If you’re anything like me, you love a fresh start. I always see the start of a new year as the perfect opportunity to realign myself on my path towards my dreams. As I discuss in Chapter 3 of my book, Dream Big! How to Reach for Your Stars, there are various resources that can help you stay on track towards reaching for your own Mars. For me, visualizing my dreams and goals has been key to reaching them. Visualization has also been scientifically proven to be an effective mental practice! To nerd out a bit: studies have actually shown that visualizing doing something stimulates the part of your brain that would control that certain action, and can actually help you get better at a physical action–just by “practicing” it with visualization!
One of the ways I have found to be most effective in practicing visualization is making a vision board. Vision boards help with motivation and are a fun and creative way to tap into the benefits of visualization to pursue your dream! Drawing from my own experience, I’ve laid out some tips to make an inspiring, personalized vision board to make this year the most rewarding one ever!
Making Your Vision Board
Find the Materials for Your Vision Board
First, decide whether you want a physical or digital vision board. I’d choose based on what medium is the most effective for inspiring you! Personally, I find that I am more engaged and inspired when working with a physical product rather than a digital one. But my way won’t necessarily be most effective for you! Once you’ve decided on physical vs. digital, you can start putting it together.
For a physical vision board, I’d recommend a poster board or a cork bulletin board as the base. These are great options because they are designed to hang easily on a wall, and they make it simple to move, add, or remove items as your vision changes (which it inevitably will!). You will also need push-pins, glue, or other products to attach items to your board.
Once you have your base, begin to fill it with images, words, memorabilia, photographs, and any other visuals that you feel both depict yourself and your particular dreams. This is the fun part! I like to find free images online and print them off; you can also cut them out of a magazine, newspaper, do your own drawings, or take your own photographs! Use your best fancy handwriting to put your favorite quotes or mantras on the board, or you can always type them up on a computer and print them out if you prefer. I have also enjoyed cutting out letters from magazines and glueing them onto paper to make a unique and eye-catching quote for my board! Feel free to also add fun extras like stickers, glitter, or ribbon–this is YOUR vision board, so have fun with it!
For a digital vision board, you can easily find and download images online using Pinterest, Instagram, stock image sites, or just searching Google. If you have any drawings or photographs from your own life, you can scan them and upload them to your computer to add to your digital board–this will help make it even more personalized to you! (Tip: The iPhone notes app has a great scanning feature that works really well and is free!) Then, you can use a digital app or software to put your vision board together. Personally, I love Canva as a beginner-friendly option with lots of pre-made templates. They have one for desktop backgrounds that are great for vision boards! If you’re more advanced and tech-savvy, Photoshop can give you increased capabilities and customization.
Now that you know HOW to put together your vision board, let’s talk about what to include.
Making a Vision Board: Reflect About What Inspires You!
The point of a vision board is to help motivate you to work towards your goals through the daily practice of visualization. Fill your board with words and images that inspire you to keep working towards those dreams! I like to keep a 50:50 ratio of both long-term and short-term goals on my vision board.
For long-term goals, think of your ultimate goal. For me, if you didn’t already know, my long-term goal is to be an astronaut and the first person on Mars. So for my vision board, I might put a photo of an astronaut on Mars (with an expertly photo-shopped job of my face on it!). Your long-term goals may be attaining a certain occupation, receiving an award, or having a particular life experience. Whatever you are working towards, get images that remind you of that goal to add to your board!
Next you will want to include short-term goals that will help reinforce your plan towards your long-term goals and dreams. For me, some current short term goals include gaining more scientific research experience, preparing for graduate school, and attaining advanced pilot certifications, so an image that I might use would be a scientist huddled over a microscope in a lab at Harvard.
Other examples of short-term goals could be getting a great grade in a certain class or getting an internship! You might include a past report card that shows the great grades you’ve received in the past, or the application for the internship you want. Whatever your particular short-term goals are, putting them on your vision board can help to continuously give you a sense of accomplishment and progress towards your goals, because you’ll be able to check those things off more frequently than the long-term goals.
Welcome Variety on Your Vision Board!
Your vision board does NOT have to be solely about one topic. While it’s typical to focus on your career or one specific dream, happiness in life is about balance between work, family, friends, and other experiences. Therefore focusing only on your career and one big dream and not growing other areas of your life is not recommended. For me personally, I include my other pursuits such as dance, music, friendships, and travel–and not just space travel! What small things in your day-to-day life inspire you? Do you love waking up and having a cup of coffee every morning? Do you love taking walks in the woods? Do you live with a pet you love? Is there a show or series you geek out about (Star Wars for me!)? To quote the great Marie Kondo, when you look at the images on your vision board, “Do they spark joy?” The answer should be a resounding “Yes!” to everything you include.
Also, don’t be afraid to stray away from images and get creative! Consider putting in some inspirational phrases or words that will help keep you motivated–if you’re a geek like me, you might even put a math equation or the periodic table of elements! And don’t forget your emotions; One good tip is to think of what you want to feel, not just what you want. This mixture of words and images, feelings and hard goals, will help keep your vision board exciting to you, and also represent you as the complex, delightfully well-rounded person you are!
Make Your Vision Board Personal!
This is YOUR vision board so really take the chance and make it your own! Have fun putting your name on it in a cool font, adding in pictures of yourself (this can include amateur photoshopping of your head onto say, an astronaut), and making it fit your personality!
Style the vision board after your own aesthetic. What are your favorite colors? What’s your favorite font? Are you more serious and chill or bright and colorful? Choose what makes you happy and what will motivate you the most. Resist the temptation to worry about what others will think when they see it–its purpose is to inspire YOU, not anyone else! And chances are when others see you being unapologetically yourself and chasing your wild dreams, they will be inspired by your authenticity!
Incorporate Your Vision Board Into Your Everyday Routine
Put in Plain Sight
Now that you have your vision board, use it! Put it somewhere that you will see it often and on a regular basis. As the vision board is meant to motivate you, a great way to incorporate it into your routine is to put it near your workplace. For a physical vision board, that could be the desk in your room where you do your homework, the studio where you practice your art, or even the cozy corner where you like to sit and dream. For a digital one, you could make it the wallpaper of your phone, or the backdrop of your computer. If you keep your vision board nearby when you need a slight boost of motivation you can look right up, see your vision board, and keep going!
There is scientific evidence that visualization works (and you know that if science backs it, then I am going to geek out about it!) ! Big dreamers and doers, from Olympic athletes to Fortune 500 CEOs, use vision boards to help them accomplish their big dreams. This is one easy thing you can do today to start stepping forward to dream big and move the needle forward towards reaching for your very own Mars (whatever that may be). Over time, you’ll become more and more confident that your dreams are real and will start to believe in yourself in achieving them.
Feel Free to Change
Finally, it’s totally normal for your visions, goals, and dreams to change over time. As your year (and your life!) progresses, feel free to add new images or take old ones down. I’ve known I wanted to be an astronaut from a young age, but some of the biggest steps of my life (like publishing my first book!) have been more recent additions to my vision board! Remember, this board is all about what you want, what makes you happy, and what motivates you to keep moving forward in your life, so design it however you like, and don’t be afraid to change it up or even start over as you find yourself growing and your dreams evolving.
With the new year underway, it’s a great time to start thinking about our goals for 2021–and beyond! Making a vision board can provide great practice in goal-setting. Furthermore, using vision boards as a daily tool for visualization can have powerful and positive long-term effects on your determination and motivation. Especially if you’re not feeling optimistic about the future, vision boards can help shift your attitude by putting something in front of you to remind you of all the things you can look forward to.
Lastly, they are a great way to express yourself and stay in tune to the way your desires and goals are changing. I hope you’re all able to live out 2021 strong and not only accomplish a lot, but believe in yourself and the future you will one day have–I believe in you, too!
For more information on how to accomplish your dreams check out my book “Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars” here. With the tips, strategies, and stories included, you can replace your feelings of fear and uncertainty when looking at your dreams with ones of positivity, determination, and passion!