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How to make a vision board and help bring your dreams to life

Whether you're a creative person or you're feeling a little stuck, vision boards can help kickstart new ideas and fresh energy, any time of the year.
TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

It's likely that you've heard about vision boards, and the power they have to help you manifest whatever you want — as if they're a magic portal that can bring all of your dreams into reality. Now, while it's important to manage expectations — a vision board likely won't suddenly bring you millions of dollars — experts say that making a vision board has many benefits.

Before you start, however, it’s important to be in the right headspace— or positive mental attitude.

“Most people think a vision board is a giant poster filled with magazine cut-outs of yachts and beaches and five-carat diamond rings. And it can be! If you can look at those things and not just say, but believe that you can and will attain them,” Shallon Lester, YouTube creator, dating coach, and author, tells “If you can’t — if, say, a seat on Kylie Jenner’s jet seems wildly out of reach — a vision board can actually work against you. Because then it becomes a failure board.”

For Lester, she uses a vision board as a touchstone of things that make her happy so that she’s constantly shifting back into an abundance mindset.

And the good news is that to make one, you actually don’t need a ton of arts and crafts; you can make a vision board online, or through apps or on your phone. So even if you’re not into crafts, we’ve got all the steps you need to make a stellar vision board and start manifesting all of dreams into fruition. Keep reading for insights on how to make a vision board, what psychologists really think of the trend, and even some savvy tips for a no-effort yet colorful design (hint: push pins).

What is a vision board?

First things first, let’s define this buzzy phrase. We turned to the pros for a quick overview of what a vision board even is, in common parlance.

“A vision board is a visual representation of goals, hopes, values, and dreams, in any life domain. It's a creative way to create a roadmap for the direction a person wants to go with a purpose of creating energy — like brainstorming,” explains Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt, Ph.D., ABPP,  a board-certified health psychologist, executive coach, and the author of Badass Stories: Grit, Growth, Hope, and Healing in the Sh*tshow. “A person can use pictures, words, crafts — whatever fits — to create the vision board. It's also a great way to explore yourself and see what you are drawn to. The point is to create a path or direction with inspiration and maybe some beauty.”

“Vision boards are a powerful tactical tool to help set and manifest your goal-setting,” echoes Theresa Melito-Conners, PhD, who goes by Dr. MC, and is the CEO & Founder of Dr. MC’s Self-Care Cabaret. She notes that whether such projects are a physical collage or an online creation, vision boards start with intentionality and specificity: “What you want to accomplish, how you envision yourself, and how you want to feel. For example, if you’d like to be on the cover of Vogue, you might create a mock-up of a graphic of yourself on the cover and add it to your board,” she says, adding that vision boards are not only about the act of creating them, but also about the action you take as a result. 

“What steps are you taking toward that Vogue cover? Starting a blog? Going to a networking event? Participating in a fashion show?” Maybe your goal is less Vogue cover and more 'move into your own apartment, apply to grad school, or run a marathon. But you get the idea. vision boards actually work?

Eckleberry-Hunt says that while vision boards aren’t for everyone, they often are a helpful tool for creative or artistic folks and/or people who are just generally feeling stuck. “By doing this sort of exploration, people can discover things about themselves — wants and desires they may not have been aware of previously,” says Eckleberry-Hunt, elaborating that the other main benefits of vision boards, as she sees it, are that they can generate some natural excitement in your life. “Having the vision board present in a work or living space can also remind a person of what they are looking to achieve or what motivates them.”

Riffing on that opinion, psychologist Dr. Kate Cummins, PsyD notes that the effort of actually putting together a vision board is behavioral activation of creating something new. “When someone commits to the goal of making a vision board, they commit to time and effort on a specific activity that is directly correlated to the future of their healthy or adaptive overall well-being,” she says, adding that our behaviors are a key predictor for future success, so the act of creating the vision board activates behavioral change, which can, in turn, help to set up a domino effect or upward spiral in your future. 

“Visualization, or cognitive reframing, is what happens when an individual creates a vision board and the mind shifts into a positive future space,” clarifies Cummins. “When making a vision board, positive cognitive reframing happens naturally as one is picking out things they want for their future, so maximized success is created when the person is intentional about future goals or positive future themes in their life.”

How do you figure out what to put on your vision board?

If you’re stumped on where to begin, you’re not alone. To make a vision board, Lester suggests finding pictures of stuff you like, whether it’s family photos, magazine clippings, drawings, ticket stubs, swatches of fabric to which you’re drawn, etc. Basically, “anything that sparks joy and a feeling of lightness,” emphasizes Lester, adding that these items don’t have to make sense together or tell a story. To that point, she stresses that the sillier your items are, the more helpful they may ultimately prove — and you may get over that whole “vision board block” thing more swiftly.

“If you don’t know where to start, think back to when you were eight years old," Lester suggests. "What was your perfect day? Ice skating? Learning about dinosaurs? Throwing a birthday party for your guinea pigs?”

On your vision board, you can place pictures that represent childhood dreams next to something you’re actually trying to manifest in the present day. “How will a picture of a guinea pig in a tiara manifest your dream job? Tapping into the innocence of childhood — or studying abroad, or your first job out of college, or any time you remember as joyful — shifts you into a positive mindset, which paves the way for manifestation,” says Lester. 

The next step, says Lester, is to put representations of one or two things on your board that you’re trying to manifest. “The warm fuzzy feelings of looking at your dog Noodles will automatically bleed over into the cutout of that Sandals vacation, and up your chances of manifesting it,” she says, elaborating that she believes manifestation isn’t about how, but about yes. “You don’t stress about how the post office will deliver a package, you just focus on receiving it right? Same thing with a vision board.” (And for those of us who do stress about getting mail deliveries, alas, we feel you and we’re checking our mailboxes, too.)

Still, stresses Lester, “it’s the universe’s job to sort out the delivery. You just make sure the path to your doorstep is clear!” Easier said than done, we know, but creating a vision board can often be a great first step to elucidating your dreams, giving them structure, and ushering them into existence. 

OK, so time to walk through the nuts and bolts: How do you make a vision board?

Once you’ve gotten clear about the kind of themes and goals you want to represent visually on your creative oeuvre, you can get to work with the following steps, per Roxie Nafousi, self-development coach, motivational speaker and best-selling author of MANIFEST: 7 Steps to Living Your Best Life.

Get in the mood.

To channel your positive outlook Nafousi notes the importance of setting the mood. “Light some candles, play some relaxing music and create a calm and meditative environment,” she says. “Make your vision-boarding exercise a sacred event for you to enjoy and indulge yourself in.” 

Get your blank canvas ready.

If you’re choosing to create a vision board in a physical medium, Nafousi suggests getting a large sheet of card or paper. Then, you can choose whether you want to write out your goals with different colored pens (either in bullet points or freestyle) or use images (DIY drawings, cutouts from magazines or newspapers, printed photos from your own life, you name it). “Choose whatever feels best for you — just remember to have fun with it.”

 Plot your timeline.

Dreams need deadlines, too. “At the top of the page, write the exact date by which you want to manifest what’s on your vision board. You could choose to do a six-month, one-year or even a five-year vision board,” says Nafousi, who is a personal fan of doing all three. “I sometimes find that people can struggle to know, and visualize, what they want their life to look like one year ahead, yet they may feel much more able to visualize their life in five years’ time, or vice versa. So if you are feeling a little stuck, remember: you can always choose a different timeline.”

 Ask some pointed questions.

Begin this portion of vision board making with some deep breaths and pausing for as long as you need to contemplate what you imagine your life to be like six months, or one year, or five years from now. “Create a clear and vivid image in your mind as you ask yourself the following questions: How do I feel within myself? What kind of relationships surround me? What kind of home do I live in? What is my profession? What am I most proud of? What do I want to change in my life? What do I want to keep the same?” suggests Nafousi.

While answering these questions, Nafousi says you should allow yourself to be completely free in your dreams, desires and wants. “Do not allow fear to hold back your imagination; instead, take your mind’s eye to the exact place that you want to be. Allow the image of your future self to really come to life as you sink into that visualization.”

Create multiple categories for your vision board.

Nafousi says splitting your vision board into the following six categories can be helpful, though you can feel free to tweak or toss certain categories as you see fit.

  • Personal development (i.e. your personal growth and how you want to feel within yourself)
  • Love and romance
  • Career
  • Friends and family
  • House/home
  • Hobbies/leisure

Now: Design your life

It’s time to start mapping out what your life will look like across the various spheres you are encompassing on your vision board. “For each category, write down all the things that you want to manifest within it. If you are using cut-out images, such as an image of your dream house, stick them on to your vision board,” says Nafousi, who advises trying to have a minimum of three things for each category, but notes there is no limit on how many things you can add to your vision board.

 Put your vision board away.

Once you’re done with this process and satisfied with how your vision board has turned out, Nafousi says you can put it away somewhere safe and set a reminder to come back to it on the date you wrote at the top. Note: Some people may prefer to see their vision board on a daily or weekly basis, so you might want to hang it prominently in your office space or inside a closet door that you consciously check once a week if that’s the case for you.

Zhuzh up your vision board.

Looking to go the extra mile? Melito-Conners has the following guidelines to make your vision board even more impressive.

Use Canva. The free graphic design skill can be an easy way to combine images and quotes that are totally personal to you. “I also put my Canva skills to use to create specific images,” says Melito-Conners.

Use wrapped bulletin board cork as your canvas. Instead of paper or cardstock, “cover the bulletin board cork section in fun wrapping paper or fabric,” says Melito-Conners. “This step is optional, but it can elevate the vibe and feel of your board. All you need is a stapler and scissors to transform a boring bulletin board into a colorful surface.”

Use colorful push pins. While Melito-Conners concedes this totally optional, “Why not?” she asks, adding that she likes to use novelty push pins (shoes, crowns, jewels, roses, pearls, etc.) from Amazon and Etsy. “Please note that traditional push pins or glue work just fine too.”

Hang your vision board with Command Picture Hanging Strips. Melito-Conners notes that these are ideal for easy removal and updating — ideal if you like having a vision board that evolves “like your ultimate closet,” as Melito-Conners puts it, over the course of a few months or a year.  

Put it on prominent display. “To best maximize and manifest your vision board, I encourage individuals to put it in a prominent place where they can see it daily,” she says, though as stated previously, you may also opt to put your vision board out of view until you look at it during a designated time. For some, there’s power in surrounding yourself with your vision board as you go through your everyday life. “Make it the wallpaper on your phone or computer!” says Melito-Conners.