Back when Carrie Ann and I were working on her first piece on advice for creating a vision board, I was impressed by her love for the process and her investment in the meaning of creating a board like this. She said it wasn’t an attempt to magically manifest things out of thin air, but rather an exercise to make yourself focus on what you want out of life, and create a reminder for yourself. We thought it would be an interesting experiment if I took what I learned from her and used it to make my own vision board.
I’ve never done a vision board before. A lot of the time I feel like I’m allergic to spending time deeply reflecting on myself, and I’m terrible at knowing what I want. I’m still trying to work myself out of a long-ingrained mindset that time spent only on myself is time wasted; I’ve also had a career path that has rarely, if ever, gone the way I planned. Because I’ve never been great at visual design, I have to admit I was also honestly afraid it was going to turn out ugly. I knew this was going to be an interesting exercise, and despite these potential challenges I was excited to see what the process would teach me.
In general I’ve never been much of a visual processor and I’m much more likely to write things down in bulleted lists when I’m trying to figure them out. The closest thing to a vision board I’ve ever made is some collages, so I tried to approach the board the same way. When I collage, I flip through a lot of magazines and cut out any images or words I find interesting or even funny and keep them in a box. Anytime I create a new collage I go to the box and that’s where connections between the random words and images start to arise.
With this project, though, I knew my approach had to be different because intentionality is the whole point of a vision board. I would have to decide what kind of themes were going to be a part of it before I started hunting for images. I sat down and thought about what I wanted from this year. In past years I think this would have looked a lot more external; thinking about the kind of relationships I wanted, a new apartment, a career I enjoy, but this year my biggest desires were all internal. I wanted to be stronger, happier, more at ease with myself, more confident in my passions and choices. “Strength” was a word that I kept repeating as I looked for images, as well as “happiness” and “confidence.” As I began my search, I kept a lot of Carrie Ann’s advice in mind: look for more vibes than specifics when perusing images, remember to make space for the things in life you’re already grateful for, and above all do whatever feels right to you.
As I started flipping through magazines, images of strong women kept catching my eye. “Ideally, I would be like this,” I thought. A photograph of Georgia O’Keefe photographing wilderness struck me. “I want to pursue my creative ventures like this.” Jane Fonda brandishing a pistol in her role as a cowgirl in an old movie. Lauren Bacall refusing to shave her armpits back in the 50s. Emma Stone portraying Billie Jean King who fought every day to be no less than exactly who she was. Each one has something I find aspirational and it became clear they were going to be a big part of my vision board. I even found a big photo of a local politician whose campaign had inspired me and reminded me the difference that individuals can make even in the face of huge systemic issues.
While I had planned a good bit before diving in, there were things I hadn’t planned to look for that also started making it into the clippings box. Almost every photo of a scenic hotel view or a sunny beach or a European skyline also called to me. I don’t think I realized how much I missed travel this past year and it’s something I hope for more than anything in the coming year. I printed out a photo I took at the Joshua Tree Airbnb I worked out of for a few weeks last summer as a reminder that just because I can’t book a trip to Rome yet doesn’t mean I can’t keep finding little adventures wherever I am.
In general I’m more of a detail-oriented person than a big picture thinker which means, especially this past year, I’ve often found myself preoccupied with a constant to-do list and bogged down with a never ending bevy of worries. As I started putting together my vision board, I realized how nice it was to take a break from the worries of the present and put all my focus and energy into visualizing an ideal future.
I found myself collecting little blocks of words or quotes that I thought were powerful and eventually realized that they would make an entire section. Finally, I saved one corner of my vision board just for things that make me happy. A photo of a hairless cat I follow on Instagram, a sketch of Dodger Stadium, a picture I took at my favorite plant shop, Tony Shalhoub at the Golden Globes. I thought it was important to remember how many little things a day bring a smile to my face. Just because they’re little doesn’t make them less important to me.
I really liked my finished vision board. When I look at it it gives me the impression of strength, confidence, spontaneity, humor— all things I find in myself at my best times. I think coming out of a different year where we hadn’t all lost so much I might have been looking for different things than simple open skies and a sense of resilience, but here and now I think it represents exactly what I need from (and hope for) myself and the world in the coming year.
If you’ve never done a vision board because you, like me, don’t consider yourself a big picture visionary or a visual processor or you’re unsure about the benefits it could bring, I’d encourage you to try it out. As someone who usually works with words it was freeing to not feel like I had to come up with a verbal explanation for every image I chose; I could focus more on creating a little world out of visuals and vibes and see new connections and themes emerging that would never have occurred to me outright. It was great to get access to a new outlet and spend some time thinking deeply about my own wants and needs for the coming year as well as the parts of myself that I want to encourage and grow. If you’re ever feeling stuck, stagnant, or unsure where to put your energy, creating a vision board might be a great low-stress way to start answering some of those questions for yourself.