If you would like to better picture your goals, then you should try vision mapping.
By creating a graphical representation of what you want to achieve, you are more likely to succeed in the real world.
Learn about the different types of vision maps, and how you should go about creating your own vision map.
What Is Vision Mapping?
A vision map is a graphical representation of what you want to achieve in life. It helps you to visualize milestones. For example, you might use the drawing of a pyramid where each level represents an intermediate goal.
The most common types of vision maps are:
What depiction you choose depends on the nature of your goal, as well as what inspires you into action.
The Use of Analogies
A popular approach to vision mapping is to come up with an analogy for your goal.
For example, you could visualize your journey as a serpentine path leading up a mountain.
Or it could be a journey you take by boat, heading for a series of islands, before you arrive at your final destination.
Or, if you are more technically inclined, you could visualize it as a factory, with different factory floors and production units.
Using analogies is a good way to make your vision more tangible.
However, it is less ideal if you are more concerned with fleshing out details. For that, more compact formats like a timeline are better.
Vision Maps vs. Vision Boards
A vision map is not the same thing as a vision board.
A vision board (also called a dream board) is a collage of images and affirmations that remind you of your big dream. It serves as a source of motivation. But unlike a vision map, a vision board does not outline the steps you must take to get there.
Put differently — where a vision board visualizes the outcome, a vision map outlines the process.
The two are also not the same in terms of effectiveness. There is quite a bit of research suggesting that vision maps are more fruitful than vision boards.
The reason — vision boards tend to make you complacent. They trick your brain into thinking you have already achieved what you are wishing for.
In contrast, vision maps show the gap between where you are and where you want to go. By seeing that difference in front of you, vision mapping spurs you into action.
How To Come Up With a Vision Map
Here is a step-by-step guide to creating your own vision map.
1. Identify Your Vision
The first thing you need to do is to get clarity about what you want to achieve. Here are a few pointers.
First, in all likelihood, your life’s goal has already manifested itself. There are certain things that you keep coming back to in life.
For example, I have always been obsessed with personal development. At any point, I would be busy reading self-help books, tweaking my GTD system, and building new habits.
You must look for these patterns. Examine your life up to this point and ask yourself what the common thread is.
Also, don’t get sidetracked by social expectations.
For example, somebody might think they should start a tech company because that’s what all their friends are doing.
But when they do, they end up hating it. In truth, they would have been much happier starting a neighborhood bakery, even though that seems less bragworthy.
Final pointer — try stuff out. Come up with a hypothesis for your vision, then give it six months. Collect real-world data.
Never expect to get it right in the first attempt. But each new attempt will inform your next one. This is how you will finally arrive at your vision.
2. Choose Your Tools
The best way to get started on your vision map is to just doodle. But for that, you will need some tools.
The easiest option is to get a few large pieces of paper and a set of markers.
Alternatively, you can put up a whiteboard. This makes it easy to erase stuff. Just make sure to put the whiteboard somewhere where others cannot see it. Initially, it’s better to remain free of outside influences.
A third option is to go the digital route, using a program like Canva. The upside is that these programs have some powerful functionalities. Also, they accommodate people who are not good at drawing stuff by hand. The downside is that they have a bit of a learning curve.
3. Turn on Creator Mode
Once you have your tools in place, permit yourself to go wild. Don’t try to get it right the first time — just brainstorm.
Mind maps are good for that. They allow you to put whatever comes to mind down on paper. Organizing the material comes later.
4. Choose a Graphic Representation
When it comes to choosing a graphical representation of your vision, try out different options.
For many people, a visual analogy works best, like a serpentine path leading up a mountain.
Personally, I prefer abstract graphic elements, like staircases, pyramids, or process charts.
If you are dealing with lots of dates, timelines can be great.
There is no right or wrong here. Whatever visual representation anchors your vision best in your mind is what you should go with.
4. Identify Milestones
You must identify the necessary milestones to turn your vision into reality.
The best way to do so is to start with the end in mind. Think about what you want to accomplish, then work your way backward.
Let’s say you want to quit your 9 to 5 and become a copywriter.
Envision the result first. Ask yourself what type of clients you would like to work with. How many hours do you want to work per week? How much money you would like to make?
Then reverse engineer your goal. To get there within 12 months, where would you have to be by months 3, 6, and 9?
What skills would you need to possess at each of these milestones? What marketing measures should you have in place? Which people would you need help from?
Once you see these milestones in front of you, you can implement them into your graphic model.
5. One Map or Several Maps?
It can be a good idea to create several vision maps, for different areas of your life. If you try to pack all this information into just one map, it might become confusing.
What I like to do with clients is to create a master map that covers the general trajectory of your life, and then create separate sub-maps, e.g., for your health journey or your relationship journey.
6. Take Action
The best vision map is useless if you don’t implement your vision. You must take action.
The key is to translate your vision into daily habits. Ask yourself, “What behaviors must I execute daily to arrive at my desired outcome?”
Create a list. Be as specific as possible.
For example, if you want to become a guitar hero, don’t note down, “I will practice the guitar every day.” That’s way too vague.
Instead, write down, “I will have 3 practice sessions, each one and a half hours long. First block — speed picking. Second block — arpeggios. Third block — 8-finger tapping.”
Time block these sessions in your calendar and treat them like appointments. They take precedence over everything else.
7. Create Accountability
It is easy to feel all fired up about your vision in the beginning. But the longer you keep at it, the more you will experience wear and tear.
Pushing yourself to exhaustion at the gym every day. Recording hundreds of videos for your YouTube channel. Practicing your guitar scales until your fingertips bleed.
It doesn’t matter how much love the thing —at some point, you will feel like giving up.
That’s where accountability comes in.
By finding an accountability partner (or hiring an accountability coach), you are more likely to push through.
That’s for two reasons.
The first one is peer pressure. We hate telling someone we will do X and then not living up to our promise. It makes us feel like flakes.
The second reason is encouragement. When we are running low on energy, our accountability partner will cheer us on. That can make all the difference.
Understand – every first draft of your vision map will be flawed.
You will be wrong about your timeline, as we all tend to underestimate how long stuff actually takes.
You will be wrong about some of your milestones — some of them won’t be needed and others will have to be added.
External circumstances might change, like your family life, your job situation, or your health. You will have to adjust your vision map accordingly.
Finally, as you move towards your goal, you might discover another, related goal that is even dearer to your heart. Now you have to pivot.
Don’t let any of this deter you. Even though your initial plan will be flawed, you still need one. It is the basis for action.
To account for these changes, you should regularly redraw your vision map, ideally every three months. This is one of the reasons why I prefer to create my vision maps digitally, as they can easily be adjusted.