Ex­ec­u­tive in­tel­li­gence: How vi­sion boards clar­ify ca­reers

Seek­ing in­spi­ra­tion for the year ahead? Vi­sion boards pro­vide clar­ity, re­as­sur­ance and more prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions than you’d think

Destiny - - Contents - BY Cayleigh Bright

To many, “vi­su­al­i­sa­tion” sounds like a highly es­o­teric prac­tice, akin to imag­in­ing some­thing and ex­pect­ing it to ap­pear in front of you, with no work on your part. In­stead, im­mers­ing your­self in your plans for the fu­ture can be a valu­able tool as you en­ter a new year, a new phase in your ro­man­tic or pro­fes­sional sphere, or sim­ply a space in which you need fresh in­spi­ra­tion. Rather than writ­ing your­self a list of strict res­o­lu­tions, why not com­pile words and pic­tures that cre­ate a vi­sion of the life you’d love to live in the com­ing months?


For Ler­ato Mopeli, a tal­ent and per­for­mance spe­cial­ist, vi­sion boards are pow­er­ful tools in that they com­pel their mak­ers to iden­tify the finer de­tails of what they want for them­selves. “Like pray­ing, you’re forced to be spe­cific when mak­ing a vi­sion board,” she ex­plains. “You start to think about de­tails like time­lines, pro­cesses and re­sources you’ll need and in what ways you’re ob­struct­ing your­self. It’s de­lib­er­ate and di­rec­tional.”

It’s well doc­u­mented that many women strug­gle to dream big or to pri­ori­tise their own goals. Sure, we’re told that, as mod­ern women, we can “have it all” – but we’re also bom­barded daily with mes­sages sug­gest­ing that we should be will­ing to set­tle for the bare min­i­mum in life, love and busi­ness – push­ing our plans aside when oth­ers need our emo­tional labour, or sub­du­ing our tal­ents to the point where we do those around us a dis­ser­vice by fail­ing to bring our ideas to life. As Bey­oncé fa­mously re­minded us in the words of Nige­rian nov­el­ist Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie: “We say to girls: ‘You can have am­bi­tion, but not too much.’” The process of vi­su­al­i­sa­tion should be treated as an au­dit of your am­bi­tions and an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand upon them if you re­alise that there’s room to stretch your po­ten­tial even fur­ther, to have more con­fi­dence in your­self or to nurse a lit­tle more hope for what your fu­ture might hold.

For con­tent cre­ator Alyx Caro­lus, a vi­sion book has proven to be the ideal format for lay­ing out her per­sonal ob­jec­tives. This con­struc­tion has al­lowed her to view var­i­ous ar­eas of her life in their con­text as dis­tinct parts com­pris­ing the whole of her fu­ture plans. “I fo­cus on all ar­eas, be­cause my life isn’t just one chap­ter,” she says. “I’ve put my ca­reer goals, my travel plans, where I’d like to live, pla­tonic and ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship af­fir­ma­tions and more in my vi­sion book. It’s a way of har­ness­ing my cre­ativ­ity to de­ter­mine what I want for my­self across all chap­ters – ca­reer, dreams and goals.” An­other ben­e­fit of the vi­sion book or board­ing process is that you can set your­self hard dead­lines for achiev­ing goals, but if there are some you choose to add with no time con­straints, that’s OK too.

Even more help­fully, the vi­su­al­i­sa­tion process moves be­yond a sim­ple “to-do list” format that tends to pri­ori­tise mile­stones and ca­reer goals. In­stead, cre­at­ing a pic­ture of the life you imag­ine for your­self can en­able you to fo­cus on how that fu­ture might make you feel, which in turn gives you the courage to go af­ter what you want and hold your­self ac­count­able for at­tain­ing it. “My vi­sion book isn’t a rigid guide­line – it’s flex­i­ble. What­ever I’m not able to achieve can al­ways be shifted to an­other time-frame. I’m also not try­ing to tie my self-worth to my pro­duc­tiv­ity, but to my over­all con­tent­ment,” says Caro­lus.


Con­tent­ment, ex­cite­ment, ro­man­tic love or en­cour­age­ment… com­mit what­ever feel­ings you’re want­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence more of to your vi­sion board or book too. Whether they’re by-prod­ucts of your achieve­ments or goals within them­selves, your men­tal and emo­tional re­ac­tions are al­ways go­ing to shape your ex­pe­ri­ences. Psy­chol­o­gist Wal­ter Bradley ex­plains that the power of vi­su­al­i­sa­tion lies “in feel­ing the joy that ac­com­pa­nies the at­tain­ment of your goal. It’s this ex­act feel­ing that cre­ates hope.” For this rea­son, Bradley sug­gests cre­at­ing a vi­sion board to any­one need­ing con­fi­dent an­tic­i­pa­tion of their fu­ture. “I rec­om­mend mak­ing a vi­sion board when­ever a pa­tient’s lack­ing hope in a spe­cific area of their life,” he ex­plains. “Pos­i­tively fo­cus­ing on this area, and be­ing spe­cific about what they need, brings the pa­tient a step closer to what they feel they lack. That, in turn, will al­ter their emo­tions once they’re able to en­vis­age the area be­ing ful­filled.”

Petrolink founder and CEO Ler­ato Mot­samai en­tered what she calls the process of “en­vi­sioneer­ing” when she was at a par­tic­u­larly low point, lack­ing both re­sources and mo­ti­va­tion. Since she sat down years ago to cre­ate four large vi­sion boards on poster pa­per along­side her chil­dren, she’s seen a re­mark­ably lit­eral re­al­i­sa­tion of many of the sit­u­a­tions she’d set her sights on, planned to­wards and com­mit­ted to prayer – from quit­ting smok­ing for good and get­ting her fit­ness goals on track to build­ing her own busi­ness, be­ing se­lected for many fe­male leader lists, found­ing the Girlig­nite Africa Academy and even win­ning a cruise for four, which seemed to be a di­rect re­al­i­sa­tion of a mag­a­zine cut­ting of an MSC cruise liner she’d stuck on one of her boards.

“The process was use­ful to me in that it helped me go wild,” she says. “To lit­er­ally be un­tamed and con­jure the most in­cred­i­ble things I’d never imag­ined or even heard of when I was still at high school 25 years ago!” How­ever, while it was a heady, cre­ative time, it wasn’t with­out some self-ex­am­i­na­tion. “Un­der­neath all that ex­cite­ment of be­ing able to dream of pi­o­neer­ing the ‘pos­si­ble’, the process helped me iden­tify and em­brace the tons of bag­gage I’d shame­fully nur­tured at dif­fer­ent stages of my life by firstly ac­knowl­edg­ing its ex­is­tence, then em­bark­ing on a jour­ney of con­sciously un­learn­ing all of it. Some of the is­sues dis­si­pated as quickly as they sur­faced; oth­ers were so com­plex that lay­ers of them are still be­ing un­cov­ered,” says Mot­samai.


For the in­de­ci­sive, the self-doubters and the sec­ond-guessers among us, vi­su­al­i­sa­tion serves to reaf­firm us when we fi­nally get the op­por­tu­nity to ful­fil our dreams and “im­pos­tor syn­drome” strikes. If you’ve al­ways dreamed of work­ing in the USA, for ex­am­ple, and you sud­denly get of­fered an ex­cit­ing po­si­tion in New York with the sup­port you need to ob­tain your work­ing visa, you might sud­denly be tempted to self-sab­o­tage by won­der­ing whether the cli­mate will be a lit­tle too cold for you, or whether the po­si­tion’s above your ex­pe­ri­ence level. At this point, you’d be ad­vised to glance at your vi­sion board and re­mind your­self that you’re not mak­ing a spon­ta­neous leap into the per­ilous un­known, but rather fol­low­ing a wellplanned path to ca­reer suc­cess.

As Mopeli puts it: “The idea is to en­gage with and ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in ev­ery as­pect of my life. This means I of­ten have to en­ter­tain scary de­sires and top­ics I’d rather avoid. So the board in­cludes things like de­cid­ing on a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, go­ing back to fin­ish my de­gree, com­mit­ting to my men­tal well-be­ing and get­ting pro­fes­sional help, if needed.”


Ready to be­gin your vi­su­al­i­sa­tion process? The prac­ti­cal­i­ties of cre­at­ing a vi­sion board are gen­er­ally best dic­tated by what ap­peals to you. Some pre­fer car­ry­ing a dig­i­tal ver­sion of their vi­sion with them at all times, to be re­ferred to when­ever sit­u­a­tions present tough chal­lenges. For oth­ers, a more tac­tile el­e­ment is es­sen­tial: cut­ting and past­ing is an in­te­gral part of their im­mer­sion in the vi­sion board­ing process, as it’s this im­mer­sion that al­lows them to re­ally delve into their de­sires and goals. Caro­lus says many of her favourite il­lus­tra­tors pro­vide print­able pieces on­line which can be used to form part of the fin­ished prod­uct, while Mot­samai’s be­come so in­tent on the power of her process that she of­ten goes to the trou­ble of snap­ping pic­tures of her­self with an item or in a place that sym­bol­ises some­thing she’d like to achieve.

Set aside time to plan the pe­riod that lies ahead of you and the ar­eas of life on which you’d like to fo­cus, see them all in front of you – lit­er­ally – and get lost in the feel­ing of what life will look like when you’ve ac­com­plished what you’ve got in mind. Then get ready to work to­wards it and em­brace it when it comes your way.

“You start to think about de­tails like time­lines, pro­cesses and re­sources you’ll need and in what ways you’re ob­struct­ing your­self. It’s de­lib­er­ate and di­rec­tional.”

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