In my last post, I talked about replacing the idea of a New Year’s resolution with a focus on small, incremental, values driven changes in your life. And if you read that post and said, ‘Great. But now what?”, I’m going to share with you a strategy for concretely identifying your goals and making a plan for change: create a vision board.
I should note that this strategy can be used at any time of the year, since change is not necessarily restricted to the start of a new year. I’ve found it helpful to have a continual practice of evaluating changes that I’d like to make in my life and the steps I’m making toward those changes.
Vision boarding is a pretty popular strategy I’ve used myself and often help my clients and workshop participants to do. Creating a vision board (or collage focused on goals, changes, affirmations, and hopes) is a concrete way for you to process your thoughts and emotions related to change. It also provides a lasting reminder or visualization of this thought process, your goals, and the steps you’d like to take.
In art therapy, we often use collage making as a way to process thoughts, emotions, and behavior in an external (not all in your head) way. Collage is easily accessible (you don’t need expert artistic skills or expensive materials), doesn’t take a ton of time, and is often less intimidating than other forms of art making. The act of making a collage, physically cutting and ripping paper and then gluing it down, is also therapeutic for some.
So, if you’re ready to start making a vision board to focus on a shift or change in your life, here are some detailed steps to follow:
Collect materials. At a minimum, you will need some supplies from categories 1-3 below to get started, but you certainly aren’t limited to basic supplies. Feel free to get creative with what you will use on your board.
Canvas or base for your collage. I recommend that your base be large enough to hold multiple images and words and be able to withstand being glued. At minimum, a 11x14 sheet of paper is a good start. For heavier materials like shells, increase the depth of your base so it can carry the weight of what you add. Some options include: Store-bought canvas, Large sheet of paper, Cardboard, Wood or Masonite board, or Box or other 3D object
Magazines, clippings, WordArt. Gather used magazines or newspapers (if you don’t have any at home, people often are very willing to give these away if you post that you’re searching for some. Libraries may also have some available to their patrons that they are looking to get rid of.) Search up images or words on the internet, print your own photos, and create WordArt on your computer. Simple handwritten words or artistic lettering can be added as well.
Glue. At minimum, grab a glue stick. Sometimes I like to have craft glue, Elmer’s glue, a hot glue gun, Mod Podge (one of my favorites) or rubber cement available, particularly if you’re adding 3-dimensional items.
Other accessories. Maybe you have some glitter (if you know me, you know how free-floating glitter makes me cringe, so I prefer glitter glue), baubles, shells, washi tape, special collectibles or mementos that you’d like to include. You can gather these items nearby for inspiration or use in your piece.
Drawing or painting supplies. Keep some pencils, markers, gel pens, watercolor pencils, colored pencils, craft paint or other drawing/painting supplies with you in case you would like to add in some drawn or written elements or even shade with color.
Plan a time. I often time find myself struggling to fit making art into my busy schedule. However, I am most successful at doing so when I plan a time to focus on it. It may help you to set aside some time in your calendar to make your vision board, roughly 45 minutes should suffice. If finding 45 minutes seems daunting, break the directions down into smaller steps.
Note: maybe you find yourself interested in doing this with others. I’ve often done vision board groups with workshops or even my book club, and it can be fun to create alongside others and share the results. In this time of social distancing, you can consider using a virtual meet up to work on vision boarding with a group of friends or family members.
Practice mindful intention setting. Before digging into your materials, take a few minutes to relax by taking some deep breaths and feeling your body in the room or seat you’re in. Continue breathing and pay attention to how you are feelings physically and emotionally. Feel free to follow your own short meditation practice or a video/audio recording (there are many great free meditations out there on the web). Call to mind your intention in doing this vision board:
What changes are you hoping for?
What values are important to you in your life?
What would help you feel like you’re living your most meaningful and purpose filled life?
Get started. Now that you have calmed your mind and focused in on what changes you’d like to make, you can grab your materials and get started. Start flipping through magazines and pulling out whatever images or words line up with your vision. Once you have a stack of those (about 10 or so minutes’ worth), lay them out and start gluing your images and other materials to your canvas. Remind yourself that there is no one, right way to do this, and your image is yours alone.
Take a moment to reflect and process. Once you find yourself at a stopping point (be careful not to overwork your piece by catching yourself looking for perfection), hang your vision board up or lean it against something and step away to view it from a distance. Take some time to see how your words, images, colors, and objects have come together.
What does the overall piece say to you?
Does it align with your values and goals?
What does it say about who you are?
How does it make you feel?
Hang it and revisit the image. Go ahead, hang it up! Find a spot that you will see it often. Maybe this is in your office where you find yourself focusing on plans for the future or your bathroom where you start your day. Move it around if needed. Remember that this is a visual representation of your hopes, values, and possible steps to making lasting change. Once you’ve looked at your vision board enough, you will likely also be able to visualize it in your mind without actually seeing it. In therapy, visualization is a tool that people use to remain focused on something, create flexibility of thinking, and leads people to follow through with change.
So, if you’re ready to ditch empty resolution making and try something new, I hope you give vision boarding a try. After a while, you might find that you’d like to repeat these steps and create an updated vision board reflecting where you are in that moment. It may lead you to more clarity and focus on what’s important to you in your life. Best to you and yours in the New Year!