The Value of Vision Boards

The Value of Vision Boards Image by: Kyle Pearce

At the beginning of every year, most people make plans and set goals for the year ahead. It’s a great idea, because knowing where you want to go is important – How can you get there, if you don’t know where you are going?

With my sailing background, one of my favourite quotes is “If a man knows not what harbour he seeks, any wind is the right wind.” ~ Seneca ~

But a sailor does not just allow himself to be blown about the ocean. It doesn’t matter what the wind, he just resets his sails to take him in the direction he wants to go. In the same way, when you know what you want out of life, you can set your course to get there, no matter what the circumstances.

But, you need to know where you want to go… you need to have a vision!

To help you clarify your vision, it may help to create a vision board (also called a Dream Board).

What is a Vision Board?

A vision board is a collection of pictures of the things you want in life.

It is literally a large piece of paper, cardboard or other material onto which you have pasted pictures of things that inspire you and that you want to have in your life.  They can be tangible things, like the car you want to drive, or intangible things, like good health or tranquility, depicted in symbolic form. It can also include phrases like “Calm and peaceful” and numbers such as the amount of money you want to earn each month, or your goal body weight.

The idea is that you put this collection where you can see it every day. You don’t have to actually study it every day; you just have to glance at it every day.

Pictures are NOT Magic!

It is important to remember that the pictures themselves are not magic – you won’t get a Ferrari because you have a picture of it on your board! What a vision board does is focus your unconscious mind on the things you really want.

We know that what you focus on is what you get, because you make choices according to your focus. It is how advertising works. The more you see a brand the more likely you are to choose it.

By looking at your vision board every day you are more likely to choose the things on your vision board as you go about your daily life. It’s in making these choices and taking the necessary action that results in your living the life that you want!

Your Vision Board Must Come From YOUR Heart!

To really work, your vision board must come not from society’s impositions, but from your own deep and unique inner self. A vision board only works when it comes from the heart!

To help you decide what YOU want out of life, just ask yourself: “What inspires me? What puts a smile on my face and makes life worth living? What do I really enjoy doing?” You can also think about your hopes and dreams. Then find pictures and phrases that will represent these things for you.

Imagine you are at Your own Funeral

Another powerful way of deciding what you want out if life is to imagine that you are at your own funeral and to ask yourself:

  • “What would I like to hear my relatives say about me and my role in the family?”
  • “What would I like my friends to say about me? What did I mean to my friends?”
  • “What would I like my colleagues to say about me and what I achieved in my career?”
  • “What do I want people in general to say about me and my life?”

That’s what vision is – it’s knowing what other people will say about you at your funeral.

Do you know your vision? Are you living that vision? Is it your vision?

How Does a Vision Board Work?

As I mentioned already, what you focus on is what you get…your thoughts create your reality.

This is not a new concept - you have heard it all your life. Remember when you were learning a ball game? If you wanted to catch the ball or hit it with your bat or racket, you were always told to “watch the ball”, but when you were trying for a goal, you were told to look at the goal, not the ball. In other words, what you focus on is what you get.

Listening to musicians at a concert has the same effect – what you focus on is what you get. Have you ever listened to an orchestra playing a piece of music? If you have, you may have noticed that when you look at the orchestra as a whole you hear the music as one whole piece. But if you focus your sight on one musician playing one instrument, for example the flute, you will hear the sounds of the flute over the rest of the music. As you move your gaze from one instrument to the next, the sound of the instrument you are focusing on comes to the foreground.

So when you focus on the things that YOU really want in life, they will come to the foreground of your conscious mind. You will then notice the opportunities that come your way and choose them.

Of course the element of action is vital. No matter how much you visualise obtaining your degree Cum Laude, you are not going to achieve that without doing the work! And no matter how much you imagine crossing the finish line of a marathon, you won’t actually finish unless you have done the required running and fitness training and have the correct running shoes etc.

Visualising and dreaming are wonderful tools. They give us direction, inspiration and motivation. But dreaming and visualizing alone won’t get the job done. It is the combined effect of vision and action that results in your living the life you have chosen.

What you Focus on is What you get!

What you focus on is what you get. It doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive – you will get it.

Ever said to yourself, “I mustn’t forget my…glasses?” and then promptly forgotten them? Why? Because your focus was on forgetting. Try saying, “I will remember my… glasses” and visualise yourself picking them up - and see what happens.

Have you ever wondered how it is that a car can crash into the one and only tree on the entire road? I mean why couldn’t it just miss the tree?  I will tell you why – imagine this….

A man is driving down the road. The road is pretty straight and he is going fast. He notices one big tree on the side of the road, up ahead, but he doesn’t think anything of it. Suddenly his car hits an oil slick and he starts to lose control. Immediately he looks at the tree and thinks: “Oh, oh, oh, I mustn’t hit the tree, I mustn’t hit the tree…” But what is he thinking? He’s thinking about the tree. Where is he looking? He’s looking at the tree. Our hands automatically follow our eyes, so in which direction does the steering wheel turn? Towards the tree. So what does he hit? The tree! What we focus on is what we get.

The idea of what we focus on is what we get is eloquently summed up in the following well known quote:

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Lao Tzu, Philosopher and poet of ancient China (Died 561BC)

How a Vision Board Worked for me – When I Wasn’t Even Trying!

I used to be skeptical about vision boards, until I realised that without even intending it, a ‘vision board’ (a poster of inspiring photographs) totally changed the course of my life. Let me tell you the story….

I will take you back some years to the afternoon I was playing Frisbee with about a dozen friends at Suncoast Beach, in Durban. We were all having a lot of fun and were enjoying being in the sun and playing around. Towards the end of the afternoon, while having a rest, one of the guys, James – a good looking, single, fun-loving guy – turned to us and said:  “Hey guys, I’ve got a great idea… let’s all get ourselves an instamatic camera (yes, it was the days before cell phone cameras) and take photos of things that inspire us. Then come round for dinner next Saturday night and share them.”

We all loved the idea. So off we went.

I am inspired by yachts – I had always wanted to go sailing. One of the best sounds in the world for me is to hear the ‘ting-ting’ of ropes (or sheets for you sailors reading this!) hitting the masts of yachts moored at a jetty. So the first place I went to was the yacht mole here in Durban. I took a few photos. My favourite photo was one of the yachts in the water. Picture it…

The sun is setting behind me. It is a deep orange ball. There are two rows of yachts going off diagonally to the left in the photo frame with the orange sun reflecting off the dark water between them.

I created two ‘inspirational posters’ with my photos and went to the dinner. It was an amazing evening and when I got home I didn’t want to just discard my posters, so I put them up. Because I didn’t have any suitable wall space, I put them on the inside of my cupboard doors where I keep my clothes. I saw those photos every day.

If you told me then, that soon I would give up my successful private practice and my wonderful lecturing job at a private university, I would have laughed, and said you were a fool, but that’s exactly what happened. Three years later I was working on privately owned, luxury yachts in the Mediterranean!

When I realized the impact of my inspirational posters, I had already worked for a season each in the Seychelles and the Mediterranean. As it was winter in the Mediterranean I had returned to South Africa and was going to join a new yacht in the South of France the following summer. Before I had left France I had taken some photos of the yacht mole in Antibes where I was going to be based that following summer. As I was showing my friend the photos I suddenly realized that the photo I was showing him was almost an exact replica of my favourite photo on the poster on my cupboard door. The yachts were much larger and more expensive, and the sun was much weaker, but otherwise the photos were the same. I realised then with absolute awe that I was living my inspiration!

 A vision board works when it comes from the heart!

Of course I didn’t jump from photos on my poster to sailing on privately owned luxury yachts in the Mediterranean. There was a process of action that came in between. Simplified the process went something like this:

  • Looking at the yacht photos everyday enabled me to pay attention to the sailing holiday stories told to me by the lady (Val) in the picture framing shop I visited.
  • Listening to her stories inspired me to start sailing.
  • Researching and booking myself on a sailing course gave me the opportunity to hear about a stewardess job on offer.
  • Making the decision to go for an interview enabled me to join a yacht for 6 months.
  • Joining the yacht gave me the opportunity to sail around the islands of the Seychelles.
  • Being in the Seychelles enabled me to experience the super yacht industry.
  • Experiencing the super yacht industry and my 6 month experience on yachts gave me the basic skills and motivation I needed to take working on yachts further.
  • And so it went on….

Inspiration and visualization on its own is not enough. You have to take the action to make it happen!

A Few Things to Note About Vision Boards

When it comes to vision boards there is only one rule - it must come from your heart. You create it as you want it, to depict the things YOU want in your life. There are no other rules.

The following points are ideas to think about when it comes to vision boards:

  • Use only words and images that best represent your vision and purpose, and words that inspire positive emotions in you. The purpose of your vision board is to bring everything on it to life.
  • Keep it simple and uncluttered. Be selective about what you put on your vision board. Too many images and too much information will be hard to focus on.
  • Each area of our lives affects the other, so starting with one central vision board to depict goals and dreams in all areas of your life usually makes sense, but you can use your vision board to depict one specific area in your life that you are focusing on (e.g. career), or even one event in your life (e.g. your wedding day).  You don't have to cover each area exactly the same.

There are many different ways to categorise the various areas. For example:

  • Physical / mental / social / spiritual / emotional / financial
  • Personal life / work Life
  • Relationships / education / health / travel
  • Specific events – graduation / wedding / promotion / sports event
  • If you are working on visualizing and creating changes in many areas of your life, then you may want to use more than one vision board. You might use one for your personal life and another for your work life. You might even want to keep your work vision board at the office or on your desk as a means of inspiration and affirmation while you work.
  • Include your daily affirmations in your vision board.
  • Choose to handwrite your affirmations instead of typing them. There is something special about actually handwriting; it has a different brain process than typing.
  • Recreate your vision board whenever it feels right. As you continue to grow, evolve and expand, your dreams and vision will too, so remove, add and rearrange as necessary. Many people do this in December to get a clear idea of what they want in the New Year.
  • You might want to keep you old vision boards. They chronicle not only your dreams, but your growth and achievements.

How to Make a Vision Board

What You'll Need:

  • Any kind of board: a sheet of cardboard (cut up a big box from a supermarket if you have to!), poster board, pin board, cork board, wood framed board etc.
  • Scissors, tape, pins, and/or glue to put your board together.
  • The images, quotes and sayings you want to put on your vision board. You can get these from many sources such as: magazines, brochures, the internet, photographs, postcards, just about anything that will inspire you.
  • Coloured markers, stickers, or anything else you can think of to embellish your vision board.
  • Time. Give yourself time to put your board together. It does not need to happen in one session. Looking for the images and quotes can take place over a few days or weeks. But I recommend when you get to put it all together and actually create your vision board, do it in one sitting.

What to do:

There are three types of Vision Boards and each is created in a slightly different way.

 The 'I Know Exactly What I Want' Vision Board

Do this vision board if:

  • You’re very clear about your desires.
  • You want to change your environment or surroundings.
  • There is a specific thing you want to manifest in your life (for example a new home, or playing a musical instrument).

How to make a vision board if you know exactly what you want:

With your clear desire in mind, set out looking for the exact pictures which portray your vision. For example, if you want a house by a river, then start by looking in property magazines and on property websites. If you want to learn to play the violin, then find that picture.

Following the six steps below, create your vision board out of these images.

The 'Opening and Allowing' Vision Board

Do this vision board if:

  • You’re not sure what exactly you want (for example, you have a vague vision of what you want, but you are uncertain about it in some way).
  • You know you want change, but don’t know how to do it.
  • You’ve been in a period of depression or grief & bereavement,

How to make a vision board if you’re not quite sure what you want:

Go through each magazine. Tear out images that strike or delight you. Don’t ask why. Just keep going through the magazines. If it’s a picture of a cute toy monkey that makes you smile, then pull it out. If it’s a cottage in the hills, then tear it out too. Just have fun and be open to whatever strikes you.

Then, as you go through step four below, hold that same openness, but ask yourself “What does this picture mean to me?”; “What is it telling me about me?” Does it mean you need to eat more healthily? Does it mean you want to get a dog, or stop hanging out with a particular person who drains you? Most likely you’ll know the answer. If you don’t, but you still love the image, then put it on your vision board anyway. It will have an answer for you soon enough.

The 'Theme' Vision Board

Do this vision board if:

  • If you are working with one particular area or event in your life. For example your career or your wedding day.

How to make a vision board for a theme:

The only difference between this vision board and the others is that this one has clear parameters and intent. Before you begin, take a moment to hold the intent and the theme in your mind. When you choose pictures, they will be in alignment with the theme.

You may be able to do the Theme Vision Board on a smaller board.

You can use a combination of all three types of vision boards as you create. Sometimes you might start out doing one kind, and then your intuition takes over and shifts into a whole different mode. That’s called creativity. It doesn’t matter how you make a vision board, once the creativity is there, just roll with it.

Six Steps to Create a Vision Board:

  1. Start by collecting magazines, brochures etc. which you will use to find images and quotes. Make sure you have a wide variety – for example women’s, men’s, gardening, car, property, finance magazines etc.
  2. Find your images and quotes.
    This can take time. Go through your magazines, brochures etc. and tear the images from them. No gluing yet! Just let yourself have lots of fun looking through magazines and pulling out pictures or words or headlines.
    Use the internet if you wish and even take photos and print them.
    Have fun with this stage.
    Make a big pile of images, phrases and words.
  3. Set the mood for relaxation and creativity.
    Give yourself a stress free hour or two.
    Clear your space.
    Turn off the TV.
    Put on beautiful instrumental music (no lyrics to distract your mind).
    If you're a social butterfly, invite you friends over and make a party out of it.
  4. Go through the pile of images, phrases and words you have collected and images and begin to lay your favourites on the board.
    Eliminate any images that no longer feel right. This step is where your intuition comes in. As you lay the pictures on the board, you’ll get a sense how the board should be laid out.
    Your vision board might change as you are making it. You might find that you have little epiphanies from making a vision board.
  5. Stick everything onto the board.
    Add writing if you want. You can paint on it, or write words with markers.
  6. Hang your vision board in a place where you will see it every day.