By Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff
Program Director, M.Ed. School Counseling, Graduate Certificates in Coaching, and M.Ed. Student Affairs in Higher Education, American Public University
With each New Year, it is common to reflect on the past year and create a vision for the year to come. Some people choose New Year’s resolutions while others select a word or phrase to define their new year. A tradition of mine the past several years has been to create a vision board illustrating my hopes, dreams, and goals I hope to accomplish in the new year.
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Creating a Vision Board
The law of attraction, which is your ability to attract what you focus on in life, was the original philosophy behind creating vision boards. Although there is value in visualizing your dreams and intentionally focusing on what you want, I think that falls short of creating a lasting change and impact. I propose a three-step process to achieving your dreams for 2020.
Step 1: Reflect on the past year and identify what you learned and where you want to continue to grow. What did you achieve and what do you hope for in the future?
Step 2: Create your vision board. Whether you use a computer app or create your vision board by hand using words and pictures cut from publications, this is your time to be creative and make a visual representation of your hopes and dreams for the New Year.
Step two is where most people stop. This is where it can all go wrong. Simply making a vision board and looking at it often, visualizing it all coming true and maintaining positive thoughts won’t make those goals on your vision board happen automatically.
The power of positive thinking and attracting what you want in life are not the only ingredients for creating financial success or achieving your hopes and dreams. Work and effort are also needed to make those dreams come true. This is where I propose a necessary third step.
Step 3: Using your vision board, outline three to five themes that explain how you will achieve your goal: when you want to achieve it, how you want to achieve it and the baby steps to get to the goal.
For example, your goal might be to lose 30 pounds by next December 31 by counting calories, reducing your sugar intake, and exercising four days a week. This is a measurable goal that includes steps to achieving it and a timeline for completion.
Follow these steps to make your vision board complete:
1. Look at your vision board and identify three to five themes that can help you define your specific goals. Do you have images and words on your vision board pertaining to relationships? Career goals? Financial wishes? Travel? Family? Health? Self-care?
2. Use the identified themes to write out one annual goal for each theme, making sure they are measurable and include a due date. Also, be sure the goals are realistic. If you want to go on a trip that is well beyond your budget, consider setting a goal to save half the money needed for the trip.
Sample vision board themes include:
- Career Progress
- Health and Wellness
3. Create mini or short-term goals (the baby steps) to help you see the progress toward your long-term goal throughout the year. For example, that health-related goal of losing 30 pounds is a long-term goal. Waiting to achieve that 30-pound weight loss goal can be discouraging if progress is slow.
Instead, set the overall goal and then set mini-goals with specific timelines throughout the year. Similarly, a goal of paying off a credit card in six months might seem overwhelming if you see a large debt that needs to be paid.
Vision Board Long-Term Financial Goal: Pay off a credit card debt by June 2020 by remitting $100 over the minimum required each month.
Here’s an example of tracking short-term goals:
4. Keep your goal due dates in your daily calendar or planner to alert you to review your progress. If you don’t meet a specific goal, add new strategies to get the results you want. By continually reviewing mini-goals and readjusting them as needed helps keep you moving in the right direction.
5. At the end of the year, celebrate your successes and revisit any visions and goals that didn’t go as planned. Use that information to revise or make new plans for the following year. Be sure, however, that your celebrations do not sabotage your success. If your vision was to stay debt-free and you charge $2,000 on your credit card as a personal reward, you are back to square one.
Or, if you are aiming for that weight loss and then splurge for a week, that celebration may sabotage your success. Instead, reward yourself in ways that support your new habits and progress. Splurge on a new outfit if you reached your weight loss goal.
Having a vision and direction each year is a great way to get refocused and think about achieving your dreams and goals in the New Year. To make that vision a reality, set realistic, measurable goals. When you put in the work and effort, the results will be worth it.
About the Author
Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff is a Program Director and Professor of School Counseling, Coaching, and Student Affairs in Higher Education at American Public University. She earned a B.S. in Psychology at Fayetteville State University, an M.Ed. in School Counseling at Campbell University, and an Ed. D. in Counseling Psychology at Argosy University/Sarasota. Kimberlee is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (WA), a National Certified Counselor and a National Certified School Counselor. She holds a school counseling certification in Washington State. Her research interests include suicide prevention and child and adolescent mental health/wellness. She also serves as an advisor for Active Minds of American Public University and the APUS School Counseling Alumni Network.
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