If you want to better visualize 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.
Learn what types of vision maps there are, why they are different from vision boards, 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 outlines the different steps and milestones on your journey toward your goal.
There are different types of vision maps:
A common technique for 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’s production process, with machines, conveyor belts, etc.
Using analogies is a good way to make your vision more tangible. However, it is less ideal if you are more concerned with chronology and mapping out all the steps. For that, more compact formats like diagrams and timelines are better suited.
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 it does not outline the steps you must take in order to get there.
Vision maps do so. Where the vision board visualizes the outcome, the vision map outlines the process.
There is quite a bit of research that suggests vision maps are more effective than vision boards.
Vision boards have a tendency to make you complacent. They trick your brain into thinking you have already achieved what you are wishing for.
In contrast, vision mapping reveals the gap that still yawns between where you are and where you want to go. By seeing that difference in front of you, a vision map spurs you into action.
How To Create a Vision Map for Yourself
Here is a step-by-step guide to creating your vision map.
1. Identify Your Vision
The first thing you need to do is to get clarity on what you are trying to achieve. Now, that could be a whole article in itself. But here are three quick pointers:
Your life’s goal has already manifested itself, even though you might not be aware of it. There are certain things you keep coming back to in life that point to what you truly want.
For example, I have been obsessed with personal development my whole life. I would always end up at the self-help section in the bookstore, tweaking my GTD system, or building new habits for some passion project.
I was doing these things, but they didn’t register. They came so naturally to me, I thought everybody was doing them. Only later did I realize that this was my vision for life — I would like to create content around personal development topics.
You must look for these hidden patterns. Revisit your life up to this point and ask yourself what the common thread is.
Another important thing to realize is that what we think we want and what actually makes us happy are often not the same thing.
For example, somebody might think they should start a tech company because that sounds really cool. But when they embark on that journey, they soon turn out to be miserable. In truth, they would have been much happier starting a neighborhood bakery, even though that sounds less impressive.
The third is to try stuff out. You won’t come up with the perfect vision on the drawing board. Yes, you should develop a hypothesis. But then you must go out there and test that hypothesis. Once you get some real-world feedback, you can refine it. Wash, rinse, repeat.
2. Choose Your Tools
The best thing to do when developing your vision map is to just doodle around.
For that, you will need some tools.
The easiest option is to get several large pieces of paper and plenty of markers.
Alternatively, you can put up a large whiteboard. What’s nice about that is that it’s so easy to erase stuff. Just make sure to put the whiteboard somewhere where others cannot see it. You want to remain free of social expectations throughout the vision-mapping process.
A third option is to go the digital route, using a program like Canva. The upside is that these programs have some really neat functions. 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. Get Into Creator Mode
Once you have your tools in place, give yourself permission 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 while worrying about organizing the material later.
When it does come to organizing your thoughts, try out different methods. I lean towards abstract graphic elements, like staircases, pyramids, process charts, or organigrams.
Some people do better with timelines. Yet other people prefer to come up with an analogy for their vision map, like a path leading up a mountain.
There is no right or wrong here. Whatever visual representation anchors your vision best in your mind is what you should go with.
4. Cover All the Bases
To create a vision map, you must consider a lot of different moving parts.
You must identify steps and milestones that are necessary to turn your vision into reality. You must anticipate challenges. You must think of stakeholders like family members or professional partners whose help you will need.
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, so you can travel the world while working.
To make that dream come true, envision the result first. Ask yourself what type of clients you would like to work with. How many hours you would ideally like to work per week? How much money you would like to make?
Then reverse engineer your goal. To make have X clients and make amount Y after one year, where would you have to be by months 3, 6, and 9?
What skill levels would you have to possess at each of these milestones? What marketing measures would you have to have put in place? Which people would you be involved in these processes?
Then break it down even further; go down to monthly, a weekly, and finally a daily level. Ask yourself, “What daily actions do I need to take to be on track with my 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and ultimately my 12 months goal?”
Also, there might be more than one possible way to get what you want.
For example, you might find yourself a mentor, or a more experienced copywriter to learn from. You might participate in a paid course. Or maybe you prefer to teach yourself using resources like blogs and YouTube.
Explore these different paths by creating different vision maps for them. Yes, it’s a lot more work, but this is your vision — your most important project in life. You want to get as much clarity as you can about it.
5. One Map or Several Maps?
It can also be a good idea to create several vision maps, for different areas of your life. If you try to pack all the information in just one map, it might become overcrowded.
What I like to do with clients is to create a master map that covers the general trajectory of your desired lifestyle, and then create several 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 habits. Ask yourself, “What behaviors must I execute daily to get my desired outcome?”
Create a written list of daily habits. Be as specific as possible. If you want to become a guitar hero, don’t write, “I will practice the guitar every day.”
Instead, write, “I will have 3 practice blocks, each one an hour long. During the first block, I will practice my natural minor scale. During the second block, speed picking. During the third block, chord progressions.
Block time in your calendar every day to make sure you execute your habits every day. Ideally, block time right after getting up and right after lunch. That’s when you will feel the most well-rested.
7. Create Accountability
It is easy to take action when you are still at the beginning of the journey, and all fired up.
But the longer you keep grinding away at your vision, the more wear and tear you will experience.
It’s pushing yourself to exhaustion at the gym every day.
It’s practicing your guitar scales until your fingertips bleed.
It’s recording thousands of videos for your YouTube channel.
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, joining an accountability group, or hiring an accountability coach, you make sure you keep going.
There are two reasons why accountability works.
The first one is peer pressure. We hate telling someone we will do X and then not living up to it. It makes us feel like windbags.
The second reason is that a good accountability partner or coach will provide encouragement. When we are running low on energy, they will cheer us on and remind us of our vision. That will make all the difference.
Understand – every first draft of your vision map will be flawed.
To start with, some of your estimates will be off.
You will most certainly be wrong about your timeline — we all tend to underestimate how long stuff takes.
You will be wrong about some of your milestones. Some of them won’t be needed and others will have to be added.
As you move towards your goal, you might discover another, related goal that is even dearer to your heart. That will require a more fundamental adjustment.
Finally, external circumstances might change — your family life, your job situation, your health. Here, too, you will have to adjust your vision map accordingly.
Just like there will be unforeseen challenges, there will also be unforeseen opportunities (albeit much more seldomly). Maybe you will get unexpected press coverage for your business, or a surprise investor will come on board.
These will require you to strike while the iron is hot, even though they are technically not in line with your vision map.
Don’t let any of this deter you. Even though your initial plan will be flawed, you still need one. A mental framework, even one that is slightly off, is the basis for action. You can fix it as you go.
For that, you should regularly revisit 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.
Also, by regularly revisiting your vision map, even if you don’t need to change it, you will keep it at the top of your mind. This will help you with staying the course when most people get sidetracked.