What's A Vision Board Without A Vision?

Where to start, where to start, where to start…

Vision boards can serve a few different purposes. They can serve as inspiration for short term goals that have lacked clarity and been desperately calling for your attention. They can serve as a daily reminder to live in the moment, relax your shoulders, and take a deep breath. They can serve as a grandiose landscape of a future you know you can achieve. They can be all three or they can be something different altogether. As I previously reflected on, the number one priority for your vision board is your intentionality.

So, when I ask myself “where to start,” it takes a lot more than mockingly thinking “at the beginning.” I know I want the end product to consist of seven pictures that represent seven answers to seven questions. I know I want these seven questions to form a holistic picture of the life I want to have in the future. I know I want the future they represent to be five years from now (when I turn the big 3-0).

With all of this reverse engineering nearly complete, a missing piece still remained. I had every step planned out, but the first one was still a mystery. The seven questions were going to need to originate from the same source.

I was needing to hunker down, explore the depths of my cranial maze, and come up with a river of words that could meander the twists and turns of my future.

What was that source going to be?

Maybe the answer should have been a lot more obvious, but at least I found it. To create my vision board, I need to come up with my...wait for it...VISION! Ground breaking, I know. 

I literally need to act like my life is a startup—establishing the company mission to paint a clear picture for how each component of my business strategy is going to seamlessly drive me to the future I desire.

Maybe it all sounds a bit too corporate, but the vision itself will be far from it. I wanted to keep it succinct with a beautiful marrying of brevity and eloquence. I wanted it to be ambiguous to outsiders but dynamic to my eyes.

It would be nice if this was a five or ten-minute activity, but that was incredibly unlikely given my prerequisites. I was needing to hunker down, explore the depths of my cranial maze, and come up with a river of words that could meander the twists and turns of my future.

I started this word journey by ferociously hammering away at the keyboard, allowing all of my thoughts to pour out without any sense of order or logic. Anything and everything I thought I wanted in life—or the next five years at least—was uncovered and put in front of me.

Once everything was out there, I began combing through the word jumble, looking for common themes. After identifying some, I analyzed each one and determined whether or not they truly resonated with me. Most did (service, health, self-expression); some didn’t (full autonomy, isolation).

Obviously, the few themes I have provided need much more context to be fully understood, but your time is limited, and so is mine, so I’ll leave you wondering what those themes entail and allow the bulk of the discussion to revolve around the finalized vision (keep reading!).

I wanted to bring a realistic sense to my envisioning practice. I’m not going to be perfect no matter how long I live, so I wanted to bring the imperfect element into my planning.

Ok, my vision was starting to grow some legs and evolve into an inspiring, personal statement that would drive me to my future goals and, in particular, bring this vision board closer to reality. Now that I had a clear direction on my themes, I could begin artfully crafting the words that would bring these ephemeral thoughts to a more long-term existence.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. As each rewrite came, a giant hole remained. No matter what I typed out, it wasn’t capturing the essence of everything I identified. It was too sporadic, too disconnected. Each sentence was unrelated to the next, and as I attempted to form the connection, my vision lacked any sense of brevity (one of two original goals).

So, I simply stopped. I put my vision on hold, accepted my diagnosis (writer’s block), and left things for another day. Naturally, another day turned into another week thanks to a 2300-mile road trip and two weddings. However, I found myself on a flight from DC to San Diego, which left me plenty of time to reorient myself and figure out the perfect way to wrap up my previous thoughts.

The people I admire the most, the goals I have identified for myself, and the weaknesses I hope to overcome all comprise of this extraordinarily complex four-letter word.

I decided to keep the work I had accomplished, but took it upon myself to conduct another experiment in self-exploration. I decided to conduct a rather difficult exercise I actually made-up on the spot, so if you are looking for references to its effectiveness, allow me to represent a sample size of one.

The first phase was simple enough. Make a two column table with Positives on the left and Negatives on the right. What positives do I see in myself right now, in this moment in time, and what negatives? The caveat was creating an equal number of both. I didn’t want to be too self-aggrandizing (which wasn’t too likely) and, more importantly, I didn’t want to be too self-deprecating. The positives and negatives would equal one another.

The second phase was where things got difficult. I would perform the same task, but for who I wanted to be in the future. Yes, this included the negatives. I wanted to bring a realistic sense to my envisioning practice. I’m not going to be perfect no matter how long I live, so I wanted to bring the imperfect element into my planning.

As I wrote down the positives I see in my life moving forward, I imagined what negatives might develop as a result. Rather than writing something like “Book Worm” and hedging it with “Social Butterfly,” I looked at myself honestly and I was perfectly ok with identifying myself and being identified by others as somewhat “Anti-Social.”

This practice ended up being incredibly revelatory. So much so that once the dust finally settled, my goal of creating an eloquent and brief vision was fully realized. Everything I have sought, am seeking, and want to seek can be summed up in one word: love.

Pass the cheese, I know, but in all actuality, the people I admire the most, the goals I have identified for myself, and the weaknesses I hope to overcome all comprise of this extraordinarily complex four-letter word. When I came to this conclusion, my head and heart were overcome with equal parts calm and euphoria. This was the feeling I was seeking and I wasn’t going to question it.

So there you have it. My vision is brief and eloquent, ambiguous to an outside observer, yet intimately revealing to my eyes, and encompasses everything I hope to be and accomplish in the future. Now it’s time to identify the seven questions that will expand on my vision and lead to the images going up on my vision board.


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