Question: "What are vision boards, and are they biblical?"
Answer: A vision board is a tool, such as a poster or a cork board, that helps clarify and maintain a focus on life goals. Vision boards can be anything on which one displays images that represent dreams, goals, and plans for the future. On a vision board, the user places pictures representing destinations, careers, homes, or desired goals. Pinterest could be considered a type of virtual vision board, as it allows users to “pin” photos that idealize their opinions, desires, and aspirations. Most vision boards also incorporate affirmations that declare what the speaker wishes to be true, such as “I am a good person” or “My life is going in the right direction.”
A vision board helps some people stay focused on their objectives. By looking often at their boards, they steer clear of distractions or discouragements that keep them from achieving their goals. Some vision board-creation websites go into great detail about adding other aspects to the boards, such as past experiences, challenges to conquer, and steps to take to accomplish the goal. However, the supposed “power” attributed to such boards seems to be limited to those regions of the world where the possibilities exist. In other words, can a destitute widow in Sudan create a vision board about living on a yacht off the French Riviera? Will that vision board change her reality simply because she thinks about it all the time? Can a vision board change the future for an illiterate paraplegic in Belarus who longs to be the CEO of an American company? While vision boards may be helpful to some, they incorporate some elements that need to be examined more closely.
People have used the idea of vision boards for years. For example, a father keeps photos of his family on his desk at work to remind him why he is there. A soldier at war keeps notes and photos of his beloved taped to his locker to help him endure the hardships of battle. A young couple cuts out pictures of their dream home and makes a collage to help them remember that their financial sacrifices now will be worth it someday. In such cases, vision boards can be useful tools to keep us focused on what really matters.
However, a quick scan through vision board-making sites on the internet reveals another side. Although not claiming any Christian or religious connections, the vision board gurus sound startlingly similar to popular prosperity preachers such as Joel Osteen. In addition, the goals and affirmations of vision boards often have nothing to do with surrendering to the will and plan of God or with denying ourselves and taking up our cross to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23; Matthew 8:34; 16:24). Vision boards, for the most part, appear to center on personal desires for one’s life and the expectations that those desires will be fulfilled. A question arises as to how this focus might harmonize with Jesus’ words: “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25; cf. John 12:25). Focus is important; goals are the key to most success stories. But the power often attributed to “positive thinking” has a questionable foundation. It is easy to see how vision boards can be used as substitutes for God.
Despite their lack of religious connection, vision boards might indeed be considered religious. They celebrate the most popular religion in the world today, the religion of self. Self-actualization, self-esteem, personal opinion, and the dissolving of absolutes are now being celebrated as humanity’s highest goals. To pursue one’s dreams is the new virtue and, sadly, one being eagerly adopted by the Western church. The fervent passion with which many people pursue their own ideas is nothing short of religious. Vision boards are another way this religion celebrates itself as it keeps our hearts focused on what we want.
The problem with this focus is that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). When our vision boards exist to put us in charge of our futures, we are stepping into a dangerous area. Positive affirmations are a great way to stay uplifted and faith-filled, but when our positive affirmations do not align with the truths revealed in God’s Word, we are declaring lies about ourselves, regardless of how affirming they may sound. For example, someone who declares, “I am a good person,” when he or she has not submitted to the plan of God, is merely defying what God has already stated, which is “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10).
Personal affirmations stated by the unregenerate are often repackaged lies from the enemy designed to keep us from humbling ourselves before God (1 Peter 5:6). As long as we believe we can achieve our dreams by simply visualizing and declaring them, why would we think we need God (Deuteronomy 8:17)? What if His dream for us looks drastically different from our own dreams (Isaiah 55:9)? Whose vision board should prevail? Instead of creating our own affirmations, which may be wrong, we should meditate on Scripture and declare what God says. Instead of “I am a good person,” a truth declaration might be “I am a sinner saved by the grace of God” (Ephesians 2:8–9). Instead of “my life is going in the right direction,” we might declare, “I will follow Christ my Savior wherever He leads me and whatever it costs me” (Matthew 10:37–38).
Followers of Christ can redeem the idea of vision boards if they use them as reminders of God’s purpose and plan for their lives. For example, a young woman who is called to the foreign mission field can create a vision board with photos and information about the people group to whom she is called. She could include the financial and practical steps needed to go to those people. She might also add reminders to pray regularly for the nation and the missionaries already there. But she should also be willing to change those plans if God leads her elsewhere (Acts 16:6). Nothing, including vision boards, must ever detract us from the purposes God has for our lives. Only when a vision board is submitted to the overarching plan of God for someone’s life can it be considered biblical.