As a therapist who has been practicing for more than 20 years, I have developed a healthy respect for self-fulfilling prophecy. Over and over, I’ve seen that if we anticipate an outcome, life is more likely to unfold that way because our thoughts precede our behaviors. As author Wayne Dyer said, “Our intention creates our reality.”
For this reason, I make a vision board every New Year’s. I’ve found sometime during the first week or two of the year is the perfect time to reflect and thoughtfully envision what you would like to welcome into your life in the year to come. In my practice, I recognize that many of us set our own ceilings with self-limiting beliefs or “small thinking.” So when making a vision board, I encourage each of us to open ourselves up to receiving all that is good into our lives.
Through the creation of a vision board, we are putting thought and energy into things we would like to experience in the new year—perhaps it is more self-care, travel, career success, relationship connection, inner peace, love or friendship.
As we do this, we may become more clear on what our heart desires. Personally, I have sometimes been surprised by themes that emerged from vision boards made from previous years (i.e. a clear desire for solitude, a comfortable home, connection with girlfriends, etc.) Sometimes I have been interested in what hasn’t been represented on my vision board (if I am spending so much of my time on my work, why is that not represented anywhere on my board? Perhaps it’s more leisure that I truly need…)
Our vision boards help us begin to expand our thinking if we ask ourselves, “What would I want in my life if I had a magic wand?” By expanding our thinking, we start to increase our belief systems around what could be attainable. For if you do not believe you will ever achieve something, you most certainly won’t. We must be able to envision a greater life for ourselves before we can begin to take the steps to make that a reality.
Over the past several years, I have made a vision board each January. Some years I have made a single board, while other years I made one for my personal life and one for my career aspirations. Each year, I have been amazed by the experience—what I learn about myself and how it opens me up to new possibilities. The exercise helps me develop a vision that I can refer to throughout the year, making sure I stay on the path of my heart’s desire. I have made them with colleagues at a workshop, with girlfriends over a glass of wine, with one of my kids, and on my own in reflective solitude.
This year, my husband and I plan to make them together with our children (ours range in age from 12 to 21, but this really is an activity that anybody over age 5 can enjoy.) Vision boards can be a wonderful family activity that is an opportunity to unplug from technology and learn about your children’s dreams (as parents, it is so important that we support both their gifts and challenges, as discussed in my previous article.) You can each make your own and/or you can make one together to develop a shared vision of the future (perhaps including images, words or symbols of things you enjoy together.)
The following are my recommendations for making a vision board:
- Gather supplies. Large poster board is my preference, but smaller poster board or even standard letter size paper can work. Magazines that reflect a range of interests (sports, yoga, travel, people, animals, etc.) work best, but if you can always print images off the computer or draw if you are artistic. You will need scissors to cut out images and glue sticks, glue, or tape to adhere them to your board. Sites such as Pinterest can be used to create a vision board, but it is so easy to become distracted that creating one with physical supplies is my preference.
- Set aside a block of time. An hour and a half seems optimal, certainly no less than one hour. It is preferable to do it in one sitting, if possible (rather than coming back to it at different points, which decreases the likelihood it will be finished, and may make for a more scattered experience.) Create a reflective ambiance. Play relaxing music. Light some candles. Spread out on the floor or at a large table. Pour yourself a tea or perhaps a glass of wine.
- Practice mindfulness to prepare yourself. Take a few minutes to bring your attention to your breath and to the present moment through deep breathing exercises or a meditation practice. Relax your body through some stretches, a short yoga practice, or progressive muscle relaxation. Become rooted in the here and now.
- Set your intention for your vision board. For example, “I welcome all that is good in the New Year” or “This is the year I welcome the love I deserve” or “I really want to have more fun –or be healthier–this year.” Reflect on this intention to yourself or discuss it with others if in a group, and if desired.
- Silence your inner critic and open yourself to abundance. Do not talk yourself out of selecting any images to which you feel drawn. Aim high–the sky is the limit!
- Select your images. Keeping your meditative state, sift through your materials and select or create pictures, images, or words that symbolize all that you welcome (for example, you might select an airplane or a suitcase to represent travel, or a hug to represent support, etc.)
- Adhere your images to your board. Free yourself from judgement and remember that there is no right or wrong. Your vision board is yours and is exactly as it should be. Fill the board if you can, but it’s also okay if you don’t. You might also put images on the back or on an additional page or poster.
- Reflect on your vision board. Notice any themes or patterns. Pay attention also to what is not included. Discuss with others if you feel comfortable doing so. The more you can voice what it is that you desire, the closer you are to making your dream your reality.
- Live your life in a way that supports your vision. Part of self-care is tending to our own needs, dreams and desires. Let your vision board be your compass. Take a photo of your vision board and consider having it as the wallpaper for your phone or computer. Print out a photo of it and look at it during your daily meditations or before journaling. Look at it at least once per month and watch your life unfold in new and amazing ways.
“Become aware of what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it.” ~Meister Eckart