How to make a vision board that works!

A graphic of the 8 feng shui bagua areas with symbolic images representing their meanings, for example, a pair of birds to represent the Love & Marriage area.

There are many ways to create a vision board. Find one that inspires you.

There are many ways to make a vision board. You can tag and curate photos from Pinterest and create one on their app. There are software programs now that will help you create one on any of your devices. I’ve seen examples of people who have created multi-media vision boards with photos and video and scrolling text that they can pull up and play whenever. There is a way out there for you to create a vision board in any medium and form you like!

The key is to find one that will work for you. And, by “work for you” I mean it helps you to successfully manifest your visions!

Feng shui principles can power up your vision board.

The key that has worked for me, and my clients, is using feng shui principles to organize their vision boards.

As a feng shui practitioner, I use the principles and practices of this ancient Chinese design and placement philosophy and program – the Bagua, the 5 Elements, and yin/yang balance — to help my clients reach their goals by arranging their environments to support them. I use those same principles and practices to help my vision board workshop attendees arrange their vision boards to help them manifest their dreams.

We start our organization with the Bagua, which identifies areas of our lives and locates them in space. The Bagua areas for each of us are:

  • the journey (can be a career, life’s work or current activity)
  • self-knowledge and learning
  • health and family connections
  • wealth and prosperity
  • fame and reputation
  • love and marriage
  • creativity and children
  • connecting with others (helpful people) and travel

And they are organized in space like this:

A graphic of the 8 feng shui bagua areas with symbolic images representing their meanings, for example, a pair of birds to represent the Love & Marriage area.
Using the feng shui bagua helps to make your vision board work for you.

Your life is a multi-faceted jewel! Honor and balance it.

The Bagua helps us to place images that represent our life areas in the correct placement on the board. This helps us to intentionally honor and balance our dreams and create vision boards that are not just focused on one area of life, like a job or a romance. The board literally shows you that your life is multi-faceted, like the beautiful jewel that it is. And when we balance and harmonize all areas of our lives, we often find that the goals we hope to achieve in one area begin to manifest. This makes sense. If we get too focused on one aspect of life, a job, for instance, doesn’t something often fall through the cracks?

When we remember to be ourselves and balance our lives with work, rest and play, usually things work out. Countless books and movies express my point here. Working Girl is one of my favorites. Shy but brilliant assistant, Tess (played by Melanie Griffith) doesn’t get the big job until she starts being herself. She allows herself to enjoy the process and fall in love with Jack, (Harrison Ford) who’s already fallen in love with her. OK, you get this.

In addition to the organization of the vision board around the Bagua, I also recommend balancing the board with a variety of color, in both light and dark, and different shapes. Some folks love a vision board that has picture overlapping picture and others like space between their images.This is a personal choice. I like a board that is big enough to capture all your dreams.  I recommend a 20” x 30” (at least) vision board on a rigid poster board that you can place around your home or office to find just the right space to put it so you’ll engage with it every day. (See an example here.)

This one action is crucial.

The last and arguably most important key for how to make a vision board that works is actually looking at every day. Yep, soak up those selected images that represent your dreams, revel in them and enjoy your creation. This act alone is important because you are changing the neural pathways in your mind while you’re looking at your board. You are feeding those dreams directly into your brain, whose job is it to figure out how to make them come to life.*

Now that your board is finished, place it in an area where you’ll see it and engage with it every day. I like to stand in front of mine in what author Amy Cuddy (Presence, Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges) calls the Power Position. You may know this stance from yoga as Star pose: arms raised and reaching up and out, feet apart for support, head held high and straight ahead, focused on your masterpiece. Now that’s engagement with your board!

One of my dreams every year is to share the powerful organizing principles of feng shui and help my workshop attendees to use them to create and complete their vision boards for the year.

*For a wonderful explanation about how the brain works to do this read John Assarof and Murray Smith’s excellent book The Answer, Chapter 4, The Universe inside Your Brain. Yep, this is the same John Assarof you may have met when reading The Secret (or watching the film) who tells the story about manifesting his beautiful new home from his vision board.

A vision board is different than making resolutions or setting goals.

A completed vision board with cut out images from magazines, photos, postcards and maps placed on a white poster board organized by the 8 feng shui bagua areas.

Looking for a different way to plan and manifest a great future? Read on.

Are you a planner extraordinaire, or a goal setter and realizer, or maybe even a resolution-maker and keeper? Good for you! Have you ever done a vision board? A vision board is different than making resolutions or setting goals. Most of us have planned, set goals and made resolutions before. We have the lists to prove it! And, even if we plan, set goals and make resolutions, sometimes plans fall apart, our goals are not realistic, and our resolutions just peter out. (Witness the echo in a fitness club in February.) If our plan, goal or resolution doesn’t look like the end we had in mind, we feel bad or defeated. Worse, we compare ourselves to others and the whole process can make us feel hopeless. And we start again the next year, sometimes even by writing out the very same plans, goals and resolutions on our lists! Ouch.

Looking for a different way to plan and manifest a great future? Read on.

A vision board is a powerful picture of the year ahead.

Scheduling plans, setting goals and making resolutions are all great strategies for organizing your life and making things happen. I know that they are crucial in business and life. I encourage you to do what works for you – any or all of them! But they aren’t the only way to envision and experience the future, particularly your best future. A vision board is another way of looking at your year and it doesn’t include making to-do lists or creating Excel files or calendars that need to be updated. A vision board is visual, not verbal; artistic, not data-driven; hopeful, not admonishing — and once completed is so unique it cannot be compared to anyone else’s life!.

If I ask you which comes first, the vision board or the plan, goal or resolution, the answer is hands down: the vision board. It is your over-arching picture of your year that inspires you to take action. And that action might be to make plans, set goals and even, if you must, make resolutions.

A completed vision board with cut out images from magazines, photos, postcards and maps placed on a white poster board organized by the 8 feng shui bagua areas.
An example of a completed vision The board.

The difference is in the definition, and your brain.

These different tools that help you think about your future work with different areas of your brain (and one works with your heart). Let’s look at their differences by starting with their definitions:

Definition of a New Year’s Resolution (from Cambridge a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year.

Definition of a plan (from Oxford Living Dictionary): a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.

Definition of goal setting (from Your the process of identifying something that you want to accomplish and establishing measureable goals and timeframes. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve and ends with a lot of hard work to actually do it.

Definition of a vision board (from English Oxford Living a collage of images and words representing a person’s wishes or goals, intended to serve as inspiration or motivation. (Read my definition here.)

Here’s the thing: humans are predominately visual creatures. More than one third of our brain is devoted to processing visual information. This is far more than that devoted to understanding sound, smell, language and movement!* Vision boards use pictures; plans, goals and resolutions use words and data and much too often, pounds (as in desired weight lost).

If you want to create something new in your life,  get creative, and put those dreams on a vision board so you can actually SEE them. That’s what vision boards do differently than planning, setting goals or making resolutions.

* Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep, Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams


Why do a vision board?

Make a vision board that works.

What do you want to be when you “grow up”?

Remember when you were a little kid and knew exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up? You could always answer this question with confidence whenever asked. I’m going to be a doctor, a teacher, a veterinarian, you might have said. Then as you got older, the question got harder to answer because the world had opened up possibilities you hadn’t considered. Now maybe when asked, you just didn’t know the answer or hedged your bets. This happened to me. I changed my major three times in college. Just sayin’.

Making a vision board is one way of being able to answer that question today because hey, aren’t we all – at whatever age — still trying to figure out what we want to be when we “grow up?”  The question sounds different when asked in adult-speak and usually goes like this: What are your goals and plans for next year? Where are you going and what are you going to do? Making a vision board is a way of answering those questions for the upcoming year.

Before I tell you why I do a vision board every year, let’s start with a definition:

A vision board is a poster board or other visual tableau (bulletin board, canvas, website, photo gallery) where you place images that represent something you want to accomplish, experience, have, attain and/or places you want to visit, move to, live in and/or people you want to meet, emulate, inspire and love. The images can be literal or symbolic. You are the artist of your vision board and your life, and you create the symbolism.

Sound fun? It is. It’s all about what you want, your vision for yourself – not anybody else’s vision of you or for you.

Vision boards are about expressing your dreams in images, feeling good, being hopeful and experiencing more than you thought possible. The process of creating the board is as intentional and fun as having the finished product on your wall, your phone, or your computer screen for you to soak in all year by looking at it lovingly, joyfully, gratefully and daily. It’s a daily reminder of your life’s direction.

materials such as cut-out magazine photos on a table during a vision board workshop
Vision Board workshop attendees creating their boards.

Why do a vision board?

Why do a vision board? Because it is an act of self discovery. I create a vision board every year because:

*          I want to know myself better.

*          I want to be surprised and delighted by my own life.

*          As much as I think I know what I want in my head, my heart actually knows me best and creating a vision board is way to discover what I really want.

I create a vision board every year to discover my dreams and my heart’s desires. Our desires and our dreams speak to us in images. (Think of your actual dreams upon waking. Do you remember them in words or pictures?) Pictures express a feeling to us immediately and often instill action. The process of selecting and placing images on a poster board is a way for me to discover what is going to make me happy. When I finish my board I’m looking at a new version of myself. It is a “getting to know me” experience that I enjoy every year and look forward to the surprises awaiting me.

Find images that inspire and thrill you, or make you curious.

Certainly every year I have plans and I place those intentional plans on my board – for example, images that represent visits to my son who lives in a different city, work events that are scheduled, a continued commitment to healthy living, or a vacation. But often there are images I find in magazines or on a photo site that inspire, thrill me, make me smile or wonder; they call out to me so I put them on the board even though I’m not sure what they represent. I know I’ll find out why they are there at some point. This process of creation reminds me that while there are many things out of my control, I am in control of my thoughts and can express my feelings, beliefs, attitudes, dreams and desires by placing images that represent them on my vision board.

I can answer the “what do you want to be when you grow up” question by pointing to my completed vision board and saying, “Next year, I’m going to be her.”

So the question for anyone wondering “why do a vision board” is better asked like this: “why not create the life you want to live next year by doing a vision board?”