Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Give it the old collage try

Make a vision board -- sort of a to-do list on steroids -- that creates a picture of the life you want

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It's almost September -- that "starting over" time of year when we tell ourselves we'll pack healthy lunches, sign up for fitness classes, study a new language, save for a winter vacation and accomplish a litany of other goals.

A to-do list tends to glare at us, taunting, nagging and guilting.

Creating a vision board can be a way to replace that burden of "shoulds" with positive inspiration for change and action, says Sonia Lemoine, a Winnipeg fitness and vegan-cooking instructor.

A vision board -- also known as a dream board -- is a collage of images and words that creates a picture of the life you want.

First you have fun making it -- like a craft project with no rules -- usually by cutting images and phrases out of magazines, or printing them from your computer.

Then you hang it somewhere you'll observe it daily -- like above your home computer or on your fridge -- and let it keep reminding your brain of your vision and intention for the future.

"Whatever you put your mind to, your mind will work towards making it a reality," says Lemoine, who is a leading a three-hour workshop on vision boards on Sept. 24 at Grant Park High School.

(The evening workshop, offered through Winnipeg School Division's lifelong learning program, is $39 plus a $10 fee for materials. For information, call 204-789-0435.)

Like "journaling" and "scrapbooking," the activity has grown so popular that it has its own verb: "vision-boarding."

The board Lemoine currently keeps at her kitchen phone desk is a store-bought frame with photo openings around the edge and a tack board in the centre. Many people glue images onto a poster board or pin them to a large bulletin board.

Lemoine gave birth to her third child two months ago and successfully used the board to motivate herself to get back into her pre-pregnancy wardrobe. Her board now reminds her of goals such as advocating for animals, getting to bed early and making more smoothies.

Participants in her vision-board workshops have credited the collages with helping them reconcile with estranged family members and launch businesses. "They really do work," she says.

Vision boards are often made by people who embrace Rhonda Byrne's 2006 self-help bestseller The Secret and its controversial assertion that positive thinking alone can summon personal wealth and happiness through the "law of attraction."

But you don't have to believe "the secret" to regard the boards as an effective tool for personal growth. Winnipeg life coach Aisha Alfa, whose background is in sports psychology, says the boards have been around for at least a decade and work in a similar way to visualization used by athletes.

Arizona-based life coach Martha Beck, who helped bring the boards to mass popularity on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008, has called them "cheesy but surprisingly effective."

Beck stresses that a vision board is not a catalogue of material wants. "Many people hear the basic instructions -- 'Find pictures of things you want in your life and stick 'em where you can see 'em -- and create virtually identical collages: a wad of cash, a handsome husband, a gorgeous body, a luxury car, a tropical beach," she writes.

But to be life-changing, she says, a vision board must be deeply and uniquely personal, tapping into your "primordial, non-social self." So you should choose images in an intuitive, spontaneous way, not by logic.

Collect pictures that "trigger physical reactions: a heart thump, a double take, a gasp," she writes. You may have no idea why you're attracted to a photo or a word, but cut it out anyway. The assembling of the board becomes an act of imagination.

"The board itself doesn't impact reality; what changes your life is the process of creating the images -- combinations of objects and events that will stick in your subconscious mind and steer your choices toward making the vision real," Beck writes.

Alfa agrees. Having taught vision-boarding workshops for corporate, non-profit and private groups, she says a board should arise from your "heart centre" and the process should be playful.

"Never stop and think about why you (chose) that picture," she says. "Don't judge yourself ... or allow societal pressures to influence what you're choosing."

Beck notes that people often forget all about something they put in a collage, only to realize later that it planted a seed. Tina Panetta, a 39-year-old Winnipeg airline ticket agent, says that happened to her.

A few years ago, she made a vision board that included her own name as a website address, though at the time she had no concrete idea of how she would use a website.

Today, she sells her own line of natural cosmetics at her self-named site. And after writing down the specific qualities she desired in a mate and tucking the folded piece of paper inside the plastic cover of her vision board, she met the outdoors-loving guy she dreamed of. They're planning a future together.

If you believe you're not artistic enough to make a collage, let that self-limiting belief go, Panetta says.

"My vision board is a complete mess," she says. "If I can't find what I want in a magazine, I'll draw it myself. Some things are taped on, others are glued -- it doesn't matter."

Her board has helped her visualize and accomplish a number of goals, such as taking a helicopter ride and getting her motorcycle licence.

"I think it has to do with focussing," she says. "The mind is a very powerful tool."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2012 D1

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