Goal-setting has many benefits, providing focus and motivation for achieving success. Sometimes distractions can get in your way, making it hard to remember and stay focused on your goals. This is especially when life takes unexpected turns, like after receiving a cancer diagnosis. For Bridget J., surgery scheduling logistics coordinator at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), Tulsa, achieving results happened only after creating a visual way to represent her goals. Now, Bridget leads vision board classes at CTCA® to help patients create and achieve goals throughout cancer treatment.
“When I turned 50, I realized my life was pretty much the same as it was when I was in my 20s. I wanted something more out of life but couldn’t seem to find the answers,” Bridget says. “I came across a motivational speaker who talked about vision boards for setting goals and achieving them. Her talks gave me hope and I realized just because I was in my 50s didn’t mean my life was over. I still had a purpose for being.”
Visualization for success
Creative expression is a whole brain activity that promotes storytelling,” says David Wakefield, PhD, a psychologist and mind-body therapist at CTCA, Tulsa. “Vision boards are a type of expressive art with a purpose. Creating them can help provide you with focus, clarity, direction, purpose and order. This can be especially helpful when dealing with your life being turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis.”
By imagining all aspects of what it will take to achieve a goal, thinking about how it feels emotionally and physically, you prepare your brain for the work ahead. In fact, many professional athletes use visualization as part of their training, imagining what it will take to get the win and what it will feel like when that win is theirs.
Nearly three years after his cancer diagnosis, Jon K. continues to visualize life being cancer-free, as he believes that visualization has helped him so far on his cancer journey.
“Being cancer-free is probably the most common goal of every patient who participates in vision board classes. I fully believe that being focused on living cancer-free allows us to more easily attract good health,” Jon explains. “Not to sound proud, because fighting cancer is the most humbling experience any person could face, but I do believe my attitude in fighting this disease has much to do with my condition today.”
Though visualization can take many forms, both Bridget and Jon encourage creating a vision board that represents your specific goals. You can look at your vision board any time you need inspiration to keep working towards success.
Dr. Wakefield confirms that visualization helps allow us to confront and deal with obstacles and create solutions. “It helps allow us to express and transform difficult life experiences and to help make sense of our story.”
“I, personally, am a very visual person. One of my goals has been to improve my physical health. When I started working on my vision board, I set out to find pictures of men who were engaged in various sorts of physical improvement,” explains Jon. “In one magazine, I found several pictures of a guy doing a variety of yoga poses and exercises. Those types of pictures are far more motivating than just reading about yoga for improving health. I have an easier time imagining my face on the man doing yoga than I would by just reading a written goal.”
Instructions for creating a vision board
From her first-hand experience, Bridget knows that creating a vision board can help you make the changes in your life that you desire. To help you get started, she outlined the following steps to creating one.
Step 1: Imagine the future you.
Think about what you want to achieve in the next 3 months, 6 months or year. Now, imagine it’s December 31 of next year and think back to all you’ve accomplished. What proud moments do you want to share with your friends and family?
Step 2: Determine the goals you want to include.
What true wishes and desires do you want to achieve? Consider:
- Your values
- Your career
- Family life
- Love life
- Health and wellness
- How you spend your free time
- What do you want to learn?
- Who do you want to grow to become?
Be sure to celebrate both the small and big accomplishments. Including some fairly easy goals can keep you from getting discouraged when bigger goals take a while to accomplish.
Step 3: Make a plan for your board.
Determine how you will organize your board. Do you want to have an all-inclusive board or do you want to have a separate one for different goals of your life?
Also consider the form of your vision board. Do you want to hang it somewhere you’ll see or do you want it to be portable so you can carry it with you wherever you go?
“I love the idea that we can do vision boards in book form. We have something that’s portable,” says Jon. “I throw it in my overnight bag when I come to CTCA. I can take it wherever I go, to look at when I have a free moment, and to be encouraged whenever and wherever I need that encouragement.”
Step 4: Gather Supplies
Think about designs and images that appeal to you. Do you like to draw your own images or would you prefer to cut and paste from materials you have around your house? Here are a few items to gather as you prepare to make your board:
- Pens, markers or other writing tools
- Poster board, corkboard, a journal, or other medium
- Glue (or push pins if you’re using a corkboard)
- Images or quotes printed from the internet
- Personal photos
- Pages from a book
Step 5: Create your board!
Find images or words that represent your goals. Can’t find something in a magazine or newspaper? Look on a social image platform, such as Pinterest! If you enjoy drawing, create your own visuals. Do you have great penmanship? Write out inspirational quotes.
Most importantly, enjoy the process and embrace your creativity!
Step 6: Find a special place for your vision board or book. It should be somewhere that you see every day so you can continually be reminded of your goals. Everyday, consider what you see. Dream, imagine, pray and meditate on it.
Let your imagination lead you to your goals.