Just as it is for most of you, the New Year is a time for me to review what I’ve done and look ahead to what I’m going to do. In the past weeks, I’ve done an annual review of 2016, I’ve decided on my new theme for 2017 (IMPACT), and I’ve set three specific over-arching goals for the year. In order to help me achieve these goals, I’ve started to work with a new coach, and in our first session I was very clear on where I wanted to focus my attention: on defining my big vision for the future, on the longer-term goals I have and how I might get from here to there. It’s impossible to achieve those goals unless I’m clear on what they are! As a result, a natural first exercise that my new coach gave me was to do a vision board.
Now a vision board, in case you’re not familiar with the idea, is simply a visual representation of what you want in your life. It’s an exercise that taps into your intuition rather than your analytical mind, which is usually in control of your thought process. The beauty of this is that you won’t get caught up in “oh but that will never happen” or “I could never do that”, “what if…” or “I’m afraid that…” The vision board is simply a collage of beautiful, inspirational images that reflect in some way your heart’s desire.
Our long-term goals are the first to suffer when we’re busy (i.e. always). The short-term stuff always gets done as the deadline looms up ahead – but what about our big dreams, our far-off plans that don’t feel urgent or even realistic right now? These dreams get put on the back-burner, left for later, as we put our heads down and continue working on the day-to-day of whatever situation we happen to find ourselves in right now. In fact, this is a factor in why we end up staying within our comfort zones, always favouring the status quo over anything big and different that would require a lot of effort on our part to make happen.
I’ve heard miraculous stories about vision boards – a man putting a picture of a house and 20 years later finding that he was living in that very house; a woman putting a picture of a partner and several years later falling in love with a man who could have been that man’s twin – and though you may choose to believe or not believe at that level, it’s clear that the exercise of imagining what you want in life can be a useful one.
I did my first vision board five years ago when I was looking out at the world from my office job in Geneva, imagining what I might do if I were to leave. I don’t think I took a photo of the board unfortunately and it’s now long gone, but I can remember very well the core themes that were on there: I had backpacking, beaches and hammocks (I was beginning to plan my sabbatical travelling across South America); I had the logos of various companies that I thought would be a better fit for me; and I had beautiful spacious houses with big windows and ocean views.
I did a second vision board after I’d quit my job, this time on Pinterest, a fully digital collection of images that inspire me. It hasn’t quite worked as a visual reminder, though, as I forget to go into my account and check it on a regular basis.
The third iteration that I’m now working on is semi-digital! I’m collecting images online and pasting them onto a Keynote slide. When I’m happy with it, I’ll be able to either put it as my desktop background (a nice idea, I thought, given the amount of time I spend on laptop!) or print it out and have it as a physical visual aid.
I’ve only just started the exercise this time round and I’ve already had some big realisations. For one thing, the images I’m putting on the board look nothing like my present situation at this very moment. There certainly aren’t any pictures on there of me sitting hunched over my laptop by myself! Where there are themes that are consistent with my previous boards, it’s clear that these areas are still important to me and I haven’t given them enough attention. Both of these realisations have given me the impetus to take action to move forwards in these areas in the coming weeks and months.
Create your own vision board
To do your own vision board, collect some magazines together – ideally with a range of topics, e.g. travel, home, fitness, lifestyle, fashion, so that you don’t end up limited by the type of pictures inside – and grab a pair of scissors, some glue and some kind of cardboard to use as a background. Plan some time when you’re alone and feeling relaxed and just flip through the magazines, cutting out the images that appeal to you. I do think this is a better way to do it than my digital approaches as it’s more tactile and creative, it’s just that with my travel in the next weeks and the fact that I don’t read magazines it felt better to do it this way! Don’t overthink it, don’t analyse why something is attractive to you right now, just do the exercise at more of an intuitive level.
Let me know if you have any big insights!