THE BLOG

The Life Out Loud: Turning Dreams Into Reality With Vision Boards

10/18/2013 06:53 pm ET | Updated Dec 17, 2013

How do you keep your heart alive when something you're aching for hasn't happened yet? How do you heal from heartbreak? What do you do with dreams that are so big they feel overwhelming?

Well, have you ever tried making a vision board? It's often one of the first assignments I give my coaching clients -- a powerful visual way of creatively connecting with your hopes and dreams.

It's fun and easy, too. You get a big piece of poster board from the store and collect a bunch of old magazines from a doctor's office or fitness- and fashion-obsessed friend. You sit down with a cup of tea and flip through the pages, tearing out photos, artwork and words that inspire you. Then you cut it all up, paste it together in a collage, and voila! You're done.

I recommend hanging the completed project on a wall near your bed, so that you see it first thing before you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning. There's no greater way to remind yourself of what's important and motivate yourself to make your dreams come true.

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Photo credit: Peter Zakhary

Given my fondness for vision boards, I was excited when, a few weeks ago, I was introduced to Julie Thorne Engels, founder and CEO of Bettyvision. Bettyvision is a website that enables you to quickly and easily create digital vision boards, using images you find on the web or upload from your computer. It's free (for now). And the best part is, once you've finished your boards, you can share them with other Bettyvision members and your social networks, enlisting support in turning your desires for the future into reality.

Julie's profound personal relationship with vision boards is the reason why she founded Bettyvision last year. As a teenager, she struggled with alcoholism, becoming sober at age 20. But she felt lost, disconnected from herself and her dreams. One day, she attended a workshop with Nancy Hill, who leads women's circles. There, Julie created her first vision board.

"It was transformative for me," Julie said. "I started using vision boards as a tool to heal from low self-esteem and lack of direction. They enable my creativity and passion for change. It's a wonderful practice. It gives you a nonverbal way to access that part of your soul that speaks to your highest self."

Later, while working as the senior VP of creative and strategy in the ad world, Julie met and married a man who had a preteen daughter and a son. When her daughter turned 12, she started to struggle with low self-esteem issues. Julie responded by offering her first Bettyvision workshop, fueled by her fierce desire to help her daughter and other women take that courageous first step toward reaching their full potential.

"Women have a harder time than men with claiming their power and deservedness for their dreams, and with asking for help. I wanted to create a safe workshop environment where women could tap into their hearts by making vision boards and find support from a community of like-minded people," Julie said. "Everyone has sorrows and joys in life. Everyone has a dream."

Not only did Julie succeed in running successful workshops for women from the ages of 20 to 70 and inspiring her daughter to start following her inner dreamer, but also she realized from her own vision board projects and workshops that she had a passion for building an entire company around Bettyvision. Within a year, she had raised her first round of seed capital financing. Julie lured a colleague, Lindsay, away from her ad job. They got to work developing a technology platform that would enable people to create, share and support each other in attaining their dreams. And Bettyvision was born.

Recently, Julie has been making strides in developing her company's vision board technology platform as a workplace tool, especially relevant to companies interested in retaining Millennials. Julie explained, "We all know the research that says young people today want to find meaning in their work. Vision boards are tools that allow employees to access their right brains. Imagine using these for performance reviews instead of those dry, anxiety-provoking charts. You could really delve into, 'What do I dream of achieving at this job?' It takes the strain out of the experience. It's more collaborative and fluid."

I asked Julie why she'd named her workshops and female-empowerment community Bettyvision. She explained that her high school girlfriends used to call each other "Bettys." The term became synonymous for being fun, adventuresome and supportive. "Being a Betty means being someone who completely believes in herself and others. Even when she doesn't believe in herself, she asks you for help to overcome barriers. And she offers her help to others," Julie said.

In terms of advice for all you dream builders and visionaries out there, Julie had these sage words. "You have to love the process of the dream. Not just the dream." Then she laughed and added, "And don't forget: It's about giving and helping other people, too. Don't be an ask-hole."