Creating a Retirement Vision Board

Nov 03, 2020 by Mary R. Donahue, Ph.D

One of the techniques frequently used by people when thinking about their lives in relation to personal goals is to envision it.  Many people like to create this vision in a more concrete way and will make what is called a Vision Board. I’m confident that at some point you’ve heard some famous person being interviewed about their life say something like “when I was a young, I wanted to become famous, so I put it down on a piece of paper and caried it with me and looked at it every day”.  This is a technique that can be used at any point in life, and it’s an especially great idea for those who are planning for retirement, to put down in a visual way the things they’d like to do and accomplish in retirement.


For a woman like me, I found it helpful to jot down ideas and idle thoughts of the things I might want to do in retirement first. After I’d written down several of these ideas, it was time to create my own personal Vision Board.  That translates to an actual board made out of something tangible that you can see every day. You might use a bulletin board, a large piece of cardboard, a canvas or a piece of poster board.  Anything you can find that you can either hang up or display can be used for the Vision Board


Now it’s time to look for pictures, signs or other reminders of what you have in your mind. Look in magazines, books, items around the house, newspapers etc. You’re looking for visual images that reflect what you’ve been thinking about doing when you retire. Next, you need to assemble them and arrange them in a meaningful way on the board. It is a matter of personal choice, but you may want to include pictures of yourself within each item on the board, so you don’t forget that this is not simply an art project, but what YOU want to see and do in retirement.  Once you’ve completed your masterpiece, place the board somewhere in your home where you can see it every day!  The idea is to see yourself doing the activity or being in the place you’ve always wanted to visit.  Looking at the board everyday will keep these wishes and goals at the forefront of your mind. 


This particular technique has been recommended for a long, long time. For example, many women are encouraged to use this technique for weight loss, by looking at a picture of themselves at the size they want to be.  The evidence strongly suggests that it helps women reach their goals in weight loss.  Seeing yourself in a specific way helps a goal become a reality, so why not apply this concept to retirement?  


My own personal Vision Board has many pictures of  places I’d like to travel. For the moment, the places I’d envisioned visiting are off the table as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Since I’m unable to actually move forward,  I’ve simply been adding to my collection of pictures of the places I hope to visit. Looking at the pictures has kept my dream front and center, and I’ve been able to take some webinars and virtual courses about the places I’d still like to visit. The Smithsonian Institution has a multitude of Zoom programs in all sorts of areas, which has allowed me to travel to my dream destinations from home for now. The physical reminder on my Vision Board allows me to keep my dreams alive.  Sometimes, I’ll even add to my vision board some of the things I’ve gleaned from these programs and webinars.


The Vision Board process is designed to provide you with an opportunity to see yourself living the way you’d like to see yourself living, once retired.  Remember that there are no right or wrongs here. It is all about YOU. What do I want this time in my life to look like? It allows you to see it visually and see yourself doing it. No worries if you want to make changes to your Vision Board as your life evolves, that is the beauty of a Vision Board. You can change it, add to it, or make a new one anytime. 


Vision Board also allows retirement itself to begin to feel real. As with all other goals and dreams, seeing yourself doing a given thing or visiting a particular place allows it to become tangible.  It reminds us that we’re able to make some of our dreams come true; and that we play an active role in that happening. The Vision Board also adds to the excitement of this new time in your life. Looking at pictures and writing about your goals and dreams allows us to see this phase in life as a beginning, rather than an ending. It truly is Your Next Chapterand

mine too, I hope.