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Vision Boards – Rocket Fuel for the Soul

I’ve been looking forward to this “Think Right Thursday” article all week…but I’ll get back to that in a minute.


An Exciting Day For Me

Yesterday, I had the most amazing opportunity. It was really a dream come true. Years ago, I got connected with the Blue Zones Initiative. Blue Zones is based on a research project conduction by the National Geographic Society to identify the lifestyle traits of cultures around the world that exhibited unusual longevity and good health – places like the Italian island of Sardinia; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula; and Ikaria, an isolated Greek island. They identified nine categories of behaviors that contributed to longer, healthier lives.

Naturally, I got excited about what they were doing (it aligns so closely with my passion for helping people live healthier lives) and eventually got certified with their organization.

Fast forward to 2014. My hometown of Naples was selected to be a Blue Zones community. Part of that project is a series of workshops that focus on living a life of purpose. I applied to become one of the workshop facilitators, and yesterday, I got to give my first presentation as a facilitator at Naples Community Hospital. It was a true honor to be selected, and a thrill of a lifetime for me. After all, purpose is a big part of what we do here on “Think Right Thursdays,” as well as how I work with my patients. My personal conviction is that healthcare is not complete without mental, emotional, and spiritual care, so this was a natural next step for me.

Thanks so much to everyone who has stood by me and believed in me through this process. I couldn’t have done it without you.

So, what does that have to do with Vision Boards?

Everything…but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Vision Boards

The reason I’ve been looking forward to this article all week was not because I got to present with Blue Zones. That was awesome, but I really wanted to share with you what I did last weekend.

My daughter and I put together our own vision boards. Here’s mine:

Stohler Vision Board

Now, you may look at this and say, “what in the world were you smoking, doc?”

Nothing. I assure you.

This poster may not mean anything at all to you, but it’s not supposed to.

The purpose of the vision board is to remind me of what is important to me. There are different reasons people put together vision boards, but essentially, it comes down to keeping my goals in front of me…literally. When I can see what I want with my eyes, my subconscious mind begins to recalibrate all my thoughts and actions into line with that vision. If you look closely, you will see my mentors reminding me that I want to be a mentor to others. You’ll see mountains I want to climb, concepts like “finish strong,” “work-family balance,” healthier lives,” and others. These represent who I want to be, where I want to go, and what I want my life to stand for.

Seeing these images stirs something in my emotional core and locks in my values, my priorities, and my desires. It moves me closer to my vision for my life. If I were to keep it all in my head, it would change from minute to minute, I would lose my focus, forget important parts, and lose track of my “why.” The vision board is like rocket fuel for my soul, it’s like my eyes to see into the future.

So, when I was getting ready to stand in front of my first Blue Zones audience yesterday, you can bet I was thinking about seeing that moment through the eyes of my vision board.

“Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.'”  — Habakkuk 2:2

If we want to go somewhere in life, you have to keep a vision in front of you or you will forget.

Here’s my daughter’s board:


Taryn Vision Board


You can see that her athletics are important to her vision of who she is, but so are her goals: the best colleges, world travel, and self-development. These are smart goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive. Now, as she looks at this board and reminds herself of what is important, she will align her decisions with behaviors that will help her achieve these goals. She won’t be tempted to make choices that would interfere with the achievement of her goals. There will always be something she wants more than a drug, an unhealthy relationship, or flopping in front of the TV for the weekend. As her desire for these goals overwhelms her desire for other things, she will make good choices.

Why Do People Make Vision Boards?

Well, we’ve touched on a couple of things here already – it reminds us of what is important to us and it motivates a level of self-discipline in a way that our head can’t always do on its own. On some level, we all want our lives to be different from what they are now. Keeping that vision in front of you is like a torch that goes before you, lighting your path when things are dark.

It’s about how you want to feel, not necessarily things you want.

Things can only satisfy us temporarily. And why do we acquire things? Because of how we think they will make us feel. It’s so fleeting. It’s better to identify the emotional need and satisfy it directly with achievement and self-development rather than trinkets.

We want our lives to mean something, to feel like we contributed something to the advancement of the human race. When we feel unimportant, unvalued, unnecessary, we lose our reason to live. We want to matter.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”  — Proverbs 29:18

Vision boards give us a sense of where we are going, how our lives are going to be different, and how our lives will make a difference in the world.

My Tips For Building a Great Vision Board

There are a couple of excellent articles on building a vision board here and here (the second is particularly thorough), but here are a couple of things I would like to share with you about it:

1. Do it!! It’s so worth it to get your ideas out on paper where you can see them. If you decide you don’t like it, change it. It’s yours.

2. Nobody on earth is grading, judging, correcting, evaluating, or contributing to your vision board. It’s uniquely you, and no one else has to like it.

3. Design who you want to be. Don’t hold back. Want to be an artist? A songwriter? A business owner? A SCUBA diver? A chiropractor? A Blue Zones facilitator? Slap it on there!!! Don’t limit yourself. You will surprise yourself at what you can do when you take off the limitations.

4. You might know exactly what you want from your life, but you might not. You don’t have to know. You can be as specific or generic as you want until you settle on a vision that feels right to you.

5. Don’t put anything on your board that doesn’t delight you. What does “delight” mean? It means this: when you see a picture and it makes you feel like jumping for joy on the inside, go ahead and keep that picture. If you don’t feel excited, turn the page.

6. Don’t look for pictures that represent someone else’s vision for your life.

7. Spend a few minutes in quiet and think of a word that you want your life to be about. You might decide to make that word the centerpiece of your vision board and pick your photos to go with that thought. Don’t let anyone tell you what that word is (except maybe God – I would trust Him to pick a good word).

8. It doesn’t have to be permanent. If you decide your vision board doesn’t fit you anymore, fix it or start over.

9. Some people make up a new board on their birthdays or New Year’s Day. Do what seems right to you.

10. Use glue sticks, NOT Elmer’s liquid glue. Trust me on this.

I get so excited about doing these boards, and I’m just as excited about what it can do for you in your life. I hope you’ll give it a try – I think you’ll find it really is rocket fuel for your soul. And when you do, I want you to share your pictures on my Facebook wall. You might be surprised at how your vision board encourages someone you don’t even know.

Also, please take a moment to share this with your friends. Again, it just might change someone’s life. I get more “shares” on “Think Right Thursdays” than on any other day. I think we’re meeting a need here.

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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