A vision board is a powerful (and fun) way to bring our deepest yearnings to life. Creating a vision board is a great activity to undertake, during the first month of the New Year especially.
I was first introduced to vision boards in my non-profit community development work back in the 90s, and honestly, I wasn’t that into it. As a community development trainer, I would ask people to imagine their ideal community; safe, vibrant, healthy, etc. and then in groups, people would cut out images from magazines and use other crafty materials, to design their Utopian community. It felt like a waste of time. Everyone already knew what an ideal community was “supposed” to have in it, so the activity revealed nothing new, it was just a reminder of how far from ideal many communities I was working with at the time, felt.
The Receptive Process
In 2011, during my coach certification training at Leadership that Works, where I now teach, I was introduced to the personal vision board activity. At first I was pretty skeptical, but I went along and was a good sport. What was different in this activity, apart from dreaming about my own personal future, was the notion of a “receptive” process. And to this day, every year, I create a vision board using the receptive process.
The receptive process invites you to forget for a moment about all your goals, all the things a fabulous 2017 is “supposed” to have it in, and just flip through magazines, images, or other materials and allow the images to choose you. You are invited to “not know” what they mean, but just to trust whatever internal reaction you are having to the image and select it. Putting on soft music in the background helps to calm your strategic brain and encourage you to let go as well. After you feel ready, or ready enough, start to display your images on a blank piece of paper or poster board. Cut and crop some of them, leave some with jagged edges, put some close together, layer some, or allow blank space in between. Slowly, the meaning of the images will reveal themselves to you, as you do this. The meaning of other images may not reveal itself until much later in the year, or subsequent years.
What happens in this process is that your unconscious, creative, right brain starts to take over and begins to guide. There is a part of all us, deep down, that knows what we need to be happy, and knows what of our special gifts are, that haven’t been fully expressed yet. And this part of us loves the language of visual metaphors to communicate this wisdom to us.
At the center of my first vision board is an image of a nude woman made of clay, arching back, completely free and uninhibited. At the bottom corner is an image of a couple in love. The expressions on their faces communicate a thousand words; intimacy, distance, admiration, rebellion, beauty, struggle and reassurance all at once. There are images of magic and deep perception, balance, doorways to other worlds, and the opportunity to offer the gift of presence to my daughter. At the time, some of this seemed perfectly clear to me, some of it was (and still is) a mystery. However, the vision board felt authentically “me” – both the “me” that I was aware of and the “me” that I was becoming.
What I Took With Me
I took with me a sense of peace. I thought a vision board might make me feel excited about the future, but actually it calmed me. In moments of doubt throughout the year, I would look at it and feel reassured that I had everything I needed inside to live the future I wanted. I felt more patient and more willing to allow the part of me who speaks through metaphors to guide. Here’s a little secret: this process was easier than “striving to reach my goals” and the results were more deep and lasting too.
A Final Word to the Skeptics
A vision board, particularly using the receptive process, is not the notion that if I put an image of what I want in my life on a board it magically appears. However, there is science (“Imagine” by John Lehrer is a good place to start) behind how selecting an image that speaks to either why that goal is important to you, or what that goal looks like actualized that motivates our psyche not to give up. It will always be up to us to put our ideas into action, we cannot delegate that power to a vision board or anything or anyone else. However, using a vision board stimulates a creative, intelligent, resourceful and wise part of us that naturally moves in the direction of growth and fullfillment.
I invite you to give it a try!
Variations on Vision Boards
1) Divide your vision board into three sections: what you are saying good-bye to, your present moment, and what you want to invite into your future. This can be especially helpful if you’ve had a shitty year and are ready to move in a new direction.
2) Have some really specific goals for 2017? That’s great! Write out your goals on your vision board and find images that represent these goals. The process of selecting the images firms up your commitment to actualize these goals.
3) Love quotes? Write out your favorite most inspirational quotes and paste images that represent these quotes next to them. (My twelve year old daughter came up with this one).
Lastly, play music in the background, take your time, and have fun!