My Vision Board Was a Failure; Here’s What I Learnt From the Process


Pick tools that work for you!

Some of the many images to go into the book… Credit Anouska Parr © 2020

Full disclosure it was a ‘Vision Book’ as opposed to the rather more standard ‘Vision Board’ — I knew a singular board would not suffice for all of my billions of ideas, I am just that type of person. Ask me my favourite anything (colour, holiday destination, food), and I’m going to give you a minimum of three.

So I decided to make a book, which I would split into sections, and upon reflection that should have indicated at conception that this was not a tool that was going to help me.
I partially blame COVID-19; it has affected all us in peculiar ways. I’m not immune to this — partially YouTube for putting this silly idea in my head.

I can’t remember the exact catalyst that got me all excited, but there I was clutching my Pinterest print-outs (no; the irony is not lost on me) before I had set to work with my scissors and paper tape. I even had a vision of how my vision book would look. Yes, it was a thing of beauty but ten pages in and it was taking such a bloody long time and my boundless enthusiasm was starting to wain I was beginning to get a bit bored, which didn’t feel right for this positive life-affirming activity.

So no, I didn’t finish it, and guess what? (spoiler alert) My dreams did not come true.

You cannot bounce a quarter off my perfectly toned peachy butt; I don’t live in Bali on the beach, I can’t surf so well that I will almost certainly be scouted as the next big thing, (groundbreaking for someone of my age).

My minimal brutalist home that rises from beyond the sand, like some colossal open-plan concrete paradise framed by the fronds of the palm trees, swooshing in the breeze has not been built. The rescued animals running free in the acres of lush farmland behind the house are yet to be saved, and my face is not that of such blissful serenity that my very being would soothe the Dalai Lama.

Since I made this decision life has (as anticipated) continued pretty much as usual.

So what happened to make me abandon my magical book of manifestation, and more importantly, how on earth will I get all those things that I need and deserve?

‘He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened’ — Lao Tzu

So let’s start with why it wasn’t going to work for me.

There are lots of different types of people in this world, and when you get to a certain age, you should have a vague idea of which sort you are, you will also have an idea of how you make your successes. For me, it’s incredibly structured, detailed hard work with a side of proving people wrong thrown in for good measure; I enjoy the planning, the process and I leave little to chance.

So for me, a vision board is a terrible idea, and I don’t know what the f*ck happened that had me merrily procrastinating, chopping up these pictures of pseudo perfection to stick into a book that is somehow going to make these things happen magically.
Because the real me, the cynical pragmatic one;

She calls bullsh*t!

Here is how I will get all the stuff.
Are you ready? Sitting down?
I will get these things by…

*drum roll*

Going off and jolly well getting them!


I mean it’s common sense, isn’t it? The way you get the stuff you want is like this:

  • Identify the thing you want
  • Work out how to get the thing
  • Follow the steps from your workings out

It’s really and truly that simple; here let me show you how it’s done:

Today I want pasta for tea because I f*cking love pasta.
There you go; identify the thing you want — the first step is complete.
Do you think I am going to put it in my vision book and then manifest it? No. That would be stupid.

Now, I am going to work out how to get it (go to the shop) that’s step two. Then from my workings out, I know I need to go to the shop to buy the pasta, then I shall cook the pasta, which I shall eat for my tea and it shall be delicious.

I mean yes, some of the other things are bigger, they take more working out, and longer to achieve.

If I want a peachy butt I can bounce quarters off; I will probably eat less of the pasta and maybe do a bit of butt specific exercise. If I want to live on the beach in Bali, I will look at some property, find out if it’s possible to buy it and how much it costs, then I will start to save up.

For someone like me who is attached to the minute detail of every idea, my vision book was beginning to feel like a technical specification for each part of my life, and it didn’t matter how hard I tried, I could not be general.

What did I learn?

I have a lot of ideas, goals, dreams floating around in my brain. What this process highlighted is that they will stay there, percolating; until they are ready to become a reality.
Once that happens I am ready to put pen to paper and then it’s GO time, there is no doubt in my mind that I will achieve whatever it is I am setting out to get, so I don’t need anything to remind me, I will be 100% focussed on the end goal.

The vision book didn’t work because I am not ready for this stuff to be a reality; most of these things are a long way in the future.

I do have a system of organising my life, and honestly, it works rather well.

My strategy is this:

  • Communal diary for my partner and I to write down anything we need to remember; introduced very recently and it’s a game-changer.
    This has everything that either one of us can think of written down as to-do lists, goals, that film we want to watch, macrame plant hanger I want to make. I have learnt over the years to write stuff down, so it’s out of my head, no matter how small. It means I am unlikely to forget, and I don’t wind myself up trying to remember, meaning a lot less sleepless nights.
  • Lists for immediate commitments and projects I am working on
    This list is quite often taken from the diary for us both, and this will form our to-do lists for the week, combined with essentials like the food shopping, chores, picking up the cleaning etc. Also, an important note, when you have completed something on your list, highlight it, that way you can see it’s complete, but you can still see what the item was in case you need to refer back to it!

‘But aren’t lists bad? ‘

That largely depends on what type of person you are. I have a friend who cannot write lists as they make her anxious. I understand that too, and sometimes you do need to spring clean and re-order your lists because if it has got to say 100 things that you cannot make a dent in, it just becomes demoralising. This is why the diary method works so well. You have written everything down so that it’s out of your brain and you don’t forget, but you don’t try to make a list of every single one of those things. I try to keep my lists to an absolute max of 20 items.

  • Pinterest
    For everything else, there is Pinterest. For all the hate it gets, there is no denying that Pinterest is a handy free resource. Whether you use it to save recipes, holiday destinations, hairstyles, craft projects (I have all of those plus a lot more) it means you don’t have to worry too much about this stuff falling out of your brain, because you got it somewhere safe, saved for future reference no matter how big or small.

So am I saying that Vision boards are worthless?

Photo taken at The Forest, Hong Kong — Credit Anouska Parr © 2020

No not at all, for some people, and purposes there is a place for a Vision Board, they can help remind you of the specific things that you are shooting for, your goals or targets. It’s certainly not going to hurt to have all these positive ideas somewhere you can see them and keep you motivated.

The same can be said for affirmations, sure, get them on the board and stick the board somewhere you will see it (by your mirror is a good call).

But when the ideas are still percolating and evolving daily, there is no clear leader, and these are things you’re thinking about doing in ten years, a vision board is probably not what you need in your life.

So what other visual boards can you use and how can they help you in everyday life?

First of all, let me say that you don’t necessarily need to print all of these images out. It is possible to do this in Pinterest or more conventional programs like; Illustrator, Photoshop, Powerpoint, Keynotes, InDesign and so on, then you can print out your final board. (Save the trees people!!!)

This started as a brain dump. Then I sorted all of my images into colours and added corresponding materials and trims — Credit Anouska Parr © 2020

Brain Dump

What is it, and how do I use it?
When I am working on a new trend insight report, I will start with a brain dump. This is an enormous board of every single image that I think is relevant; I will then begin to analyse the images and split into colour stories or key trends. Once you have everything up in front of you, it’s much easier to spot patterns.

How can you use a brain dump for life stuff?
You are having some friends over for dinner, maybe it’s a birthday or a big celebration of some kind, you don’t know what to cook, you have lots of ideas, but no clear winner and they are all very different. So how about you collate an image of every single food idea that you like then divide the food into groups. You’ll usually find you have one key area that is stacked, so that’s giving you a pretty good indication you should pick something from that area.

Mood board

What is it, and how do I use it?
This is to create a mood, tone or feeling. So a while back, I was working on a project for a customer and was recommending that they introduce some iridescent, pearlescent or holographic materials into their products as it was a key trend I had identified. (often this would be from a brain dump) You can have a mood board with multiple images, or just one or two key images works too; as long as the images are strong enough to illustrate what the mood is.

How you can you use a mood board?
This is great for any visual project. Perhaps you want to redecorate your bedroom and have all these ideas about what you want, but you don’t know how to get started. This is how — this is your starting point. Find the images that represent how you want this room to feel and begin to collate them. So you might wish to have a tranquil seaside theme, so your board is going to be made of all things that instantly transport you to the coast.

Mood board at top, then middle and bottom design boards incorporating all the elements we are looking for. Credits Anouska Parr & Thu Truong © 2020

Design board

What is it, and how do I use it?
This is to illustrate specific items and style. So if I am redesigning our reception at work, this board will have versions of all the items that I want to be in that space — things like furniture, lighting, soft furnishings, desk accessories. Sometimes I would include links for where I have found these items to make it easier for my sourcing team to find them.

How can you use a Design board?
This is great for planning all sorts of projects, whether it’s the specific items you want in the bedroom that you redesigned, or maybe you are going to an event and want to plan your outfit; this is a great way to help you to put it together. You would put all the specifics of the outfit on your board as a starting point, then use the board to help you find similar. You can even save it on your phone so that when you are out shopping, you can bring up the image to keep you on track. It’s so helpful to have it to refer back to and will stop you from impulse buying things that don’t fit the brief you made yourself.

So there you have it, maybe the Vision board is not the right approach for you either, but there are other methods of visual planning that might be, and using imagery to plan a project is extremely powerful in helping you stay on track.

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