I’ve written before that I’m a huge fan of vision boards. I believe the process of making a vision board and then putting it somewhere where you see it on a regular basis somehow speaks to our subconscious in a way that both helps us believe our dreams are possible and keeps our mind thinking about ways to make them happen. I also think that – maybe, just maybe – there’s a little bit of magic involved. Who am I to say there’s not? After all, I’ve certainly had some major success using vision boards in my life. As I reflect back on the boards I’ve made in some past years, I’ve actually accomplished or achieved most, if not all, the items on those boards, including marrying the love of my life which turned out to be the biggest and happiest surprise of them all.
That’s why I was so disappointed in my 2016 Vision Board! I made it quickly at the end of 2015 and with the attitude that I was a vision board expert who didn’t need to review and commit to the process. So I went through some magazines, surfed the Internet, cut out some images that represented my goals for 2016, slapped them on poster board and hung it on a wall in my bedroom.
And nothing happened! For me, getting through 2016 was like slogging through a messy, pointless hike. I made it to the end of the year, but there was no joy in the journey, no sense of purpose and ease. And I didn’t accomplish a single goal I put up on my vision board.
So, when this new year rolled around, I stopped to take some time to look at 2016 and figure out what I could have done differently to make the year easier. When I thought about my vision board, I realized I skipped a few steps that I usually follow when I create vision boards and that really affected the whole process for me.
Here are five things I realized that I did last year that kept my vision board from being a success. If you’ve ever wondered why your vision boards don’t work as magically as they seem to for other people, these tips will help you make a more effective vision board.
1. Focusing on Goals Rather Than Feelings
This is the biggie! Last year, I focused on straight-forward images that represented the goals I wanted to achieve: I want to lose weight, I want to run a 5K, etc. But it’s really important to remember that we’re actually looking for the feelings we think we’ll have when we accomplish those goals. That way, we can already get a jump start on achieving our desired emotions when we look at the board and we leave ourselves open to reaching these emotions in a way other than we could envision.
For example, I used to put all these pictures of different houses I wanted to live in on my vision boards. The types of living spaces changed over the years, but looking back I see that they always had the same theme: spaces that evoke a serene and contented feeling. So when I walked into the house I live in now, I knew instantly this was the place for us because that’s exactly how it made me feel.
So this year, instead of looking for images to represent the things I wanted, I spent a lot of time flipping through magazines and paying attention to what images I responded to. For example, I kept being drawn to an ad for the Today show that showed the hosts cooking on-air. I have no desire to be featured on the Today show giving cooking tips. (And believe, no one else wants that either.) But somehow, this image represents how I want to feel while I’m working: engaged, happy, and creative. It makes me happy and fills me with energy when I look at it. Last year’s images simply reminded of what I wasn’t doing or what wasn’t happening.
This doesn’t mean you can’t include images of physical things you want to own. There’s nothing wrong with desire! Just let the image remind of you of how you’d feel if you had that object. I did find that this year, when I strongly focused on feelings rather than goals, I ended up not choosing any images that represented items I wanted to own. I also, for the first time, didn’t end up with any images that presented the fifteen pounds that I’m always trying to lose. The images I did choose, instead, represented the woman I want to continue to become: strong and happy in her own skin.
2. Not Being Clear on What Would Make You Happy
If you’re going to focus on the way you want to feel, then you need to be clear on how you want to feel. That’s obvious, right? But it can actually be a bit tricky. We all want to feel happy, but happiness feels like different things to different people. It can even feel differently to you at different times of your life. Sometimes happiness can feel like relaxing by the beach without a care in the world. Other times it can feel like working hard for a cause you believe in. The key is to identify just how happiness feels for you right now.
One thing that helped me to become clear on what happiness feels like for me right now was to sit down and write out what my ideal typical day would look like, starting from waking up. When and how do I want to want to wake up? How do I want to feel when I wake up? Do I want to feel relaxed and at ease, for example, or excited and ready to get going? I wrote out my entire day, focusing on what I wanted to be doing and why that would make me happy.
It was only after I completed that exercise and became really clear about my desired feelings that I started to start to look for images that evoked the same emotions.
3. Rushing the Process
Last year, I sat down one afternoon, tore through a bunch of magazines, pasted a few pictures on my posterboard and called it a day. This year, I took more time – a lot more time! I’ve only just now finished my vision board and I started working on it over a month ago. This year, I spent a lot of time thinking and journaling about my intentions for this year and for my life in the next few years.
I also made a list of what Martha Beck calls “Wildly Improbable Goals” and actually wrote them on the posterboard before I glued down a single image. Then I covered up what I had written with very carefully chosen images so my goals felt secret and special. That’s not something you need to do, but it helped make my vision board feel very personal to me. It’s holding secrets for me. You can’t get much more intimate than that.
4. Keeping a Vision Board that No Longer Resonates
About halfway through last year. I realized that looking at my vision board only made me feel disappointed and frustrated. That’s not the right energy for manifesting your desires! I should have realized that vision boards don’t have to be the once a year exercise I typically engage in. Instead, I’ll notice how I feel when I look at my board and make a new one when I notice the old one has stopped working for me.
That doesn’t have to mean that the vision board wasn’t a success, by the way. A vision board can work so well that you outgrow it before the year is up. I’m looking forward to redoing my current board sometime in 2017 because I’ll look at it one day and realize that I’ve achieved what I want to from this board and I’m ready to expand even further.
5. Forgetting to Look at the Board
There seem to be two schools of thoughts regarding what you should do with your completed vision board. Some people say that it’s best to hide the board away so it can work its magic but I like placing the board somewhere I can see it almost as soon as I wake up. For me, that’s usually my bathroom or bedroom wall. In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes how simply reading a list of negative or positive words can affect a person’s behavior immediately afterward. Looking at your vision board first thing in the morning helps you start your day with powerful positive images and it’s even more helpful with some positive phrases to sink into your subconscious as you start the day.
I also think that hanging your board where it might be seen by others conveys a powerful message. It says, “This is what I want for me and I’m not ashamed to let you see it because there is nothing wrong with wanting these things or feeling I deserve them.” That’s a great way to help overcome one of the largest barriers to vision board success: feeling you don’t deserve the things you want.
Bonus Tip: Here’s a Way to Super-Charge Your Vision Board’s Power
I’ve made two wildly successful, can’t believe this actually worked!, vision boards in my life and I made them both at a Vision Board Party, where we all came together, listened to music, shared images and craft supplies and created our vision boards. At the end – and actually all throughout the party – each participant shared their board with everyone else and explained what the board meant to them. The very act of coming together as a group raises the energy around your board exponentially because you are all operating on the same positive energy. And having someone hear your wildest dreams and tells you that they’re not crazy and that you can definitely achieve them; well, that’s an amazing way to overcome any resistance you may have around your dreams and break through any “I’m not good enough for this” barriers you may have.
If you can’t find enough like-minded people for a Vision Board party, completing your board with even one other person is enough to make your own board much more powerful. In fact, if you simply gather the courage to show and explain your board to a supportive friend, you’ll increase the power of your board significantly.
I consider you guys to be my supportive friends, so why don’t I go first? Here’s my vision board for 2017.
It represents three desires that are very to of mind for me. Two of these desires may seem conflicting: a desire for more adventure in my life and a wish for more ease in my life. But they’re actually not conflicting at all because I’ve been feeling all too often lately that my day-to-day life is both too dull and too hard. I’m looking to change that in 2017.
And my third desire is to become a part of a community of supportive, like-minded women who will perhaps help me see ways I can meet my first two desires and provide an outlet where I can feel like I’m helping others grow and making a difference in the world. Midlife Rambler has already introduced me to so many amazing women and made me hungry to get more involved and active in the work I see them doing. That’s a desire I’m already pursuing ardently.
So what about you, fellow amazing woman? Do you have a vision board you’d like to share? Or just wild goals that you want to speak out loud? I can’t wait to hear them.