Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
Easy College Meals to Prepare in AdvanceCollegiateParent
Imagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein
What does the student in your life want from their life? I’m not just talking about material items but something deeper and more intangible. What is their life purpose? What types of relationships are important to them? How do they feel about their minds and bodies? What do they dream?
As parents, we often fixate on the “What will you do for a living?” question. Our kids worry about that, too.
But that question barely scratches the surface of the journey they’re about to make as they move from student to professional. Focused on the next step, we forget to look at the big picture.
The real question should be: “What will your future self be?”
It’s time to step back and help your students envision their future. This is where the magic starts, and you realize the power of visualization.
Creating a vision board is FUN and can be a bonding exercise — something you do together. Believing your student can achieve anything they want in their life is the best place to start.
A vision board is an integral part of the pre-production process when developing an idea in design or media. It allows designers and producers to clearly work through a story flow or a journey/experience for their users to embark on, envisioning the endpoint and the route there. Significantly, vision boards provide a chance to identify pitfalls and challenges to be navigated around or overcome before the issue occurs.
Pictures evoke thoughts, feelings, emotions, and complex understanding. When we look at a picture, we wonder: What’s happening in the photo? What has already happened?
Neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart explains in The Source: The Secrets of the Universe, the Science of the Brain: “Looking at images on a vision board primes the brain to grasp opportunities that may otherwise go unnoticed.” The brain is programmed to see little difference in something actually happening versus an imagined version of it. Pictures are also relatively simple to compile.
The point is to have your student visualize a picture of what they want in their life first through their imagination and thoughts. Once they have a picture, they can then work towards the outcome.
Thoughts create emotions
Emotions create actions
Actions create outcomes
Your student has thoughts about their future — we all do! By putting emotions behind their thoughts, your students start to create actions. That might be continuing to study for a certain profession or starting to network in a particular sector. The outcome might not happen immediately, but small actions will help your student take steps toward their ultimate goals.
Being positive and helping your student with a “can do” attitude is also an important step. Let’s take an easy example: your student wants to apply for a competitive internship, but they don’t think they’re as smart as the other students who are likely to apply. They assume their grades aren’t good enough and their resume is not strong enough. Guess what? They apply and don’t get the internship — just as they expected. Maybe they don’t even bother applying for it.
Now let's change the scenario around: Your student really wants that internship, and they think they really have a shot. Each day they say to themselves, “I’m getting that internship!” and they picture themselves grinning as they read the offer letter. To that end, they join study groups to improve their grades. They meet with teachers or professors for extra instruction and mentoring. When someone asks what they’re doing next summer, they smile and describe the awesome internship they’re shooting for. They put in extra work and surround themselves with like-minded students. They apply for the internship, and guess what? They get it.
Follow the directions below to kick-start your own vision board!
Your student will need a laptop or tablet. This exercise should take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, so make sure you and your student dedicate sufficient time to complete the activity in its entirety.
Suggested components for a vision board:
Relationships and communities: Who will be your close connections and communities (family, friends, places you hang out, and groups you belong to)? Will you have a partner? Do you hope to be married and have kids someday? What does that look like? Do you want pets, your own place?
Location and cultural environment: Where will you live? How will you live? What culture will you participate in? What language or languages will you speak? City or country? A small cottage, a highrise apartment, close to the ocean, in the mountains?
Health and well-being: How will you look physically? How will you feel physically? How will you feel mentally? Fitness goals? Get stronger? Run a marathon? What would you need to feel emotionally balanced? Will you work with a therapist? If you are dealing with a health issue, what would improved health look like for you? How would you feel? What would you be doing?
Purpose: What speaks to your heart? How will you be of service to the world? Volunteer? Write a book? Give a speech to thousands and inspire? Raise your children to be good citizens of the world? Run for public office? What do you stand for? Is there something that speaks strongly to your heart and/or something you want to change in the world? Our purposes change and evolve as we move through life, but we try to understand what it may look like at the moment.
Finances: It’s hard to live without an income, so how much money do you want to make? How much do you want to save? What do you wish to buy or invest in? If you’re in debt, how long until you become debt-free? What are your values related to money — is it important to you or not? Do you just want to make enough to pay rent and live with your best friends?
Employment: Picture your future job — what are you doing? Are you working outside or in an office in front of a computer? Are you presenting to the room or at the table listening? Do you create with words, with drawings? Do you build or sell things? Work with people or animals? Will you need a college or advanced degree to get your dream job? Do you want to be a nurse, a teacher, an attorney, or an architect? What will it take to get there?
After the exercise, have your student post their vision board on the wall in their room so they can review it each day and imagine having this in their life.
You can be a role model and create your own vision board! Be vulnerable in front of your student, and show them that you’re continuing to dream and grow, too.
Pictures and visualization are more important than knowledge. Helping your student picture their goal, and their future is the best first step. Please upload your images of creating your vision boards with your students to social media, mention @shirl.mo, and we would be happy to repost your experience. Have fun!
Shirley Morrison is the author of From Classroom to Career: How to Network, Nail the Interview and Navigate for Success. She has been a strategic salesperson for Fortune 500 companies for the last 12 years. Before that, Shirley worked at an AI tech start-up. While a software accounts manager for Oracle in California, she accepted a challenge in 2015 to run one of the UK regions. She has hosted programs to inspire and support individuals to discover their potential throughout her career.