5 S.M.A.R.T. Steps to Activate Your 2021 Vision Board
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Creating vision boards is a trendy New Years activity, but do you know how to use them to their fullest potential? These visualization tools are a great way to focus your thoughts on your dreams and goals. Vision boards have been used for decades by professional athletes, celebrities, successful entrepreneurs, and everyday people as an exercise to see themselves where they ultimately want to be and a reminder to keep working towards those goals. I believe that every entrepreneur and CEO in the world should create at least two vision boards each year. One board to get a clear vision for the thoughts, attitudes, goals, and aspirations you have for your own life. The second board should be a clear vision of your thought, attitudes, goals, and aspiration for your staff, company, and customers.
In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about whether vision boards actually work. Some say yes. Some say no. I say vision boards will work for you if you work for them. I am a firm believer that you can have anything in this life that you are willing to work for. There is not a lot of distance between where you are today and where you visualize your life in a few years. The key to accomplishing anything is focus, consistent effort, and daily habits. It all starts with a S.M.A.R.T. action plan that is broken into easy-to-follow steps. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.
When you are creating your vision board, don’t limit your achievement potential by only mapping out a representation of your long-term dreams and goals. Create a vision for the year ahead filled with things that pull you out of your comfort zone, challenge you to learn something new, and exceed your own expectations.
As we enter the first month of this new year, I encourage everyone to try these 5 S.M.A.R.T. Steps to Activate Your 2021 Vision Board and see just how far you are able to go towards achieving your goals.
Step One: Be Specific About What You Want
Imagine walking up to the counter of a popular take-out restaurant during the lunchtime rush. The line is long, the people are hangry, and it is your turn to order. The cashier greets you and asks, “What can I get for you today?” And your only response is “Food.” Equally shocked and frustrated the cashier asks “Ok, what type of food?” and you insightfully reply, “Lots of food.” There are so many things that could potentially go wrong really quickly in this scenario. The main problem here is that you know that you are hungry, yet you are not specific about the type of food you want to eat. As a result, you will most likely still be hungry at the end of the lunchtime rush.
If you are not specific about what you want, you increase your chances of ending 2021 frustrated and with your goals unaccomplished. Take the time to make it plain. If you want to open a brick-and-mortar business in the new year, visit a commercial real-estate site like LoopNet™ and search for your ideal property. Add the actual picture to your vision board. If you want to publish a book in the upcoming year, schedule time on your calendar for writing. Come up with a catchy title then use a tool like Canva™ to create a sample book cover with your name clearly displayed as the author. This will be inspirational to see when you look at your vision board throughout the year.
Step Two: Track and Measure Your Progress
Scoreboards are used not only to keep score during a game, but they are also used to measure time, display statistics, and to show overall performance. Do you have a scoreboard attached to your vision board? If you set goals that have numerical value or any quantitative elements to them, then maybe you should have a scoreboard.
Your scoreboard doesn’t need to look like the ones used in sports. Your scoreboard could be the calendar in your phone, or a Trello™ board to track progress, maybe a simple journal, or an app like Lose It™. Maybe you’ll choose to use all of them plus a few more, even that is fine as long you are documenting your journey. No matter if you choose to track and measure your progress digitally or on a whiteboard, you should absolutely be tracking where you started and measuring how far you have made it towards your goals.
It is not necessary to track and measure every single day, but you will certainly want to check periodically. Use your data to make adjustments that will keep you moving in the right direction. I like to check my scorecards quarterly, so for me that’s March (Q1), June (Q2), September (Q3), and December (Q4). During each quarter I outline milestones and smaller goals that help me move forward every month. You can accomplish a lot over a 12-week stretch of time, and when you do be sure to celebrate your wins along the way.
Step Three: Work Towards Achieving Your Goals
Selecting lifestyle pictures like ginormous stacks of cash, luxurious vacation destinations, and rare foreign cars is an extremely common trend in vision board décor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, it is a great mindset exercise in creating an overall vision board for your future.
When creating your vision board for the year the images should reflect goals that are definitely challenging but possible. Success does not happen for anyone overnight. It takes deliberate and consistent action to get to where you are trying to go. Adding images of things that are next to impossible to achieve in just 12-months, from your current starting point, can be very discouraging and really take a toll on your motivation.
Achievement is the best feeling in the world when you have been working towards something for a long time. Just ask anyone who set a huge weight loss goal and reached it. Their attitude, behavior, and confidence all change for the better, and that is a great thing. You deserve to win big in 2021 so stretch a little and choose images that reflect goals that are not easy but worth fighting for.
Step Four: Keep it Real with Yourself
You truly can have anything in this life that you are willing to work for. If your dream is home ownership, then I say go for it because the only thing standing in your way is you. So, if you genuinely want it set the goal, cut out the photo and make it happen, right? Kind of right, but not quite. For many people, the dream of homeownership is just a dream. Even the sharpest scissors, the strongest glue, and the finest poster board paper in the world won’t be enough to manifest that vision into a dream come true on its own. Realizing this dream will take some foundational work.
Start by getting real with yourself and answering a few simple questions. What does your credit score look like? Can you qualify for a home loan? Do you have savings? Investments? Options? If your answers to these questions are excellent, yes, and yes then go for it because your dream is within reach. Your 2021 vision board could include pictures of the real estate agency you want to work with, the neighborhood or property where you want to live, maybe even interior design inspiration.
If your answers to these questions begin with a “see what had happened was…” then home ownership may not be a realistic goal for 2021. That doesn’t mean that all is lost. Consider adjusting your 2021 goal to earn a qualifying credit score, create and follow a budget, start saving for a down-payment, and meet with a loan officer to explore your options. Home ownership is still very possible for you so create a vision board filled with the challenging but realistic steps that best position you to achieve your dream. Consider adding photos of your savings goal, desired credit score, and set of house keys.
Delay is not the same as denial. Sometimes slowing down to assess what is real and realistic for you is the fastest way to achieving your goal.
Step Five: Give Yourself a Timeline
Earlier I mentioned that I like to check my progress, towards achieving my goals, once a quarter or every three months. This is an example of a time-bound goal. In the weeks leading up to my target check-in, I am not sitting by idly waiting for a fairy to drop my goal in my lap. I spend time each day working on things that get me closer to where I want to be by the end of the quarter. This is a great practice for business owners who have set yearly goals or targets.
To activate your vision board, you must add dates to each of your dreams. By adding dates, you initiate the process of converting your dreams into actual goals through the inclusion of a time-bound element. Sometimes your dream is to develop a new healthy habit or something that has an indeterminate timeline. It is still just as important to add dates to these dreams too. If your desire is to exercise more, its hard to put a date on that unless you break it into smaller goals. You could add a picture of some comfortable workout shoes to your board with a desired purchase date of February 1st. Or maybe you have a goal of completing a 5k race to benefit a charitable cause, you could add a photo of the event flyer along with the date you plan to register.
Time is a precious gift to us all, so let’s not waste any more of it by creating vision boards without personal accountability, for doing the work to bring the vision to life.
A vision board is simply a collage of representative images and affirmations, uniquely designed to serve as inspiration or motivation, to achieve your dreams and goals. Without a clear plan of action to accompany it, a vision board is merely an arts and crafts project. The secret to activating your vision board is creating a S.M.A.R.T. plan backed by consistent action. So, this weekend, as you login to a really fun virtual vision board party, with your crafting supplies and magazines, remember that creating the board is only the first step. The path to realizing your vision for a successful 2021 starts when you work your plan.
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