Visualisation is increasing in popularity when it comes to mental and emotional wellbeing. In fact, many experts now believe that imagining experiences can stimulate similar brain activity to actually doing them. But can visualisation help us develop more positive money habits? Turns out, it can.
In 2019, financial researchers assessed the impact of visualisation on personal savings rates using a Sentimental Savings Study. The study compared increases to personal savings rate on two cohorts of subjects.
One group attended a traditional financial education seminar, and the others attended a financial psychology seminar that focused on setting goals, visualising them coming to fruition, and anchoring that experience to a sentimental item from their home, e.g. a photo of a loved one, or an item of jewellery.
The visualisation seminar increased attendee savings rates by 73 per cent, while the financial education seminar only saw a 22 per cent increase in savings rates.
OK, so visualisation is legit. But why does it work, and how can we use this tool in our own lives?
Money is a neutral object in and of itself. But because we’re emotional beings, we project our emotions onto our money. That means everything from childhood memories to our levels of self belief can impact how we think and feel about money, and as a result, the way we spend it.
Because of this, many of us struggle to engage in positive financial decisions.
Despite understanding that we need to spend less than we earn, save for retirement and try and reign in our Uber Eats obsession, it’s rarely as simple as that. This is where visualisation can help.
Visualisation can help leverage the emotional relationship we have with money to steer our behaviours in a more positive direction. And as a result we can foster more positive outcomes.
Psychologically, we are more connected to the present than the future – which explains why it’s so easy to make an impulse buy online and more difficult to put money away for our retirement.
Instant gratification has infiltrated every area of our lives. We don’t want to wait to achieve our long term goals any more than we want to wait for our delayed bubble tea delivery.
The benefit of connecting to our future selves
Visualisation helps us connect to our future selves and refocus our financial decisions.
When we’re disconnected from our future, present-focused decision making becomes our default setting. This is when we might see things we want to spend money on and get flooded with all the emotional benefits of spending that money now.
Creating vision-based goals gives our brains an alternative focus when we’re flooded with dopamine-hungry energy, and brings us back down to earth by questioning ‘is that decision really worth moving further away from these goals’?
3 tips to use visualisation in your money management and financial goal setting
Here are three ways to start incorporating visualisation techniques into your money management:
1. Create a vision board for your financial goals
Vision boards are much more than just an aesthetic Pinterest craze. When done correctly, a vision board can help you connect more deeply to your values and what you want from life.
A vision board of what your short- and long-term goals look like in the context of your life can help when you’re tempted to stray from your budget.
2. Record audio of your goals
If you’re an audio person, recording yourself speaking out your goals and the things you want to achieve can help build your visualisation muscle.
You can create a daily practice of listening to your goals while visualising why they matter to you, and gently reprogram your brain to focus on behaviours that are conducive to achieving them.
3. A word, phrase or mantra you can call to mind to modify your behaviour
Coming up with a phrase, a mantra or an image you can call to mind when faced with financial decisions can help you leverage the benefits of visualisation.
Some people set a ‘word for the year’ – a word that encapsulates what they want the year ahead to represent.
You can do the same for your money, using a word or phrase that’s significant to you and when you find yourself wanting to spend money impulsively or engage in behaviours that deviate from your goal, recall the word or phrase to help bring your mind back to a rational state.