Why Vision Boards Alone Don’t Work

Here's what you can do every single day to reach your goals

Businessman in office looking at project on board

Getty Images/Thomas Barwick

Ever heard of a vision board? You’re supposed to picture your perfect life and then print out pictures that reflect that life and make a collage to put on your wall.

Creating a vision board is a fun and enlightening exercise to do, but some people treat them like they’re absolute magic. There is a myth that says if you put together a vision board you automatically “manifest” your vision.

While faith and vision are both incredibly important things, they don’t do the actual work of making your vision happen...and that’s the problem. A vision board alone is kind of like turning on your map app in your phone and then not getting in your car to go to the place that you punched in your app.

This why vision boards don’t work — at least not if that’s all you’re using to get to the goals you want to achieve. You need a plan of action to go with it. It's not just about the law of attraction, but it's also about the law of action.

Back Your Vision Boards With Daily Action

Here’s where the trouble comes in.

Vision boards are fun and exciting and they get you motivated—until things get hard. Then you have to replace that excitement and motivation with something called “grit” or perseverance.

More than anything else, the ability to keep going and reaching toward your goal when things are boring, difficult, or even painful is the defining characteristic of those who make the goals of the vision boards and those who don’t.

Working Backward to Get to Your Goal

A lot of times vision boards are so big and audacious that they can leave you feeling completely overwhelmed and not knowing what to do next. This is where working backward comes in.

Don’t try to get every detail put together all at once. You only need to know what you’re doing for the next 12 weeks or so. The book “The 12 Week Year” gives a great outline of why this timeframe works so well for planning.

Start by asking yourself “What do I need to accomplish in the next 12 months in order to move forward on my vision in a significant way?” It's important to realize that you're not being asked you to achieve your vision in the next 12 months — for most people, this isn’t possible.

You Can Move Forward Significantly Toward Your Vision Every Day

The question above should give you a more manageable chunk of your vision to work on, and it should feel less overwhelming almost immediately.

Next, take a look at the next 12-week timeframe — starting from today. And decide exactly what you want to accomplish in those 12 weeks that will move you toward your goal.

Be sure to set things you can accomplish and that you have complete control over. Stay away from any goals that you can’t control in this 12-week timeframe because it’s frustrating to focus on stuff you can’t control.

A good 12-week goal might be something like “I will make 30 prospecting calls every day.” A bad 12-week goal would look like “I will add $10,000 to my bottom line in 12 weeks.”

Do you see how you can control the first one completely while the second one depends on a variety of factors outside of your control? When you give yourself goals you can control — because there are actions you could definitely take — then you give yourself a real sense of accomplishment every day. This helps you to keep moving forward with persistence and grit when things feel tough — because they will end up feeling tough. It’s part of making big, audacious goals happen.

Though it's exciting and motivating to put together a vision board, doing the hard work of mapping out exactly how you'll get there is the difference between entrepreneurs who succeed and those who do not.

The Magic of Short-term Action Plans Plus Long-Term Vision

When you combine a short-term action plan that you get by doing what’s outlined above with a vision board then you can often hit on some real magic. The vision of the board can help keep you going when you don’t feel like it and the action plan will give you those turn by turn directions that you need to get there.

The bottom line is vision boards aren’t bunk — they can work. But they only work when we put in the nitty-gritty effort every single day to make your visions come true.