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mapping 2024: how to create your vision board for the year ahead

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

As the ending of one year and the beginning of another looms, I'm spending a lot of time thinking about what 2024 will bring me.


I wrapped up work for my undergrad in December, so I'm truly starting this new year by turning a page in my book. Without the tether to my longtime identity as a student, I'm left with the terrifyingly liberating opportunity to embark on new paths.


I'm a big believer in the power of manifesting your ideal life. Nothing is pre-determined, nothing is promised, and nothing is out of the question. The new year brings with it a renewing energy.


As people the world over set new year's resolutions, there is a palpable optimism in the air. Why not capture that energy and use it toward your dreams and goals?


A hand is arranging a printed photo on a collage

Mediums of manifestation


I'm going to use the artistic mediums that appeal to me personally to map my year - that means creating a vision board and accompanying letter to my future self.


By using collage and writing, I'm leaning into the art forms I already know speak to me. I'll feel passionate about creating them, and I'll (hopefully) feel more inclined to care about them throughout the year ahead.


I'm going to start with a mind map to figure out my specific goals for the year ahead. Are there milestones I want to reach? Skills I want to develop or improve upon? For me, these ranged from simple things like growing out my hair, to complex themes like nurturing my friendships, to specific goals such as hikes I want to complete.


Anything from saving money, to places to visit, to personal goals like incorporating gratitude into daily life - it's going in the map. And then, it's going in a letter.


Letter to my Future Self


I'm going to write a letter to myself one year from right now. If you're using this practice to create more long term goals, maybe you'll want to write a letter to yourself in 5 or 10 years.


I recommend starting your letter by talking to your future self as if they're a separate person you're communicating to (because in a way, they are!). What questions do you have for the version of yourself that will exist a year from now? What do you hope for that person? What do you fear for them? What would you tell them to remember?


A hand holds a white envelope which has written on it: "December 2024 me" with a small heart drawn below
My letter to my future self all sealed up and ready to go

Then, get into writing about and manifesting your goals and dreams. Draw from your mind map, and discuss in as much detail as possible the ambitions you hold for yourself in the year ahead. What will you endeavour to experience or achieve? How will you implement the changes in your life today in order to get where you want to see yourself a year from now?


I'm going to start with my travel goals and ambitions, as this is one of the core areas I want to engage with and grow in 2024. I already have trips planned to California, Montreal, and British Colombia. So I'll write about what I want those trips to look like, and any specific things I'd like to see and do while I'm there.


I also have some destinations on my list that I'd like to make happen in 2024 - these include Cape Breton, Newfoundland, Maine, etc. I'm going to write about these destinations. When would I go? Who would I go with? The more concretely I can discuss my plans, the more effective my writing.


A collage is half finished. There is a background of a few nature images glued onto cardboard, and then there is a pen and the back of a photo which has written on it: "I will hike the Fundy Footpath"
As I discuss later, I came up with a new way of baking in intentions to my vision board: writing my goals on the back of the images that get glued on!

Next, I wanted to write about my intrapersonal growth. One of my personal goals is to create more art in 2024. I want to be sure to be specific when discussing my goals, so rather than just saying "I will do more art", I said "I will spend time creating something at least once every week".


I'm going to put my letter in an envelope addressed to my December 2024 self. Before I seal it away for the year, I'm going to read it out loud (excellent for proof reading AND speaking things into existence), and then sleep with it under my pillow on New Year's. These are just my little personal rituals - find what works for you to keep your plans fresh in your mind!


How to Create Your Vision Board

The other component of this New Year's ritual is the creation of a vision board. So many posts already exist about why vision boards work (including this awesome one I wrote last year specifically for dancers setting goals for the dance year ahead - check it out!).



I've seen a lot of vision boards on social media this year that exist in Canva or Pinterest or some other online format - so many of them miss an essential part of vision board creating! Having the board exist physically in your daily space is a vital factor in how vision boards work.


You have to see it every single day for it to shape your every day life. The things you're including in your board are likely things that need to be worked toward on a daily basis, so having a physical representation of your Why is essential.


If you're a digital girl and want to make your vision board online, I recommend setting it as your desktop background and/or printing it out and displaying it so you do see it every day!


I'm a collage girl, so I'm going to be creating my vision board using printed photos from the internet alongside magazine photos I already have laying around. I'm also going to include any image or text relevant to my goals and desires for the year ahead. While I'm creating my board, I'm going to listen to music, put my phone on do not disturb, and focus my mind on the intentions I'm setting. Make an evening of it!




Creating my vision board

Before I get into the specifics of my process, here are a few of my tips.


I started by printing off all of the images I wanted to include. I then gathered some paper scraps and images from my existing collage supplies. I really wanted to use quotes from Taylor Swift's Time Person of the Year issue (which my mom got me for Christmas - thanks!!), but I didn't want to destroy the magazine. I ended up photocopying a few of the pages and using those in the board, so I wouldn't have to cut up the book.


A few pages of paper sit in disarray. They are photo copies of magazine articles about Taylor Swift.
My photocopied pages of Taylor Swift words because I live my life by them.

For my base, I used a piece of cardboard from my recycling pile. Cardboard is cheap, easy to find, and makes a great base for collaging. Nothing makes my blood boil like glue or Modge Podge seeping into paper as you work, making it all limp/heavy/damp. Cardboard is much more equipped to handle multiple layers of adhesive.


My other key material is that aforementioned glue. For collaging, I like to use my own DIY version of Modge Podge.


I take Tacky Glue or another white glue and cut it with water (typically equal parts glue and water, but you could alter this to suit the consistency you'd like to work with). This solution is practically identical to Modge Podge and eliminates the need to purchase multiple types of "different" glue for my various crafting activities.


I'll use a large flat paintbrush to coat both sides of the image going onto the board to ensure I get all of my images firmly cemented onto the base.


A desk is photographed from above. On it sit piles of paper scraps cut out from magazines, scissors, and a cup of coffee.
This is from when I last cut up a magazine to sort into the scrapyard (my folder of collage-able scraps)


Where to Display your Vision Board

As I mentioned before, a vision board should be displayed where you'll see it every single day. It's vital to be confronted with your goals as you go about your daily life so that you can implement the choices and changes necessary to achieve them.


If I had an office where I did my work, that's where I would put my vision board. Seeing as how I do not have an office, the next obvious choice is my bedroom. Unfortunately, the wall space in my room is already quite busy.


When I really thought about it, there's one time of day I consistently let my mind wander: when I brush my teeth. I decided to hang my vision board in my bathroom.


This might be unorthodox, but I can honestly say that the first time I brushed my teeth after hanging it, I instinctively turned from the sink and stared at it for a good 30 seconds before I even realised that my plan was working!


I recommend considering where your vision board should be placed in order to have the greatest impact on you. That could be your bedside table, your office cubicle, or any other number of places.


A hand holds up a completed vision board which is a collage of images and text.
The finished product! Also visible is my previously mentioned busy wall space.

My Collage Process


Material prep

  • I began by going through my existing collage materials. I sorted through my "scrapyard", as I like to call it (a folder filled with paper scraps which come mostly from magazines), and picked out anything that was relevant to my vision. I also picked out some larger pieces of "backgrounds" which were mostly nature and landscape themed (though you can tailor this to your own interests).

  • I browsed Pinterest and created a board with images relevant to my goals.

  • I narrowed my Pinterest board down to the images I definitely wanted to print. I downloaded those, put them on a USB stick, and went to Walmart to print them.

  • I photocopied pages from books and magazines that I didn't want to cut up in order to include.

  • I cut off a flat piece of cardboard from a recycled vacuum box.

  • I mixed my homemade Modge Podge using equal parts Tacky Glue and water. I mixed this using my large paint brush in a small ceramic bowl.


A desk is photographed from above. On it are some magazine clippings, a large rectangular piece of cardboard, a white ceramic bowl, a bottle of Tacky Glue, a paintbrush, orange scissors,  a pen, and a red mug of tea.
Collage materials: Images, cardboard base, ceramic bowl, Tacky Glue, paintbrush, scissors, pen, and delicious tea.

Preparing myself

  • As detailed above, this process started by creating a mind map and writing a letter to my future self which include all of my goals and dreams for the year ahead. I left my mind map displayed where I could see it while I worked on my vision board so my vision would stay fresh in my mind.

  • I prepared myself by putting on my best loungewear and making myself a cup of raspberry tea.

  • I prepared my space by lighting a lovely candle, clearing the clutter off of my workspace, and putting on an album. I selected Midnights because I can't help it I'm in my Midnights era.


An assortment of printed photos and magazine clippings are photographed from above. The image is blurry and hazy.
An accidentally artsy shot of my images before I started glueing!

Collaging

  • I began the collage by laying down my "background" pieces. These were relevant to the overall theme of the vision, but weren't representative of specific goals. I got lucky when I found some images of California landscapes in my scrapyard, so I was able to tie in the background with one of the events coming up in my life!

A black and white image of a waterfall has been glued to a piece of cardboard. This is photographed from above and includes a large flat paintbrush.
This particular image is from Yellowstone, but I was lucky to also find some images of California to include (relevant because I'm traveling to California in the year I'm vision boarding)! You can sort of see here how both sides of the paper have been coated in a thin layer of glue.

  • To glue: coat either the space you're putting the piece or the back of the piece itself in the glue mixture. Once you lay it down where you want it, coat the entire top of the piece in another thin layer of glue. Depending on the thickness and glossiness of the paper, you might need to saturate it with more or less glue, or pay more attention to the neatness of your brush strokes when you do the top layer of glue. Play it by ear - the goal is to have the paper stuck to the base as well as the surrounding pieces, while being evenly saturated with glue.

  • After I had a background established to build off of, I started laying down the photos I printed. Some of them I left whole, some I cut out, some I aligned with the edges of the cardboard, some I angled. I always have trouble starting a collage, but I find that the further in I get, the easier it becomes to instinctively lay pieces down.

My secret to having a positive experience and a positive result from collaging is to not think so much! Easier said than done, I know. If you're waffling on where to put a specific piece, either move on or just force yourself to put it somewhere - anywhere. The sooner you can start glueing, the sooner you can get into a flow.
  • Something I did which I've never seen before (don't come for me if I didn't invent it first, but I did think of it independently) was incorporate a little extra intentionality into my process by writing the relevant goal or ambition on the back of an image before gluing it on. Just like cheese in a good pizza crust, the manifestation is now baked into my board!



To incorporate even more intentionality, write your goal on the back of your image before glueing it down! Bake in the manifestation.
  • Once all of my images were in place, I glued my text pieces last so they would stick out. I've seen vision boards with text and without text - it's up to your taste!

A close up of the collage. Green and blue northern lights are drawn above black and white mountains.
  • The final touch: I realised that I forgot to print out an image of the aurora borealis, when one of my dreams for next year is to see it (2024 is supposed to be a particularly magical year for the aurora, and I live in a place where I should reasonably be able to see it with some effort!). Rather than print it out - which wasn't going to happen when I was already too cozy at home - I simply drew it onto one of the background images using highlighters. Incorporating mixed media is something I LOVE to do, but wasn't planning on doing for this project. I'm glad I found a way to sneak it in!


 

Looking to the Future


In the end, I found this process - from the mind map to the vision board - to be extremely rewarding. The evening I devoted to collaging it was a good experience; not only because I was able to get into a flow and really enjoy the crafting, but also because it prompted me to visualise my ambitions for the year ahead.


It made goals feel more tangible, and made plans feel nearer than ever.


In addition to making me reflect more realistically about my goals, the vision board I created is pretty beautiful. Even considering it as a regular collage, I love it! So I'm hoping that the intentions I set out with it will stick better than an old fashioned New Year's resolution simply because of the fact that it's visually awesome to me.


A collage is photographed from above. It includes text as well as nature images and other assorted photos
The completed project.

Side note for my fellow swifties - that poem "Hold on to childlike whims and moonlight/ swims and your blazing self respect" is by Taylor Swift and appeared in a 2017 British Vogue. It's probably my favourite thing she's written that isn't a song lyric.


Even if you're not reading this at the turn of a new year, vision boarding can be a powerful tool in realising your goals. Take your dreams and make them tangible - look at your board each and every day, and ask yourself what you can do that day to work toward that vision. Good luck!



 


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