Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

What the Heck is a Vision Board (And Should I Use One)?

Image via Koppelkam/

Greatist is the fastest-growing fitness, health and happiness media start-up. Check out  more wellness news at

Remember when homework consisted of cutting out pictures we liked from magazines and pasting them on poster board, collage style? It turns out the 3rd grade art teachers of the world might be onto something.

Vision boards are a more adult version of those colorful posters, filled with inspirational quotes and images to help anyone — young or old — get motivated and improve themselves. Whether made with scissors and Elmer’s glue, or pieced together online, vision boards may help people achieve their goals. Is there real science behind these boards, or is it all in the mind?

What's the Deal?

Vision boards are all about positive thinking and channeling the power of the subconscious. Want to achieve a specific goal? Basically, the board is supposed to spark your creativity, focusing your thoughts on the goal you want to accomplish and helping articulate an objective you're having difficulty putting into words. At the very least, this visualization can help promote better choices, no matter their size. So how do you make one? The simplest approach to creating a vision board is to cut out pictures and make them into a collage. Source material can come from any where you draw inspiration, such as magazines, photographs, newspapers, and even everyday objects.

The digital age has opened up new possibilities for vision boards beyond physical objects. Social platforms like Pinterest allow users to post and repost meaningful or interesting images, with a seemingly endless supply of inspiration. Pinterest’s own image boards, full of inspirational “pins,” or images, are like digital vision boards organized around any theme imaginable. (A word of caution: It is possible that this giant, communal vision board can get overwhelming, piling on the pressure to be perfect.)

Is It Legit?

Almost. Much of the hoopla behind vision boards revolves around the so-called “law of attraction,” or the idea that positive thinking can help you achieve almost anything, popularized by the self-help book The Secret. Oprah promoted the book after its 2006 release and has been a big proponent of vision boards, using her media clout to add them to an arsenal of self-improvement tools like journaling. Media messages like hers push us towards being our “best selves,” and the concept of visualizing everything we want from life on a vision board fits right in. Though the hype from The Secret has died down, people continue to post on Pinterest and cut pictures from magazines. This may be because once a vision board is made, it's easy to attribute success to the board ("Oh, I got what I wanted because I made a vision board!"). On the flipside, says Greatist Expert Dr. Michael Mantell, the practice also risks fostering self-blame: Failure to achieve a certain goal might be viewed as a result of a mistep in the creation of the board instead of a number of outside factors ("My vision wasn't clear enough" or "I included too many images").

The biggest complaint about vision boards is that they simply might not work: Though positive thinking is good, we haven’t yet drawn a direct link between creating a vision board and actually making a life change or achieving a specific goal. However, a recent study on weight lifters showed brain activity in the same areas when they lifted and when they simply thought about lifting, giving us some hard science behind the power of flexing mental muscles and spending time thinking about what we want to achieve — at least when it comes to feats of strength. Tactics of positive thinking and visualization have long been used in the field of sports psychology, using imagery to give athletes a competitive edge.

Another issue with vision boards is that they can perpetuate inaction and daydreaming instead of hard work and motivation to get a job done. A study on students preparing for their mid-term exams showed that students who visualized positive results actually studied less and scored lower grades.

Still, it’s important to remember that vision boards serve as an inspiration, not a magical golden ticket to success. Vision boards can be a way to identify a goal and visualize a way to achieve it, even if achieving takes a little more than arts and crafts. Regardless, spending some time imagining what you want has been shown to improve performance and delineate goals, whether that end product makes dreams come true or not.


Image via Andrea Danti/

Image via Koppelkam/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.