I’ve been making vision boards for nearly 20 years. It started when I read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, during one of the lowest times of my life. I can’t say the book—and its message of how thoughts can change your life—made all my problems disappear, but it helped me realize that I had a choice. I could focus on worry, anger and frustration or I could focus on my goals and who I want to be.
What are vision boards?
A vision board is a collage of photos and affirmations that represent your dreams, goals and your Best Self. It can be a physical board mounted on the wall or propped on your desk, or a digital board that you can view on your computer screen or mobile device.
Most life coaches recommend making a physical vision boards, since it engages all your senses and tends to leave a stronger emotional imprint. I agree with them, but I think you can do both. We spend a lot of time looking at our screens, and when you’re away from home you can always peek at your device when you need affirmation.
How do I make vision boards that really work?
Vision boards DON’T have to be complicated or expensive, and you don’t need to be artistically gifted either. I can’t even draw a straight line! However, over the years I’ve realized that there are some vision boards that worked better for me. Here are some of the tips on how to make an inexpensive and inspiring vision board.
Frame your future
The only thing you really need to buy for your vision board is the base. It can be thick cardboard, a corkboard, magnetic board, or even a picture frame.
A few years ago, I saw a painting at a garage sale—really ugly painting, beautiful frame. I bought it for a few dollars, threw away the painting, and upcycled the frame for my vision board. Keep an eye out for those cheap finds!
Find images that speak to you
When I first started making vision boards, I had to find pictures from old magazines. But now, you can find hundreds and thousands of images on the Internet. It’s so much easier, cheaper, and you can really pick the pictures that embody your goals.
The images need to be concrete, clear manifestations of your goals. For example, if you want to travel, pick the country and print out a picture of the resort you’ll stay in or the landmark you will visit. If you want to lose weight, get a picture of the dress that you’ll wear.
Choose a mantra
Words are powerful. Don’t say, “I want to be confident.” Say, “I am confident.” Print out these mantras and phrases and put them on your vision board. Check out Pinterest for inspiring quotes and affirmations. Most of them are already beautifully layed out and will look really pretty!
Or you can design your mantra yourself with a free online design tool like Canva. It already has templates. Just select an image, type in your mantra, pick a font and you’re done.
When you start feeling negative thoughts or slip into a funk, recite your affirmation. It gives your brain something to do, other than worry, complain, or put yourself down. Remember: It takes as much energy and time to hate yourself as it does to love yourself.
Pick a location
Your vision board needs to be in a place where you’ll see it often. Seeing it many times every day helps reinforce it on a subconscious level. I have a big one in front of my bed, and smaller ones near my work space and the kitchen.
Multiple vision boards doesn’t mean you’ll be spending a lot more time and money. You can get a big corkboard and cut it into different sizes, or just print multiple copies of images. Actually, the repetition can also help reinforce the positive thought and emotion.
Make dedicated vision boards for important goals
You can make a huge vision board that represents goals from different aspects of your life. But sometimes, it helps to make a special one that focuses on something that’s very important to you.
For example, a few years ago I had to change careers. It was both an exciting and scary time for me, as I had to reinvent myself and go into unfamiliar territory. So I made a vision board that was just about my work goals. I put it in my bathroom so I could give myself a pep talk while dressing up for work. I also had a digital version on my phone, which was really useful when I got stressed at the office.
Keep it simple
My first vision boards were too cluttered. They had too many photos, too many words, and the colors of the pictures actually clashed.
They didn’t really work for me. They didn’t make me feel focused, calm or in control. Instead, they just looked like a random explosion of pictures. I ended up throwing them away.
In my experience, it’s best to go for a neat, simple layout. Sometimes, when I have a lot of images, I’ll apply a photo filter so they have the same kind of vibe. It kind of pulls everything together, and represents the inner balance and harmony I want to achieve.
However, vision boards are personal and you will find a look that works for you. As long as it evokes a positive feeling, then go for it!
Edit and change your vision boards
Think of your vision board as a living thing that grows and changes with you. If, in the middle of the year, you realize that it doesn’t represent where you want to be, then edit it. Replace pictures or mantras. You’re in charge of your vision!
I realized this when I was trying to make a vision board to prepare for my 30th birthday. I knew this was a turning point in my life, and I just had a vague bucket list of things I wanted to do before I hit the big 3-0.
I chose some photos and mantras that seemed appropriate, but I wasn’t happy with the result. Strong feelings and mental clarity are important for vision boards, so I knew that I had a long way to go.
That’s why I decided to use a corkboard. Instead of pasting photos, I pinned them. Every month I would revisit my board and decide what I needed to change or finetune. It was also a good mental exercise, because I was forced to really think about what I wanted. The vision board didn’t just represent my goals, but actually helped me set them.
Talk or write about your vision board
Verbalizing goals can also help make them feel more “real.” After making my vision board, I write a diary entry about it. What’s in it, why did I pick those pictures, what I feel when I see it, etcetera. And over the next year, I’ll also mention it in my journal.
Sometimes, I’ll talk about the vision board with my friend. Of course, it’s a personal matter and you may not want others to know about it yet, especially if you feel that they won’t understand. You don’t need that kind of anxiety—it’s absolutely okay if you want to keep it a secret! But if you have a friend who you can really trust, then sharing your board with her can be part of manifesting it in the real world.
When you hit a milestone and see your goals actually happening, then take a picture and add it to your board. Remember the vision board that I made during my career change? After a particularly successful meeting where my presentation got a lot of praise, I took a picture of myself—all smiles, eyes still glowing from pride, and looking really great in my suit.
It was proof that I could achieve my goals, and an act of gratitude too. “Thank you, Universe, for making my goals happen—more, please!” So be sure to add those pictures to your vision board. There is nothing more powerful than acknowledging that your success is real and happening right before your eyes.
If you can envision it, you can experience it
I hope you liked these tips for inexpensive and yet inspiring vision boards. I learned these from experience, but they aren’t “hard rules”. It’s a personal journey, and as you make your vision boards you’ll discover your own style and system.
Just enjoy making your vision board. There are no mistakes, just insights on what works for you and what doesn’t. The only thing that matters is that it helps you clarify your goals, and gives you the positive energy and motivation to get there. “Stressing out” over vision boards is counterproductive (and kind of ironic, don’t you think?). So just have fun with it, and believe that it represents the Future You.