How to create a vision board

Photos by Carla Kucinski

I like to think of vision boards as a visual inner compass; it’s a creative way to help you focus on who you want to be and what you desire your life to be. Vision boards can help you see your goals and achieve them. Assigning an image to the goal (or multiple goals) makes it feel more attainable. It’s no longer a thought floating around in your head; it’s real and has meaning. If you can’t see the goal, how do you know where to begin or where you’re headed? And when you finally get there, how will you know you’ve arrived?

I started creating vision boards about 8 or 10 years ago, when my therapist introduced me to the process. She didn’t refer to it as a vision board necessarily; rather, it was like drawing a map of your subconscious mind. The process involved flipping through a stack of magazines and tearing out anything that sparked something in me. You’re not supposed to question your selection or hesitate before ripping it from the pages. It’s supposed to be a free-flowing process. No second guessing. No questioning.

At the end, you glue the images to a piece of paper or poster board or you can paste the images to your canvas as you collect them. Then you sit back and analyze what you see. I found the experience freeing and eye-opening — and at times surprising. Objects appeared on the board that tappped into parts of my subconscience that hadn’t been unearthed. Seeing my completed vision board was always an “a-ha” moment.

Our busy lives create busy minds that prevent us from connecting to ourselves and listening to what our hearts truly desire. Vision boards help us pause, take a deep breath, and dive into our subconscious minds to discover what we truly want in our lives.

Creating a vision board is a very meditative process. It quiets the mind. (I recommend doing the exercise in silence so that you can fully immerse yourself in the process and limit distractions.) The experience feels similar to painting or writing or wandering through nature snapping photos. You get in “the zone.” Hours glide by without noticing.

Although you can create a vision board at any point in your life, I find I gravitate toward vision boards after I’ve undergone something life changing or I am in the middle of something that feels life-altering. (It’s definitely been one of those years.) I recently decided to create a vision board after reading life coach Martha Beck’s “Steering by Starlight,” a fantastic book about finding your destiny and how you can guide yourself to that destiny. She calls her vision boards “pictorial star charts,” a collection of images that represent the vision for your life. In her version, you can tear images from magazines, but she also recommends printing images from the internet if you have a specific goal in mind.

Once your star chart is complete, she suggests closing the activity with a “spell” or a prayer. Some sort of statement that you send out into the universe. She likes to start her statement with one simple word: “Thanks.” It’s “gratitude for what you’ve received (in the future.)” I love that concept of believing you will receive what you put out into the world. Already imagining that you will obtain your destiny gives hope. Beck says that most of the time her clients’ charts come true, sooner than they had imagined.

For my board, I adopted Beck’s statement method but added a twist. In addition to stating gratitude, the statement should be a phrase that you tell yourself. Maybe that phrase is to help guide you (“Follow your heart.”); or to keep you from feeling discouraged (“Great things await you.”); or a sentiment that you need to express to yourself daily (“Trust the journey.”). Perhaps it’s not a sentence that resonates with you but one single word or a title for your vision. (Dream. Strength. Peace.)

The vision board I created is a combination of the approaches by Beck, my therapist, and author Julia Cameron, who briefly shares her thoughts on the practice in her book, “The Sound of Paper.” Definitely worth checking out.

Below are my step-by-step instructions to take you through the process of creating a vision board. Set aside an hour — two if you really want to dig in deep — and unlock your subconsciousness. Ready. Set. Go.

Step 1: Gather supplies


I picked up this square cork board and the dry-erase board at Target for $9.99 each, along with some fancy push pins for under $3 (also a Target find). I liked the idea of hanging my vision board in my office with my “statement” written on the dry-erase board underneath. You can also use a plain sheet of paper or poster board or a small canvas and glue the images to the material.

Step 2: Grab a stack of magazines


Aim for a good variety of about 12 of your favorite used magazines.

Step 3: Let it rip


As you flip through the pages, tear out any images that ignite a positive response. Anything that evokes feelings of freedom, pure joy, etc. It’s usually the images that cause you to pause that you should tear out. Don’t question why you’re gravitating toward that image; it will all become clear later. You can use scissors to cut out your images or for those of you who desire a more “freeing” experience, use your fingers to gently tear the inages from their pages. Feel free to rip out any words that grab you, too.

Step 4: Assemble


Now comes the fun part. Pin (or glue if using paper) the images to your board. Try not to edit yourself during this process. Let your intuition guide you as you place the images on the board. Again, don’t question or try to analyze your board until it’s complete.

Step 5: Step back and observe


Take a step back from your masterpiece and for 5-10 minutes observe what you’ve created. Journal about what you see. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself.

  • What sort of themes emerge?
  • What do the images have in common – if anything?
  • What’s the overall tone/mood?
  • Does anything surprise you?
  • What goals are present?
  • What’s the overall vision?
  • If you could give the piece a title, what would it be?

Once you feel like you’ve fully explored your board, write or say “thank you” followed by your statement/affirmation/prayer.

Place your vision board somewhere in your home where you’ll see it every day. Then sit back and enjoy the journey.

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Make a wish


My mother always made me feel special on my birthday. Every year she picked out the perfect Barbie doll, the best stuffed animal, the prettiest bracelet. When I look back on my birthdays as a kid, it’s not so much a particular gift or image that I remember most, it’s a feeling, how the people I love, especially my mom, made me feel important.

For years, my mom hung a Happy Birthday sign above the sink in our kitchen, chunky letters in every color of the rainbow strung together. It was the first thing I’d see when I came downstairs from my bedroom. As I stood sleepy-eyed in my pajamas, she’d sing “Happy Birthday” in a country-western twang with such passion – and volume – even though she doesn’t have the best singing voice. She still calls my sisters and me on every birthday and sings to us. I always let her call go to voicemail because I like to play the message over and over; it makes me smile.

What also made my birthdays so special every year as a kid was being able to design my own birthday cake. We went to a bakery called Mr. Baker, where your senses were greeted with the scent of vanilla icing whenever you stepped through the door. I loved the ritual of going with my mom to pick up my birthday cake and riding home with it sealed in a traditional white cake box. The anticipation of waiting to eat it drove me crazy. At age 36, I have not outgrown that and probably never will.

I took my birthday cake seriously as a kid – and still do. I had obsessions with Snoopy and Garfield when I was a child, so naturally they ended up on a lot of my cakes during my early childhood. I can still picture my double-layer cake with Garfield drawn on the top of it. It was my fifth or sixth birthday, and my whole family was gathered in the dining room, the lights dim and golden. My mom’s face glowed in birthday candlelight as she walked toward me with my Garfield cake, and everyone started to sing “Happy Birthday.” I burst into tears before I could blow out the candles. I ran to my room and threw myself down on the bed, burying my face in my pillow. My mom scooped me up, and I cried into her chest unable to explain the tears.

Now, as an adult, I know the reason. It wasn’t just that my mom ordered me the perfect Garfield cake; it was that everyone I loved was gathered in the same room to celebrate me, my life. That birthday was the first time that I recognized what it means to be truly loved and cared about.

I carried that same feeling with me throughout the day on Wednesday as I celebrated my 36th birthday. All day I felt surrounded by so much love from the moment I first opened my eyes and saw my husband smiling back at me. Sweet text messages and phone calls trickled in throughout the day, each birthday wish touching my heart. After the tough couple of months I’ve been going through, it felt good to truly feel joyful for one day.

My husband can’t cook, but he’s great at ordering takeout. When I walked into our kitchen on the morning of my birthday, he had set a table for two with a Chick-fil-A biscuit and golden hash browns waiting for me — my twice a year guilty pleasure. He went into work a little later that morning so we could eat breakfast together. It was a simple gesture, but it felt grand to me.


Later that afternoon, two of my dear friends treated me to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. When I arrived, they were seated in a booth with a small flower pot of yellow Gerbera daisies on the table and the biggest balloon I had ever seen attached to it with spirals of multicolored ribbon. I shrieked with glee when I saw it — and teared up a little, too. Those little touches sure made this birthday girl feel special. I left our lunch that day with my heart full — and my face sore from laughing so much. Good friends always know what our hearts need.


Afterwards, I went for a stroll in the woods with my dog Molly, and as I walked among the towering pines and the wisteria in bloom, I paused and looked up, taking it all in, this vast and beautiful world.  My eyes, my senses, my heart — they felt wide open. In the middle of the woods, this place that I cherish, my daily haven, I felt a deep connection to the universe. Among the rubble of winter’s fallen trees and bare branches, new life was unfurling all around me. Birds chirped. Four monarch butterflies danced in a figure eight near me. Wisteria’s delicate lavender flowers clung to their vine. I thought about these last two months and all the grief that has consumed me, and I realized even in the midst of sorrow there are gifts. You just have to open your eyes, and your heart to see them.


When I got home, there was a card waiting from me from my best friend Addison, who I share this blog with. The cover of the card pictures a cluster of cars, traveling in different directions, and a young girl on a bike looking over her shoulder while pedaling away from them. “I like to think that this is you pedaling even further past the grief that began this year,” she wrote. “You’re looking back a wee bit but pedaling forward to your next adventure.”


I love that analogy. It’s always a comfort when those we love can see a future beyond our grief. Reading Addison’s words gave me hope. Yes, I’m still glancing back at the past as I weather this season of change, but deep in my heart I believe the best is yet to come. Birthdays are a perfect way to mark a new beginning.


That night my oldest sister, brother-in-law and two nephews sang “Happy Birthday” to me via FaceTime – a virtual birthday party. Hearing my sweet nephews’ voices in the chorus of adults made me laugh as they sang with such fervor. This time there weren’t any tears, just laughter and gratitude. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and made a wish. I wished for joy, but after I blew out the candles, and opened my eyes, I realized I already have it.