When I was in high school, I enshrined the full-length mirror on my closet door with images I’d clipped from magazines. There was no “vision board” trend back then, but if some version of it had been simmering, I’m pretty sure no one knew it as the en vogue self-actualization therapy it has become. I was onto something without that something ever having a name, and I bet lots of other people were too.
During college, I created collages on my dorm doors, then on a bulletin board in the bedroom of my off-campus apartment and after that, right on the wall of my first adult dwelling. Each matured in intent and depth because, I suppose, I came to know myself a little better: The high school montage almost exclusively displayed cutouts of gorgeous models; I wanted to feel the glowing lives it looked like they lived, and at age 14, perfectly applied makeup and high-heels seemed the way to do it.
Post-college, my expansive wall display included a powerful excerpt from The Handmaid’s Tale; a maple leaf I found on a trail while strategizing a radical career move; and photographs rich with humanity, including one of myself as a sunlit two-year-old. All of it lay secured by crisscrossed colorful satin strips above a single golden ribbon that evoked the richness of a life I strove for and sometimes found, glimpsing nirvana during those otherwise tumultuous self-searching years. Like I said: I was onto something.
Today my vision “board,” if that’s what we want to call it, is a folder holding a curated collection of images and articles. It’s also journals filled with transcribed passages from books that understood me even if their authors never knew me.
All of this is to say: There are no rules for vision boards; despite what Pinterest and Instagram might tell you (sell you?). Vision boards are less about instruction and more about intuition. You own your intuition. The only role others can play in your vision-board revelation is providing potential prompts, the first of which might be: What is it you want for yourself, and, more important, is it something that encourages a more authentic and contended existence? In other words, Envision a healthy you. Then let the fun begin.
How do you react to things you read, hear and see? No need to get granular in order to answer. Instead, when something moves you for the better—inspires you, makes you feel hopeful, gives you warm fuzzies, emboldens you—notice what it is. Things that move us for the better in true and deep ways fortify our health.
Seize on the things that move you: write them down, cut them out, take photos, record them. This isn’t homework, so there is no deadline on getting it done. It might take days, weeks, months, even years to amass your totems. That’s okay. Eventually, you might curate on a rolling basis, removing some things and adding others, which means you’re evolving. Very healthy.
Once again, a vision board doesn’t have to be a board at all, but if you’ve got the wall space, it might be fun to make a collage you can stare at while you’re eating/working/relaxing. If not, keep your special bits in a folder/drawer/box, where you can look at them at will. Or maybe your collection is best embodied in a painting you create to represent everything. Maybe not, and you create a digital vision board, which lets you access all the good stuff you find online. You do you, which, really, is the whole point of a vision board. The healthiest you is the you that is you at your core and takes care of you. I hope you get to know each other better.
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Mitra Malek is a news journalist and former Yoga Journal editor.