Just a few weeks into 2021, and it’s already become apparent to me that many of us are lacking the necessary clarity, energy, or both for the year ahead. Even some of the most highly accomplished people I interact with are struggling a little. This is, of course, very understandable. Most countries and industries have been deeply affected by the consequences of Covid, resulting in more uncertainty and ambiguity than any of us have ever faced at the start of a new year.

How do we set personal goals in this context? How do we find the inspiration to ‘go again’ after what was a taxing year for most people? I’ll tell you what I did, for the first time in ten years I built a ‘vision board’. A vision-board is simply a montage of images and words that inspire you, organized onto a single page. It represents, literally or metaphorically, the future you seek to create.
There is some cynicism about vision-boards, given they’ve been popularized in new-age philosophies and books. In coaching others, however, I have found them to be consistently useful and I always give this task to my MBA students before they sit down to do the serious work of goal-setting.

A vision-board works because we typically ‘see’ more things than we can describe in words, so it opens up different pathways in the brain. It encourages us to operate out of imagination, not memory. Many of us have a dominant learning style that is visual, and all of us dream in pictures, so it represents a language that we all understand. It also doesn’t require precision, perfection or certainty. Vison-boards exist mainly to provide inspiration and direction; more like a compass than a destination.

All of this means that if you’re struggling to articulate clear goals, or muster your usual levels of motivation for the year ahead, building a vision-board may be just the thing to fire you up and focus you in the right direction.

What goes on a vision-board?

You can put whatever you want on a vision-board, but it’s just a mix of words and images that inspire you and represent the future you want. For example;

  • Personal photos that make you feel really happy, connected or proud.
  • Images that represent something you desire, such as a material object or an experience.
  • Your articulated goals, values or any other personal content that gives you a sense of direction.
  • Quotes that inspire you and speak to the focus you want in the year ahead.

Five tips to build a great vision-board

  1. Use presentation software, such as a PowerPoint slide, as your canvas; it’s easy to drop in images, put words in a text box or shape, and resize everything to fit neatly together.
  2. Cluster similar content together, for example you might group all of your career content together, material things together, relationship content together, and so on.
  3. Pay attention to the balance of content on your vision-board. Perhaps you’re overweight on career or material content, but underweight on health or relationship content. Address any unintentional imbalance.
  4. Use the size and position of words and images to signal their relative importance. Perhaps there’s one image that’s more important than everything else; put it right in the centre and build everything else around it.
  5. Use colour to make it interesting and visually appealing.

How do you best use a vision-board?

Your vision-board can serve a number of different purposes. You can use it;

  • For inspiration. Put it where you will see it every day; perhaps you have it on your bedside table and look at it first and last thing each day, or make it your screen saver. The more you look at it, the more energy you will have.
  • For clarity, particularly in this time of significant uncertainty. Look at each cluster of content, why did you choose those images specifically? What do they represent? Are they literal or metaphorical? Perhaps they point to more concrete goals.
  • For focus. Look at it before you commit to any new priorities. This will ensure that you’re spending your time in alignment with what you’ve already determined is important.

My vision-board for the year ahead is sitting just to the right of my computer screen. As I finish this blog, the quote on it that has caught my eye is “the best way to predict the future is to create it” (variously ascribed to Abraham Lincoln, Peter Drucker and Alan Kay, among others). If you’re missing your usual clarity and energy right now, then building a vision-board could be a great way to “create” your future.

If you’re looking for some bite-sized leadership insights, inspiration and tactics in between these long-form blogs, I’m now posting daily to Instagram. You can get access by following me here.

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about PETER

For two decades, Dr. Peter Fuda has been a Sherpa to leaders, teams and organizations across the globe. He’s coached more than 200 CEOs to measurably higher levels of performance. His consulting company has delivered some 50 cases of business transformation and more than 1,000 cases of leadership transformation, at a success rate of greater than 90%.

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