THE BLOG
01/15/2014 04:07 pm ET | Updated Mar 17, 2014

Creating Your Perfect Career: The Vision Board

Written by Megan Patiry, Academy of Art University

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Each morning, my career waves to me from my study wall.

Now, just wait; you'll be able to lower your eyebrows and stop reaching for your phone to call the Unstable Friend Hotline in a moment. When I say "wave," I don't mean some personification of my career actually greeting me every morning at my desk; I'm talking about being greeted by my vision board.

Considered a material version of visualization, the vision board is essentially a collection of photographs, trinkets and sketches that reflect an individual's goals and dreams for the future. The concept is closely related to collaging, but is used to envision a certain area of one's life, such as the perfect career. But ultimately, the limits of a vision board are, well, limitless.

Why the Vision Board Works

The idea behind creating a vision board for yourself is to serve as a creative, daily reminder of the goals you wish to attain by tapping into the power of visualization. You may be wondering why going through the process of creating a vision board for your goals is worth your time, or why you would need to put something on your wall when you already have it in your head, but this is exactly the point. The vision board is meant to metaphorically bring your ideas for the future into reality, as a tangible object you can draw inspiration from every day.

According to social scientist Frank Niles, Ph.D., via the Huffington Post, "Before we can believe in a goal, we first must have an idea of what it looks like."

"To paraphrase the old adage: We must see it before we can believe it," Niles said.

This is a process used frequently by world-class athletes, with several studies showing that having a clear picture of the outcome of a game in their minds increases performance. In fact, it has even been shown that mental visualization alone can lead to physical gains in muscle without a person having to physically train.

"Seasoned athletes use vivid, highly detailed internal images and run-throughs of the entire performance, engaging all their senses in their mental rehearsal, and they combine their knowledge of the sports venue with mental rehearsal," Angie LeVan of Psychology Today said.

World Champion Golfer, Jack Nicklaus has said: "I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head."

Just as an athlete uses visualization to score a winning point, we can use a vision board to clearly "see" ourselves scoring our ideal career.

Getting Started on Your Board

The first step in creating a board for yourself is to find a space to keep or hang it in. It can be small or large, but is preferably a space where you spend a good amount of time, such as at your desk or study nook. Emily Hutter, Student Services Advisor at the Academy of Art University, says having a vision board in this space helps her realize her desires and keeps her organized.

"Visualization and vision boards also help to organize," Hutter said. "It puts goals all together and right in front of me, unavoidable, like a constant reminder of what I am working to achieve."

From here, the type of material you wish to use as the "base" for your board is up to you. A simple cardboard square or pin board will work, as well as more modern approaches, such as taping or illustrating pictures in an artistic fashion on a wall. The main point is to choose what feels right for your personal taste.

After you have chosen your base, now it's time to start adding images and/or sketches. These can be tears from magazines, photos you have personally taken, quotes that inspire you and any other material pieces that speak to you. However, Martha Beck, in an article featured on oprah.com, tells us that these images should contain more than the standard mansion house, shredded body, ideal partner and bank rolls everybody desires; they should come from an instinctual feeling and from images that cause a physical reaction. This includes:

...a heart thump, a double take, a gasp.The only responses involved should resemble these: "Ooooh!" "Aaaahhhhh," "Whoa!" ... These "thoughts" register in your stomach, your heart, your lungs -- anywhere but your head. You can't produce them in response to cultural clichés or abstract ideas. Nor can you always know why your body reacts to an image. Wondering, then finding out, is one of the most delicious things about assembling a vision board.

If you're having trouble tapping into your physical reaction to certain images, there are some questions you can ask yourself that can help in your choices:

Where do I see myself when I think of my perfect career or ideal life? 

Are you in a large-scale city? What types of buildings are there? What kind of office do you have (if you have one) or do you work from home? Find pictures that reflect what you see in your mind.

What do I do in my spare time outside of my career?

This is a great question to think about when envisioning your perfect career. Do you want a job that allows you plenty of "you" time, such as great hours and pay for travel? What will you do during that time?

What goals do I hope to achieve through my career?

Do you see yourself being promoted? To what position? What are you wearing as you're promoted? Details help you to create a clearer visual of what you desire.

Sometimes, especially in dorm rooms and other shared living situations, you don't have the space available to create a vision board to your liking. Fortunately, there are several vision board apps available that allow you to create your board online or on your phone. The first is called O Dream Board, and can be found on oprah.com, and a second, called Happy Tapper, is available on iTunes; both allow you to collect images centered on your goals and dreams.

The act of creating a vision board is one of realizing your dreams and of turning them into a tangible goal and a friendly inspiration. Now, sure, my walls may be greeting me, but as long as it's my future talking, I'll be saying "hello" back.

 

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