Career Vision Boards: A Fluffy Idea That Can Yield Concrete Results

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Don’t knock the idea of a career vision board until you’ve tried it. Goal-setting and visualization are powerful tools that can yield real gains.

Your encounters with the concept of vision boards up until now may have left you feeling skeptical. After all, how could spending valuable time and energy making some kind of souped-up collage actually help you in your life?

But, don’t be too dismissive. There are actually a lot of potential gains associated with making a career vision board. The process could help you be more goal-oriented and more productive. And, the benefits don’t stop there.

What is a career vision board?

In short, a vision board is a collection of words, pictures or other visual components that are arranged together to reflect your goals and dreams for the future. The images aren’t thrown together haphazardly, either. The process is very intentional and the work takes some time and effort.

Once complete, the board is left out in your home in a place where you’ll see it every day. Others don’t have to be able to see it  — it can be hung on the inside door of a closet, for example — but, it should be something that you at least glance at often. In this way, the experience doesn’t stop at making the board. The final product serves as a reminder of your career goals and your vision for the future.

Here’s why it works: 

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To be clear, vision boards are not magic. Simply assembling one won’t get you the work-life of your dreams. A career vision board is just another tool to help you achieve your goals. However, it is a powerful one, and the process of putting a board together is unique. So, it’s also a tool that shouldn’t be underestimated. Here are just a few reasons why they work:

  • It’s concrete. Creating a vision board helps you to conceive of, and focus on, real tangible goals. Having concrete objectives (rather than looser ideas like I wish I was happier at work, for example) helps you to make progress.
  • It serves as a reminder. Seeing your vision board every day keeps your career goals close at hand. You won’t forget them, even when you’re caught up in the to-dos of a busy day.
  • Visualization works. We know for a fact that visualization practices work. Athletes have been using these techniques for years, for example, and with proven results. Visualizing what you want, and what you’re working toward, helps you get where you want to go.

“I’ve tried to keep the track in my mind throughout the year,” said Lyndon Rush, a Canadian bobsledder, speaking with the New York Times about how he uses visualization to prepare for Olympic competition. “I’ll be in the shower or brushing my teeth. It just takes a minute, so I do the whole thing or sometimes just the corners that are more technical. You try to keep it fresh in your head so when you do get there, you are not just starting at square one. It’s amazing how much you can do in your mind.”

Of course, visualization doesn’t work all on its own. You can visualize yourself running a four-minute-mile all you like. But, if you don’t do the training as well, you almost certainly won’t be able to achieve your goal.

A career vision board can be a powerful tool — but only when you use it properly.

Tips for creating a career vision board for maximum effect: 

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The process of actually making a career vision board is really pretty easy. The technique is very flexible, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding an approach and method that works for you. Before getting started, consider these tips. They can help you get the most out of the experience.

1. Decide on the medium that’s right for you

You can create your career vision board using whatever medium and materials you prefer. You can even use your phone or another device to build your board, if that’s your preference. However, most people tend to create on an oversized piece of paper or poster-board. Similarly, if cutting pictures and words out of magazines isn’t your thing, feel free to use images you find online or draw them yourself. You can also attach small objects or trinkets to your board; you aren’t limited to a flat surface.

It helps to decide upon the medium and the materials that are right for you before getting started. So, do some thinking about this before you start selecting images. What medium would you feel most comfortable working with? Would you feel most creative working online? Or, would using paper and pictures from magazines work best for you? There’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s all about your own personal preferences.

2. Settle into it and enjoy

You know the old expression — you get out of things what you put into them. Well, it’s really true. If you approach the task of creating a career vision board as nothing more than a chore than you’ll be selling yourself short. Instead, commit to settling into the work. Relax, and try to enjoy it. Your board will reflect your level of effort and care. So, decide to spend the time and energy now in order to reap the full benefit of the rewards later.

You might enjoy the work more if you bring a trusted family member or friend in on the process. Working on your vision board with others can help make the work more fun. (Your companions don’t have to focus on career on their boards. They should select whatever type of board they prefer.) Just be sure to do this kind of work around folks who help you to feel comfortable and honest. You’ll be digging into some pretty sensitive stuff, as you work to better understand your deepest and most treasured dreams and ambitions. So, you want to be in a setting where you feel you can discuss these things openly.

3. Focus on how you want to feel

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There’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to how to actually create your vision board. But, most people tend to follow certain steps. First, do some thinking about your goals and dreams for your career. This is the most important part of the whole experience, so take your time and be thoughtful. Then begin to select images that represent your goals, dreams and ambitions. Once you know which pictures, words and trinkets you’d like to include, you can secure them to your board any way you choose. But, don’t rush the selection step.

Be sure to think about how you want to feel in the future when it comes to your career when making your selections. Don’t just focus on what you want to get. Is it really that you want to earn at least another $10,000 per year in salary? Or, is it that you want to feel more secure financially? Do you want to get an excellent performance review from your boss? Or, is it really that you want to feel acknowledged and appreciated for what you do? Honing in on the feelings you want to have in the future, not just the tangible advancements you want to make, can help you learn more about what you want.

The images you select should feel so connected to these feelings that you’re actually moved by them. If you look at a word or picture that represents a career goal and experience a spark of excitement or some other positive emotion, you’re on the right track.

4. Keep visualizing, and also work on your goals

Once you’ve finished making your career vision board, your work has actually only just begun. Your efforts won’t serve you nearly as well if you shove your board behind your dresser and never think about it again. So, be sure to place it somewhere you’ll see it every single day.

When you see your career vision board, take a few seconds to reimagine your goals and experience the feelings associated with the images and ideas, too. This will keep the visualization practice active in your life, which should help you attain your goals.

Seeing your board every day will also serve as a reminder to keep working toward your goals in practical ways. This is important because the reality is that, in most cases, visualization alone won’t get you very far. A career vision board can absolutely help you achieve your professional goals. However, this is only true if you couple your visualization work with a practical, everyday, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other approach.

Thinking of the proverb “pray with your feet” might help you to keep both sides of this practice in mind. Dreaming about your goals and envisioning a brighter future is fantastic. But, you also need to take the necessary steps in your life in order to get there.

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5. Set smaller goals and celebrate all progress

Finally, keep in mind that you aren’t going to achieve your goals all at once. It helps to break things down into more manageable and concrete steps in order to make steady progress. Also, be sure to celebrate your growth and your accomplishments along the way. When you see your board, reflect on where you started and on how far you’ve already come. That will help to keep you feeling confident and motivated as you continue.

And, remember, you can you always create a new career vision board whenever you’re ready. You may just find that a whole new set of dreams unfolds once you reach some of your goals.

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