Unlocking the benefits of vision boarding with Anna Dunleavy

Posted on March 22, 2023 by Sarah Robertson

Photographer and creative business coach, Anna Dunleavy, joins us for This Creative Life, a blog series about creative living, working and playing. And what better way to welcome spring than with an article about the power of vision boarding.


As a coach, I’m all too familiar with goal setting, and the various techniques we can use to get clear on our goals and intentions. And whilst these are important tools, especially if you’re a business owner, they can sometimes feel restrictive. Setting specific goals and writing them down on paper can feel both encouraging and discouraging, all at once.

That’s why, over the last few years, I started experimenting with setting goals and intentions in a more visual way. A way that allows for creativity, and leaves room for manoeuvre, too. Written goals still have their place – and I’m not discounting that. But I love the freedom that creating a vision board gives me, and the opportunities and thoughts that come with it. As spring approaches, this is the perfect time to set gentle intentions for the season ahead.

Client quotes

There’s magic in making space for creative play once in a while, especially in a world that’s busy and eager for us to prove our productivity and achievements.

Creative play

Vision boards are a fun and creative tool used to visualise your goals and dreams. It’s a collage of images, words, and other visuals that represent the things you want to achieve or bring to life. They can represent our intentions, too – how we want our days to feel, and the general mood or felt sense we may wish to create. By putting your aspirations on display in a visually appealing way, it’s easier to stay motivated and focused on achieving them.

There’s magic in making space for creative play once in a while, especially in a world that’s busy and eager for us to prove our productivity and achievements. Creating a vision board is one way of doing just that, and it doesn’t have to be a physical vision board either. A digital vision board can serve as a beautiful reminder, and let’s face it, we all spend huge amounts of time on our digital devices. So why not use those spaces as creative prompts, too?

Vision boarding tips

Gentle reflection

I like to begin the process with some gentle reflections. The timeframe used here is entirely up to you. For me, reflecting on the last 3-12 months works well, as it gives me enough context, and often shows me where I want to focus my attention going forward. I weave in some journaling here, too, focusing on topics such as my own version of success, how I want to feel in my day-to-day life, and projects or activities that bring me energy and ignite that creative spark.

I select images based on the feeling they evoke, although sometimes I seek out specific visual representations of the things I’d like to include on my board. For example, my recent vision board included quite a few home themes, and the picture frame wall reminds me of my dream to one day fill a staircase with photos and prints. It represents a family home to me, and whilst the end result may look somewhat different, it’s still a powerful reminder.

Pay attention to what themes and colours you’re drawn to, too – what are they trying to tell you about your current state of mind, or the things you’re yearning to bring into your life?

And remember – there are no rules when it comes to making your own vision board. You get to choose, and be as creative as you want to be. You can write and draw on your boards too, or use stickers and washi tape to bring it all together. Your vision board can be full, or minimal. Stay open to what this activity might highlight for you, and above all, enjoy the process.

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The very act of making a vision board can be relaxing. Prepare your favourite drink, stick your favourite playlist on, and light a candle – make it as cosy as possible!

Key benefits

    1. Helps you to clarify your goals and dreams: When you take the time to create a vision board, you are forced to think about what you want out of life. By visualising your goals and dreams, you can get a clearer sense of what’s truly important to you. What does your version of success look like?
    2. Increases motivation: Having a visual representation of your goals can help keep you motivated and focused. Seeing your vision board every day, you are reminded of what you’re working towards, serving as a powerful motivator.
    3. Boosts creativity: Making a vision board is a fun and creative activity that allows you to tap into your imagination. It’s a chance to play around with different images and ideas and to express yourself in a visually appealing way. When else do we get to play with tearing out images from magazines?
    4. Reduces stress: The very act of making a vision board can be relaxing. Prepare your favourite drink, stick your favourite playlist on, and light a candle – make it as cosy as possible! By having a clear vision for your future, you may also feel more in control of your life and more optimistic about what’s to come.
    5. Attracts opportunities: By focusing on the things you want to bring to life and the way you want to feel each day, you’ll be more likely to spot new opportunities when they come your way.
Vision boarding ideas

Positive emotions

On a separate, nerdy note, there has also been some research on visual goal planning, including the use of vision boards, that provides some context and confirms that it can be an effective tool for achieving goals, alongside more traditional goal-setting techniques.

One study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people who visualised their goals were more likely to achieve them than those who simply thought about them or wrote them down. The researchers found that visualising goals activated the brain’s motivational centres, which in turn led to increased goal pursuit and achievement.

Another study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that creating a vision board can increase positive affect (i.e. mood) and goal commitment. The study’s participants reported feeling more motivated to pursue their goals after creating a vision board, and they also reported higher levels of positive emotions.

Making a vision board can be a really enjoyable and therapeutic activity that allows you to tap into your creativity and imagination. You never know when those dreams and goals might come true. Enjoy!


Anna is a photographer and creative business coach, working with small business owners. Her aim is to create judgement-free spaces, helping folks find confidence to do life and work on their own terms. You can find Anna on:

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