How best to plan your future? While there are many possible ways to do this, one creative method is to create a vision board.

“A vision board is a visual map that you create to design your best possible future. It serves as your virtual GPS for work and life planning,” according to Joyce Schwarz, author of The Vision Board.

Below, Schwarz, who’s also founder of The Vision Board Institute in Marina Del Rey, California, provides her tips for starting a vision board.

Start by “Visioning”

Visioning typically is the first step in creating a vision board. According to Schwarz, “Visioning is an ancient art and science that dates back to the caveman days, which is a combination of meditation, soul-searching and even improv.”

It’s a group activity where individuals bounce around ideas, formulate and share their vision for their lives. Usually there’s a facilitator, such as a certified vision board coach, who asks participants to respond to a series of questions and prompts

Essentially, the goal of visioning is to pay attention to your recurring themes, phrases and suggestions that inspire your vision board.

Schwarz also suggested keeping the following 5-step formula in mind, which she termed GRABS:

  1. Begin by being grateful for your life. Express what you’re grateful for.
  2. Release disappointments from the past or judgments of past experiences,” Schwarz said. “Be ready to receivethe best that the universe has to offer you and that you can create or even something better beyond your expectations.”
  3. Acknowledge yourself for doing this process and for being you,” she said. “Askfor assistance or answers to clarify your path to your vision and begin to take inspired action.” Inspired action is about embracing uncertainty and following a hunch.
  4. Believe in yourself and beauthentic along the way.”
  5. Share your abundance [such as your] knowledge, insight and gifts.”

You can learn more about visioning in the first chapter of Schwarz’s book.

Create a Mini-Board

In her book Schwarz also includes tips on creating your own visioning session.

  • Pick three to five magazines you normally wouldn’t read. As Schwarz explains, if you’re into motorcycles, get a sailing publication.
  • Look at only the pictures on each page. Ignore the articles and even the captions.
  • Go back to the first publication, and cut out anything that appeals to you. (It could be anything from a fashion layout to a travel ad.) Repeat the process with the rest of the magazines. You should have eight to 10 photos.
  • Lay out three or four images in a row.
  • Look at the pictures from different angles.
  • Move the pictures around, until you feel like they fit together.

Then ask yourself these questions to help you figure out what these images mean for you.

  • Is there an obvious link between the photos? For instance, maybe the images of the outdoors indicate that your dream is to travel.
  • What’s the point of view? If there are people in your pictures, are they active or static? Are you the driver or passenger in your life? Which do you prefer?
  • What’s different in the pictures from how your life is right now? For instance, as Schwarz writes, are there a lot of children in your images, even though you don’t have kids?
  • Do the pictures portray a quality of life? Write down the key words your images spark. For instance, is it peace or adventure?

It’s important to get as specific as you can about what you want and figure out the “why,” Schwarz said. Why do you want this vision?

Once you do identify the what and why, be sure to live your vision every day. For instance, let’s say you want to take a sabbatical in Italy. “Start living, breathing and eating Italian,” she said. Play Italian music, watch videos filmed in the specific city you’d like to visit and have an image of the place as your screensaver, she said.

A Sample Vision Board

As an illustration, Schwarz shared one of her vision boards. The theme is “Eat, Pray, Love,” which reminds her to have balance in her life. For instance, the picture of the Vision Board book reminds her of her mission: “to show people how to live their vision boards and of course their visions.”

The woman doing yoga symbolizes the importance of quietness and meditation. The apple and cappuccino signify the simple treats in life. The building is a symbol of the importance of leaving a strong legacy.

Schwarz also stressed the importance of having power words on your board. “Power words are crucial in keeping you on track to your vision because just by reading and saying them you realize what your heart knows is vital to you now,” she said. In this board, her power words are: Eat, Pray and Love.

You can learn more about vision boards at Schwarz’s blog.