscious does not know the difference between "bad" or "good" emotions, it only knows the intensity of them. Allow your images to generate intensely wonderful feelings, like joy, excitement, happiness, or whatever you'll feel once you achieve your vision. Hold these feelings for as long as you can, but at least 20 to 30-seconds at a time. 

Visualize yourself doing the work.

Not only is it important to visualize the success, but also the steps it takes to get there. We know that the brain sees little difference between a powerfully imagined vision and the actual experience of the vision coming to fruition. That's why athletes can significantly improve their performance as they "see" extreme workouts and their body growing stronger and more agile. They see, feel, and smell how it feels to win, and even to break world records. 

Use visuals of your vision board.

You won't have your vision board with you at all times, but if you close your eyes, you can visualize the images it holds. Highly kinesthetic people can generate the same, strong emotions with or without their vision board. Use this trick throughout the day to inspire and motivate you. If you hit a slump in the day, this is a powerful way to get beyond it. 

It's not magic, but it can feel magical as things begin to change for you. Let yourself have a little fun creating and using your vision board. You can even make vision boarding a fun family project. Try not to associate stress with the process, relax with it, and enjoy the outcome.

Published on: Dec 2, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.