I love vision boards.
I love collages.
I love the process of putting them together, and I love how they look at the end. I love how I feel when I look at them, that sense of optimism and the satisfaction of seeing something that captures my personality and desires so succinctly.
I distinctly remember one that I made when I was in my mid-20s while living in LA. I crowded that light blue paper with pictures of trees, foreign languages, sisters laughing, and a couple holding hands. Within a few years' time, I had moved out of the concrete jungle and back up to the Bay Area, I traveled to Europe for the first time, I started seeing my sisters on a regular basis, and I met the love of my life.
Such is the awesome power of vision boards.
...JUST KIDDING! Please don't go! I swear I'm not going to be forcing the "Law of Attraction" down your throat in this blog post.
The truth is, while I do honestly love creating vision boards (they are just so fun and so pretty), and I do believe in the power of attracting the things you want by remaining open and attuned to opportunity, I'm also exceedingly practical.
Envisioning what we want is only the first step to lifestyle change, achieving life goals, or starting new habits.
After all, how many times have human beings genuinely wanted and "envisioned" something for themselves, only to leave it at that?
For instance, I truly, deeply want to tone up my abs before swimsuit season comes around. But that doesn't necessarily mean I'll end up doing sit-ups every day. Just because I want something doesn't mean I'll actually go and get it; this is a strange yet universal human behavior.
It's not necessarily laziness, either. Don't get it twisted: there are some very real barriers to changing up your habits or lifestyle. But take heart, because not all barriers are hard to overcome; sometimes, it simply requires a little strategic planning.
Here's some common barriers I've encountered when trying to make a change:
1. I want to make the change, but I don't want to do the tasks I think are required to make that change.
2. I can envision how life will look like once I've achieved my goal, but I can't envision how life will look like while I'm trying to get there.
3. I'm clear about what I need to do to get there, but it's at odds with my current routine.
There's a fourth barrier to making a lifestyle change, which is that the change may not actually be that high up on your priority list.
Be honest with yourself.
Maybe this change you want to make is being overshadowed by more immediate or more meaningful things, like paying the bills or simply getting through the damn day. This doesn't make the change or new habit any less important; it just means you aren't ready yet, and it's very hard to successfully make a change when it's forced.
For instance, yes, I want the abs I had when I was 27, but vanity is kinda low on the totem pole compared to paying my rent, working on my business, giving generously to my loved ones and clients, and maintaining my creative projects. (On the flip side, working out religiously was definitely a priority when I was recovering from depression and anxiety; I was desperate! Another story for another time.)
But for the purposes of this post, let's just assume that you're actually ready to prioritize the change you want to make.
Lifestyle change is hard. Starting new habits is hard. Like I said, these barriers are real! But let's try reframing these barriers into actions, 'cause I'm all about forward movement:
1. Break the goal or habit down into tiny tasks that you actually like doing regularly.
I could theoretically break down the goal of "getting toned" into short core exercises everyday, but I also kinda hate them, even if I only have to do them for 7 minutes a day.
But what about dancing vigorously to Beyonce for 15 minutes? Now that I can do.
You'll know that the task is small and specific enough once you can answer whether or not you did it with a "yes" or "no".
Did I exercise today? Um... kinda, if walking across the parking lot to my car counts. Did I dance to four Beyonce songs today, for a total of 16 minutes? Yes, definitely.
If the tasks are inherently kind of a slog, adjust them so they're a little more enjoyable.
For instance, if I absolutely had to do the 7-minute core exercises every day, I might as well make a playlist of Beyonce and Bruno Mars songs to pump me up while I'm doing them.
I also recently stumbled upon Cassey Ho's Blogilates channel on YouTube, and I must say this energetic ladyboss has managed to make core exercises fun for me. Miracle.
2. Envision how you will do these tiny tasks.
Literally imagine yourself doing them in detail, as if you were watching yourself in a movie.
I often hear people set goals like "I'll see my girlfriends more often" or "I'll meal prep on Sundays" or "I'll meditate every morning". But what does that actually look like?
Which girlfriends would you see? What would you need to do or talk about with them in order to have the most meaningful experience? What kinds of meals would you prep on Sundays? Would you even have the right ingredients in the fridge? Do you need to go grocery shopping? And where is that red cushion you like to sit on when you meditate?
Imagining yourself going through the motions of doing these tasks can give you a solid understanding of whether you've actually "accomplished" them or not, because your real attempts at these tasks either look like what you've imagined--or they don't.
Imagining how you'll do them also helps you catch and prepare for any potential stumbling blocks.
You know how athletes visualize their performance before a big game or match? Same thing here. Visualizing will help you to get clear on what you need to do to succeed at completing your task.
3. Integrate these tiny tasks into your routine by planning when and where you'll do them.
Literally schedule them. Write them in your calendar.
In my experience, it's much more effective to plan to do a new habit before/during/after a current habit, rather than setting a specific time to do it. This will help you to maintain the natural flow of your day.
For example, I've been much more successful at meditating after feeding my cat, for example, than meditating at exactly 6:45am.
I've also found it helpful to choose a time of day that makes sense for me on a mental and energetic level.
For instance, I've chosen to do my creative writing on Thursday mornings before my 10:00am appointment, at a coffee shop in Oakland. The time, environment, and even the appointment afterwards all combine to give me optimal creative energy. And the best part is, I don't have to stop or interrupt any other part of my life to do this.
And of course, I suggest implementing only ONE big goal at a time.
Once you've integrated that goal's tasks into your daily life so well that you don't even have to think about them anymore (this is when you know they've become proper habits), you can start tackling a new big goal.
Now it's time to put insight into action.
Want to take this 3-step formula for a whirl?
Click to download the 1-Month Self-Care Calendar to start building self-care habits in a smart, strategic way.
You'll practice breaking the big goal of "taking care of yourself" into tiny, super concrete tasks. You'll know exactly how, when, and where you'll integrate these tasks into your daily life, and you'll be able to track your progress.
Take one week at a time. At the end of the week, see how you feel, what worked, and what didn't. Adjust accordingly, and then plan for the next week.
These are the simple and methodical steps you'll likely practice over and over again, to make real change in your life or to build healthy habits. (Feel free to use the 1-Month Self-Care Calendar as a template to work towards goals in other areas of your life, too!)
And while all this practical stuff is necessary and good, don't forget the "why".
Don't forget about the deeper reason you want to make a change.
You are moving towards the life that truly represents who you are and who you're meant to be. Here's to a fulfilling and vibrant life, for the both of us!