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Do Vision Boards Really Work? What you need to know about creating one for 2021!

Ready to let go of "dumpster fire 2020" & create a vision for 2021? Here's how!

The end of this dumpster fire year, 2020, is coming, not a day too soon. Strangely, I found myself today at the dollar store buying poster board, glue, and all the fixings to make a 2021 vision board. Five years ago, I had stopped making my yearly vision board for various reasons. The main reason was that I had started using other mapping and strategy tools that were more practical and action-based. However, this year I am nostalgic and need to see images of hope and encouragement to cheer me through the next twelve months and beyond! If you are feeling the way I am and want to start envisioning a better New Year, this blog article will guide you through the process.

Do Vision Boards Really Work?

The Bad

Vision boards have come under harsh criticism in the past. Many disbelievers correctly point out that simply wishing for new positive things to come into your life, does not make them manifest magically. Vision boards remind us of the infamous Law of Attraction and The Secret, both of which promote a superficial psycho-spiritual philosophy lacking in true accountability. 

Others point out that sports and performance research actually demonstrates that simply visualizing a successful end outcome is not enough. Rather, one must visualize the actual steps leading to the outcome in order to get to peak level performance.

Finally, before embarking on the vision board, we must realize that we are not deficient in any way. Achieving the dreams on the vision board will never equal achieving a true state of happiness. 

True, lasting happiness is an internal state, not attached to external people, objects, or events. 

It's perfectly fine to have not achieved lasting happiness yet. I'm in the same boat and working every day to flex my internal happiness muscle... all while weathering the storm that is life. 

The vision board also does not take away from the present moment and its gifts. Accepting "what is" cultivates inner peace, no matter what comes at us.  Keep in mind that if we do not achieve what is on the vision board by the end of 2021; we must be prepared to LET GO with this sense of peace... and a sense of humor!

The Good

Many of us creative people (writers, artists, designers, entrepreneurs  etc.), who are visual learners, need to see images, words, and phrases that stimulate our internal source of inspiration and imagination. We draw upon inspiration and imagination during times of quiet reflection and during active creation. A vision board anchors our work and ties together our overarching vision. 

A vision board reminds us of what is important in our lives and guides our planning, prioritization, and decision making throughout the year. 

A top paid career coach (and former psychiatrist) points out the vision board images speak directly to our subconscious minds, more powerfully than just words. Familiarizing ourselves with these images can potentially guide us toward previously unseen opportunities and paths.

Personally, over the years, I've achieved about 50-75% of my visions on the boards. For me, that was not too bad of a record...

Example of a digital vision board created using Canva

What you need to know before creating your vision board

Gather your materials ahead of time

Gather up old magazines, newspapers, and other print materials containing photos in advance. Alternately, you can create a digital vision board using design software programs and apps. You can prepare your board pieces ahead of time by cutting out or saving pictures and phrases that resonate with you.

Set Aside 1-2 hours for the entire process

This process is intentional and takes time if you truly want to vision your highest potential. 

Create a "sacred space"

Create a space where vision and inspiration can thrive. This means creating a mood conducive to deep introspection. Examples include lighting candles, spraying your favorite scent, and/or playing relaxing music. 

Connect & Ground Yourself

Take a moment to quiet your mind and connect to both your body and heart. Then, relax and ground yourself.  This can be done through many different practices, including awareness and meditation practices. For example, try these short heart-opening and grounding meditations.

Set an intention

After connecting and grounding, briefly state (either aloud or by writing in a journal) your intention for your vision board. 

What you need to consider when creating your vision board

Literal versus Symbolic

The images can be literal; for example, showing an image of camping if you envision going on a camping trip as part of 2021. The images can be symbolic; for example, selecting a picture of a caterpillar with a butterfly shadow. Consider focusing on symbolic images if your New Year intention is anchored in personal growth and self-improvement. Symbolic images might also be necessary if you do not have access to a wide variety of images and photos. 

Goals versus Emotions

Images or phrases referring to specific goals can certainly be an integral part of a vision board. However, consider how each goal makes you feel in your body and emotions. If you feel a tight knot in your stomach and a deep sense of dread viewing an image tied to your goal, this is your intuition trying to send you an important message. Reconsider the reason as to why a goal that makes you feel so bad needs to be achieved. Is it a true "Do or Die" situation? Is this someone else's dream for you and not your own? Are there fears and barriers you need to address before taking the steps to bringing this vision to fruition? 

Instead, consider vetting each image and phrase through your intuition before including it in your vision board. Images and phrases that invoke positive emotions are a priority for the board. All others need to be put aside and examined at a later time to resolve any underlying hesitancies that might block your success. 

Experiences versus personal growth

The vision board images can refer to experiences, personal growth, connection to loved ones, life changes, personal health, and/or a combination of any of these. Encouraging words and phrases can be added to cheer and motivate yourself throughout the year. 

What you need to know after creating your vision board

Keep in place where you can see it regularly

If you are like me, it is "out of sight, out of mind." So, keep it in a spot visible to you. 

Choose carefully who you share it with

Visions and dreams need to be handled with the utmost TLC. Your opinionated aunt who thinks you should have studied engineering might not be the best person to share it with. It is not meant to be shared for critique or feedback. These represent the sacred visions within your heart and anyone who you entrust must be a steward willing to support and encourage you on your path. 

If it is a goal, follow-up by constructing a plan with actionable steps

The SMART principles of goal setting (seen in the above graphic) remain valuable tools to framing your goals and planning the steps to making them a reality. 

Let go of being attached to the outcome

This presents the most difficult challenge, at least for me. The vision board needs to have a fun and lighthearted aspect to it or else things simply don't fall into place with ease. Taking it too seriously will not lead to the desired results (trust me). I learned that you can't steamroll  through your life with sheer brute force in order to achieve your visions and dreams. 

You can revise it as you go along!

Visions weren't meant to be chiseled in stone, so don't be afraid to paste another image over your original if you are being led in another direction throughout the year. 

Celebrate your success & let-go of what wasn't destined

Let's forgive ourselves if (and when) sh#t happens! 2020 goes down in history as the best example of abandoned plans. Celebrating your 2021 wins will be a MUST! At the end of the year, give yourself a small ceremony to celebrate your successes and let go of what did not come to fruition.

Good Luck & Happy Visioning! 


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Medical Students Revive Medicine’s HEART and Soul

  One-of-a-kind medical student elective celebrates its 20th anniversary