Even some so-called experts refer to a goal board and a vision board as the same thing, but in fact there’s a HUGE difference! Here’s what you need to know to choose the right kind of board for your needs.
Goal boards and vision boards are both valuable tools. Neither is “better” than the other, but there are some key differences. Those differences matter because each serves certain purposes, and understanding that will help you create the right tool for the right job.
One of the most popular goal setting method is “SMART”. That acronym can vary depending on the coach, but a common interpretation is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. This system gives you a simple way to start with an objective and break it down into action steps.
Natalie Bounassar wrote a good article for Entrepreneur.com titled “Chart Goals to Create a Road Map to Your Success”. She defines goal setting as a way of arranging checkpoints that allow you to track your progress as you move toward your desired end. This includes:
- immediate goals that can be reached quickly
- intermediate goals that involve a broader range and time frame
- “stretch” goals
A stretch goal is a major objective with a very long-term deadline, possibly years. This is the goal you set first because it determines what your shorter term goals and action steps will need to be.
That long term objective could be the same as your vision. In that case it would seem that there’s no difference between goal boards and vision boards. Yet even then, it’s important to get clear about goals vs. visions so that you can create the most effective tools for your particular use.
Goal vs. Vision
How do you know which is which? To illustrate, consider the idea of a new home, a common desire for lots of people.
Buy a $2.5 million house by January 1, 2022
You have defined a specific material possession you intend to acquire, and you have set a deadline for achieving this goal.
Whether it’s attainable and realistic within that time frame may depend on numerous factors, but it can surely be measurable according to action steps you set up, such as paying off an existing mortgage or increasing your income level.
For most people this would be considered a stretch goal. It’s a long term objective that could be used as the basis for creating a list or goal board with immediate and intermediate action steps.
Notice, though, that it is strictly about acquiring a possession.
Enjoy luxury living in a huge, beautiful home with a magnificent pool and view.
Do you see the difference? Both are specific, but the goal simply defines a certain concrete thing you desire, whereas the vision is all about why you desire it.
In fact, making a vision board first can be crucial because it will help you get perfect clarity on what you really do want.
The idea of owning a multi-million dollar house might sound a little exciting, but there’s no “feeling” in that. It’s still just a house. You haven’t considered what it looks like or where it’s located or why you would even want to live in it. Basically, your only focus is on acquiring an asset.
Unlike your goals, your vision gets down to the root of your desires. It’s not that you want a house that costs a certain huge amount of money. Your true desire is about how it will feel to live in the home of your dreams, the experiences you will enjoy there, and what your life will look like when your vision has become your reality.
Why You May Want to Start With a Vision Board
Instead of creating a goal board and setting this as your long term objective, what if you start with a vision board? Now the cost of the house is irrelevant because your focus is on what really matters to you. Your definition of luxury could be anything from a mountain home in the wilderness to a penthouse overlooking the city.
- What features will your home have that will make your life more enjoyable?
- Do you crave privacy and solitude, or do you prefer the energy of a bustling metropolis?
- Is your dream home a cozy cottage or a sprawling mansion filled with spacious rooms for entertaining family and house guests?
- A huge backyard or a tiny no-maintenance patio?
- High end sophistication or family-friendly furnishings?
If you’ve given no thought to such questions, you could actually achieve a goal that turns out to be a little disappointing.
On the other hand, you might also defeat yourself before you ever begin. Let’s say that instead of thinking about your vision, you simply make a list of action steps to achieve some big goal. One problem with this approach is that you may not come up with very many good ideas. Another problem is that your ideas may seem so unattainable that you are instantly discouraged. You give up and go back to living by default.
However, when you get clear on your vision and set your intention, you open your mind. Instead of succumbing to all the “logical” reasons that X, Y, or Z will never work, you allow yourself to consider new possibilities. Instead of seeing only roadblocks, you start to notice opportunities and take advantage of them. Instead of constantly struggling to cope with whatever life throws at you, you’re captaining the ship and steering your life toward your intention.
How Your Goal Board and Vision Board Can Work Together
It’s during this process that your goal board comes into play. The specific action steps that you set should naturally evolve from your vision. That is, by getting clarity about your values and purpose, you can then see what steps to take. You don’t have to lay out the entire plan before you begin. When you stay focused on your vision, the next steps should start to become clear to you.
Your vision board is your inspiration. It’s the all important WHY that energizes you and keeps you focused on your intention. It’s envisioning yourself having already achieved what you desire.
Your goal board is your plan. It’s all about the how and the when. It’s the action steps you will take every day or week or month. It’s the deadlines you have set and the milestones you will use to measure your progress.
Do You Have Goals or a Vision or Both?
Though the main example used above is about a material possession, a home, the same applies to any aspect of your life that you desire to change or improve.
- Losing weight is a goal. Having a healthy, fit body is a vision.
- Paying off credit debt is a goal. Living in complete financial freedom is a vision.
- Opening a soup kitchen is a goal. Serving humanity by helping the less fortunate in meaningful ways is a vision.
So, where do you begin? A good exercise is to make a list of your goals and take some time to consider their deeper meanings. As you think of why these goals matter to you, you should start getting a clearer picture of what you really want.
Make a vision board that’s all about your why, and then let your goals naturally evolve from that. Once you get clarity on your vision, you might even end up changing some of your goals.