Creating a Vision in the Midst of a Quiet Season

Last month, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to attend a vision board party. The day before the event, I went to Target to get a cute board of some sort – maybe a hexagonal corkboard like our hostess used as an example. Or maybe a foam board so I could write phrases in the margins. As is my norm, I walked the aisles, decided crafting is not at all my happy place, and turned to leave the store. I stopped by the dollar section in one last hopeful sweep and found a small chalkboard for $3.00. I figured it was a small investment so I grabbed it and went home to look for dusty crafting supplies.

The next day, armed with my board and a copy of Smithsonian, I joined a group of women to cut, paste, and dream about our year ahead.

I wasn’t just hesitant because of my crafting skills. I had decided that this was the year to embrace the present. No one word, no tangible goals. I was going to truly live in the moment! So, how do you translate that to a board that’s meant to guide your goals? What would I put on it to invigorate my imagination and keep me on track to success?

As I flipped through magazines, an ad to visit Denali National Park in Alaska jumped out. Its campaign read,

It’s been waiting 56 million years.
Consider this your invitation.

Yes. This is what I needed to spark my imagination. I read it as both an invitation to seek adventure and as a reminder that it’s ok to pause and take things slowly. The world is here and ready, and it always has been.

This past year, I had the immense gift of getting to travel internationally twice. Frank and I spent almost a week in Paris to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Walking the streets that shaped my transition to adulthood reminded me of all the both-ands of life. Living abroad was both amazing and life-changing and harder than anything I’ve done since.

Then, in October I got to travel by myself (for the first time since Frank and I met!) to Israel-Palestine where I met a dear friend for the first time face-to-face. Traveling alone stirred memories and feelings of excitement and adventure that I had forgotten. The trip was impacting in so many ways, but even just the reminder of who I once was grounded it as a touchstone experience.

Now, settled back into “normal” life, I wonder, what’s next? In some ways, those trips opened doors to this next stage of life and parenting. We’re able to leave the girls a bit longer, dig into parts of ourselves that were dormant the last handful of years, and start modeling to our girls who we were before we became parents.

I’m remembering, though, that while travel and adventure defined my worldview, it wasn’t my everyday normal. I still went to bed on time, packed my lunch, and went to work before I had children. I still dreamed big dreams and kept my feet planted in a city that is now firmly home.

In this year of quiet and presence, I want to remember the invitation to go and explore. But I also want to remember that things have been around for 56 million years. Even with an urgency that comes with climate change and political strife, I know this world will be ready and waiting for me. I find comfort in the fact that, when God created the cosmos, humans were the last to join the party. This doesn’t diminish our call to care for this earth but it’s a reminder that, maybe, we’re not as important as we think. That time truly is relative.

As hard as I’m trying to live in the present without a plan, I also know myself and I’m thankful for that vision board party. Maybe my board isn’t going to set me on the path to career success or visions of the next best phase. But I did hang it on the wall next to our coat hooks, where I see it daily as we grab backpacks and put on boots. I see it when I walk to the garage and when I’m switching out loads of laundry. It’s less a vision of tangible things and more a reminder of the person I was and am and will be again.

We’ll see how I feel about vision boards in a year or two or five but for now, this simple reminder is giving me hope and, yes, a vision for the future.

Have you ever created a vision board? How do you set intangible goals for yourself?


Goals and Spontaneity

We just got back from a week visiting family in Oklahoma. It was filled with conversations, cousins meeting and playing (and occasionally fighting), and lots of delicious, unhealthy holiday food.


We stayed at a hotel and had the room next to the lobby. This worked out perfectly, since we could put Bea down for naps and bedtime, bring the monitor out with us, and hang out with the others staying there. We took over the lobby and made it our temporary living room, which was great for catching up with the adults.

One night, Frank, two of his sisters, and I were talking about goals and visions. His youngest sister is embarking on a journey to become a motivational speaker. She is an amazing sales person and has an incredible life story, which seems like a very successful combination. She has created a vision board to help keep her focused and believes in the law of attraction. She has accomplished many of her goals already and is well on her way to successfully launching this new career. We talked about how creating specific, visual goals increases the likelihood for success.

Frank’s other sister views success and goal setting in a more inward, spiritual way. She is a very visual person, as well, but believes more in the power of meditation. She visualizes her goals, but also is aware that “success” can disrupt the peace and quality of life she has worked hard for. (One could argue that she has achieved success in this realization alone.)

Frank is of the opinion that writing out goals every day is how they are achieved. Before Bea, when time seemed less at a premium, he would take time to rewrite his goals in his journal nearly every day. This discipline kept the goals in his mind and helped him fulfill the steps to achieving those goals. By keeping the goals at the forefront of your consciousness, you become more aware of opportunities as they arise. It also allows for opportunity to reflect on where life’s journey is leading.

I am a goal-oriented person, as well. But, the past couple years I’ve been trying to live life more open-handed. While I always have an idea of what I’d like to accomplish in the future, I’ve found that embracing spontaneity and the unknown often leads to experiences and opportunities I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to envision for myself. (The flip side is that some of my worst experiences are ones that I thought “met” my goals, rather than listening to my intuition.) When I cling too tightly to a vision, I find myself frustrated or disappointed when it doesn’t turn out the way I imagined. And, while I keep ideas and goals at the back of my mind, I also try to look for unexpected and new opportunities, which seem to fulfill a dream in completely different ways.

In ten days, we are moving into a new house. We have been talking about the need to move for quite a while, and suddenly we felt that now was the time. The weekend after making our decision, we found the house we loved and a week later, someone offered to buy our house. It’s all happened so quickly! While we had researched over the past year neighborhoods we like and had talked about our dream home, we hadn’t ever mapped it out in minute detail. I think the combination of dreaming together and the spontaneity of the moment helped us find our new home.

Looking back on the conversation about goals, I see that each of us does believe in goal-setting, but the ways in which we find success is very reflective of our individual personalities. I look at how differently Frank and I go about the practice of setting goals, and in many ways those differences compliment each other. It made me think, as we enter the last month of the year, how I may change the way I set goals and how to balance having a focus and vision and enjoying the unexpected journey.

What about you? Are you a goal setter? What is the most successful way for you to work toward a goal?