5 Vision Board Mistakes That Hurt Your Goal-Setting Efforts

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Vision boards are powerful tools we can use to help us progress further on our goal-setting journey. The problem is, many of us are falling victim to vision board mistakes that can cost us… big time!

But before I get into that, I want to be clear that you understand what a vision board is and how it can help you when trying to obtain the results you want from life.  It is one of a few tools you can use to go after the things you feel you deserve, and those you crave.

What is a Vision Board?

A vision board is a collection of images and quotes you put together (think collage) that are representative of one or more goals you want to achieve. The vision board is often meant to work in conjunction with other goal setting tools… such as apps, worksheets, journals, etc.

The vision board is a clear, visual representation of where you see yourself in the future… near or distant. We are visual creatures by nature, so our brains have a tendency to register what we see as true belief.  While the phrase, “seeing is believing”, may not always be accurate… in the case of vision boards, it can be extremely powerful.     

Now that you understand what a vision board is designed to do, let’s talk about some of the vision board mistakes that can prevent you from succeeding

Mistake #1: You Are Not Leveraging Online Technology

When the vision board concept started to gain recognition from celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey, many people treated it like an arts and craft project. They’d cut out images from magazines or newspapers, print quotes they found online and gather photographs of loved ones and places. Often, they’d glue these onto poster board or cardboard… or pin them to a bulletin board. 

There is nothing wrong with this method, but there is one distinct problem with it… you are limiting yourself to where and how often you look at your vision board for inspiration. The vision board only works if you dedicate ample time to really focus on it. The best way to do that is to have it easily accessible on your smartphone, tablet or computer.

Today, there is no shortage of online programs and apps to help you create a digital vision board. Doing so allows you to look at it more frequently, whenever you are in need of a reminder of what matters… and where you are headed. 

My favorite vision board programs are:

Both of these allow you to utilize both your own saved images and quotes, or borrow from a wide range of stock photos… even in the free versions.  There are templates to guide you if you’re just starting out, or else you can go at it freestyle. 

Canva offers the ability to save digital copies, share on social media and order printable versions of your vision board for a small fee. Udreamr deals strictly with printables, shipped to your home or office.  They offer some really beautiful and fun layouts.  My personal favorites are the Film and Polaroid vision board templates… but photography is a hobby of mine, so it makes sense.

If you want to take your goal setting to the next level, you must take advantage of the technology available to you.  After all, your vision board is your life’s work of art.

Mistake #2: It Lacks Specificity

When we start out setting goals, it’s a good idea to follow the SMART Goals method. Basically you want your goals to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

For instance, it’s not enough to just say “I want to run a marathon”.  You need to specify with, “I want to run the Walt Disney World marathon next year”. If your goals are too vague, you won't be able to truly visualize yourself completing it. It may seem overwhelming and, thus, discouraging.

You also need to be sure your goals aren’t too large… or too much at once. For instance, you may want to set smaller goals leading up to the finish line (pun intended) and have your vision board reflect images, quotes and training plans to help get you there.

A big vision board mistake is filling it with the finale and skipping the scenes leading up to it. The board would be filled with actionable steps you can take to reach your goal… and the part is, your vision board can change as you progress and change.

So in the example of the marathon, why not include:

  • Images of a runner crossing a 10K finish line (5K if you’re just starting out)
  • A sample diet and exercise plan to follow
  • Quotes to keep you motivated
  • Pictures of a timer to remind you to improve pace and increase stamina
  • Weight lifting images and other cardiovascular exercises, such as biking or the elliptical machine  

The more specific and SMART you are about what you put on your vision board, the harder it is to fail. As you complete each goal on the board, pat yourself on the back and add the next steps. A vision board is never set in stone, it is designed to evolve… the same as us.

Mistake #3: It’s Cluttered

One of the classic vision board mistakes is clutter.  I’ve been guilty of this.  One of my first vision boards looked like a Salvador Dalí painting… it had so much going on that it formed a distraction, which is the opposite of what vision boards are designed to do.

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One of the classic vision board mistakes is clutter.

Vision boards are meant to draw you in and focus. If there are too many pictures and quotes, you won’t get what you need from it. Your mind will wander and you’ll likely get off track… possibly for good. 

Mistake #4: Your Board Lacks Conviction and Emotion

If you really want your goals to manifest themselves, you need to believe in yourself. Believe that they can and will happen… with utmost certainty. There is no place for self-doubt on a vision board.

You also need to find your purpose, your “why”, for wanting to make these changes in your life. This process helps foster emotion and breeds passion. If you are not emotionally invested in your goals, your vision board will reflect that… and it will be of little to no use to you.   

Don’t fill the board with generalized images or clichés. Instead, fill it with pictures and words that exude true belief and speak to your true emotions.

Mistake #5: It’s the ONLY Tool You’re Using

As I mentioned at the start of this article,  the vision board is often meant to work in conjunction with other goal setting tools.  It is not intended to be a standalone weapon in your arsenal.

As with many of the challenges and worthwhile efforts in life, having a support system makes us strong and more equipped to handle them.  You are more likely to succeed when you have multiple tools at your disposal.  

Before attempting to create a vision board, it’s often suggested that you begin by journaling. Journaling is a powerful self-examination tool for getting your thoughts down on paper… and reading them gives them validity and power. These words have an effect on you, good or bad, which is why they must be acknowledged. 

Journaling will help you figure out what moves you. Is it fear that is preventing you from changing jobs? Are body issues why you turn down social invitations? Do you feel guilt for not spending more time with your family?  Once you figure out your motivators, you’ll have a solid base for your vision board. 

You can also use the things you write in your journal on goal setting worksheets like these, which can help you narrow things down and prioritize the vision board ever further. This will help you avoid a few of the common vision board mistakes we’ve already talked about. 

Once your vision board is complete, it needs an accountability partner of sorts.  This doesn’t have to be a person you share the board with, who will keep you on task (although it certainly can be).  I’m talking more about the tools that will help you stay accountable for yourself.

Daily affirmations are a great way to speak the words your board is bringing to life. By repeating things like, “Taking time for myself doesn’t mean ‘me first’, it means ‘me too’” and “My family is the foundation I am built upon” will give those images strength. Look at your vision board and repeat your affirmations daily for greater effect.

And last but not least, try and find yourself a quiet place to really focus on your vision board. A place where you can be mindful of what you want and meditate on bringing it to fruition.

When used alongside these other tools, your vision board can be viewed as the pretty bow your goals are tied up with.

Final Thoughts On Vision Board Mistakes

Vision boards are often about dreams and hopes, but they can also be about facing fears and overcoming obstacles. They can be about making small changes in an effort to transform the way you see yourself and the world. They can be about wanting more, or stepping back to appreciate what you already have.

Vision boards work if you utilize them properly. This means:

  • Taking advantage of technology to make them more accessible throughout the day
  • Being very specific with what you want to accomplish, setting benchmark goals rather than one gigantic goal that seems daunting
  • Keep it clean, crisp and simple to avoid becoming distracted
  • Believing in yourself and identifying your purpose for wanting to succeed
  • Utilize other goal setting tactics to give your vision board direction to guide you

It all starts with setting SMART Goals. Once you do that, your vision board can serve as a vital piece to the larger puzzle you are putting together. Whatever you want from life can become your reality, if you are open and honest with yourself about what really matters. Check out this article on 35 SMART Goal examples for all areas of your life for inspiration.

Finally, if you don’t know how to get started with this strategy, then check out this FREE printable worksheet and a six-step process that will help you create the PERFECT vision board.

Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.

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