Seeing is Believing

Have a goal? Need a change? Let an inspiration board guide the way.

By Maryann Hammers 

Barbara Savin, a clinical hypnotherapist and meditation instructor, has made a career out of helping people achieve their goals. She frequently tells her cli­ents, “Whatever you focus on, that is what you bring into your life.”

Inspiration boards—collages of uplifting photos, drawings, objects, and positive affirmations—are among her favorite tools. Also called vision boards, action boards, goal maps, and dream boards, inspiration boards “visually rep­resent the things you want to have, be, or do,” Savin says.

Sound like magic or woo-woo? It’s not. “Inspiration boards require you to think about, clarify, and visualize your goal,” Savin explains. “When we see it, feel it, touch it, and know it, we can create it.”

See It. Believe It.

Savin practices what she preaches. Several years ago, when a nearby resort announced plans to develop a wellness center, Savin knew she wanted to work there, so she headed to the hobby shop. “I purchased a corkboard, added a picture of a hotel, and put a photo of me in my car going to work,” she says. “I added phrases: ‘I am grateful’; ‘I am happy’; ‘I feel joy working here.’”

Firmly focused on her goal, Savin submitted her resume three times before being called for an interview. “More than 50 people were interviewed,” she says, “and I was the one who got the job.”

Today, Savin still happily holds the position of clinical hypnotherapist and energy healing specialist with the California Health & Longevity Institute in Westlake Vil­lage, California.

Make It Yours.

Inspiration boards are especially powerful when you want to make a change, for example, “if you feel stuck and you can’t think of any way out,” says Jan Wall, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Wall has used the boards in her own life and introduces them to her students.

Start by clarifying your goal. It may be to “shift out of a negative situation—get­ting out of debt or ending a painful relationship”—or to set a positive goal, “such as finding a partner, creating a dream career, or becoming financially joyful,” she says.

Next find images and items that make you feel happy, excited, successful, and motivated. For example, if you have set a goal to embark on a healthier lifestyle, you might choose photos of a gym, maps of nearby walking paths, photos of healthy snacks, clipped recipes, snapshots of yourself at your fittest, and a schedule of exer­cise classes at a local gym.

Think of your board as “a roadmap,” says Dr. Wall—a reminder of where you want to be heading.

But keep it real. If your goal is to drop 20 pounds, pictures of skinny models are best left off your board. Such images will sabotage your efforts. In fact, female diet­ers who were continually exposed to a photo of a rail-thin model got so discouraged that they actually gained weight, according to a study from Tilburg University in the Netherlands.1

Savin suggests adding word affirmations, for example: “I am beautiful; I am strong; I am confident; I am healthy,” or “I have willpower, self-determination, and self-control.”

Now post the board in a conspicuous place. “Make it the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see before falling asleep,” says Dr. Wall.


  1. Klesse A, Goukens C, Geyskens K, Ko de Ruyter K. Repeated exposure to the thin ideal and implications for the self: Two weight loss program studies. International Journal of Research in Marketing. 2012;29(4):355-62.