Goal Posters: Frivolous or Forceful?
I have to admit it: I used to think goal posters were kind of asinine. It’s actually a little strange, because I’m all about arts and crafts, and I’m also all about setting goals – but for whatever reason the idea of memorializing my goals on a poster or board that will theoretically last for at least a year made me cringe.
Perhaps it’s because I frequently reassess my goals and reprioritize or even change them. For a person with ever-changing goals, you don’t want to constantly be reminded of ones you dropped, or traded out for new ones.
Or perhaps it’s because I was super skeptical of the concept of “self-help” as a whole. When I was younger I couldn’t run fast enough away from the mumbo jumbo kool-aid folks like Tony Robbins were drinking and doling out. (Though later, I would defend Tony Robbins to a guy I dated who thinks that Robbins has started a cult). When I was younger talk about fulfillment, self-actualization, and other concepts around psychological and emotional healing and training were so foreign and seemed so superficially positive to me that I scorned them. We put down that which we do not understand or cannot relate to.
And perhaps, too, my distaste for the goal poster came from a lack of self-knowledge, and lack of belief in myself. After all, making a goal poster requires that you have some faith or hope that you’ll accomplish your goals. And, a prerequisite to the goal poster is having meaningful goals in the first place, goals that are based on your values and how they’re expressed through your hopes and dreams. For a long time I don’t think I had either.
I’ll admit: for many years, my daily and weekly goals were sometimes vague and poorly formed, like:
Exercise 4 times a week
Don’t drink too much
Stop twirling your hair
Pay off your credit card
You wouldn’t want to put those on a goal poster, because they aren’t really good goals. Rather, they are the strategies you use to achieve a goal, not the goal itself.
So what changed for me?
I made my first goal poster in 2012. That was the year I landed a solid job with a small law firm where I felt comfortable. I had been able to build up a little savings, got a bit of a raise when I changed jobs, and had money on the side to spend on myself. Really, though, I think the main thing that changed for me was my mindset.
As my first boss said, one of my weaknesses is that I can be so passionate about a cause that I have a hard time stepping back from work. AKA, I can be a workaholic. Instead of over-working myself, I loosened up and let myself adventure and travel more. For the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to take some of the pressure off of myself when it came to work.
Sometimes it takes a little breathing room to gain perspective, to be able to take a step back from your life and assess the big picture. This is also a very hard thing for me because I’m a trees person! I see the trees in bright, vivid detail, down to every nook and cranny in every strip of bark, and I can trace every delicate vein that spiderwebs across each verdant leaf …so naturally I have hard time seeing the forest. But that's what you need to see to make a goal poster - the forest. And that's what I was finally able to see in 2012, when I took some time for myself to assess my values and where I was at in my life and career. And so I made a goal poster.
When I made that first goal poster, my attitude changed. Having it hanging in my room was a constant visual reminder that made me face my goals and dreams regularly. Naturally this would make me think about how far I’d come in relation to each goal, and think, “what can I do today to take me closer to my goal”?
Having a goal poster around also kind of etches the goals into your subconscious. They say people are visual beings, in that we tend to remember things we see, like spatial patterns and physical objects. In that way, a goal poster sort of gets under your skin.
In his book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, author Joshua Foer becomes fascinated with memory games and the experts who play them. He decided to train with an expert and enter a memory competition, and in so doing, he learned the art of building memory palaces to remember things like grocery lists with hundreds of items, sequences of hundreds of numbers, and sequences of playing cards multiple decks long. The memory palace process entails using a house or building that you know very well, assigning random objects to the pieces of information you need to remember, and mentally placing those objects throughout the house as you “walk” through it. (A super interesting read, by the way!) Using this visual and spatial association technique, people have been able to memorize large amounts of information since ancient Roman times.
Perhaps there is some science behind the efficacy of the goal poster, too.
The funny thing about a goal poster is that it really is like self-actualization. You create it, and it happens. Like affirmations, you tell yourself you are something and you can eventually become it. Yes, there are roadblocks. Yes, there are exceptions – but by and large, when you’re setting goals that are true to your values and reflect your character and passions, you’ll find – like I did – that in time you can accomplish your goals. So are you ready to give it a try?
Goal poster-making 101:
Ask yourself the following questions:
Who am I?
What makes me proud?
What do I most enjoy doing?
What do I want from my life?
Where do I see myself in 10 years, 20 years, and 50 years?
Most important of all, why? Why do I want the above things? What are the underlying values that drive me – and should I fact-check some of the goals I think I want?
You can apply these questions to your career, your personal life, your romantic life, your family, your finances, your friends, your hobbies, and more. Once you’ve identified the things you love and the kind of life you want, you can think about:
What are some milestones that will get me there?
How can I reach beyond and expand on these goals?
What are some related, pie-in-the-sky dreams worth pursuing?
Once you’ve passed the conceptual phase you’re on to the design. For the poster board, I recommend using an inexpensive foam board – you can get some from any arts and crafts store, or online. They’re much sturdier than paper and easy to glue stuff to. For the materials, you can get creative. Use magazines, newspapers, or photographs. You could use pages from an old diary or scrapbook, or you could use arts and crafts materials to really give it some flair – things like beads, twine, bows, buttons, or puffy paint can all add artistic elements. Cut out words, phrases, or images that call to you and reflect your goals and values. If you don’t find stuff quickly, that’s fine. Take your time until you find the right images and words that fit. Or, cheat. Browse the internet for ideas – or even print up stuff you find.
Once you’ve got all your pieces assembled, it’s time to go to town collaging. When I collage, I do it organically. I don’t map out where each piece will go ahead of time, but sometimes that can leave you short a few pieces – or cause you to overlap or leave edges that pop off the background. Whichever method you use, glue is better than tape when it comes to assembling. Tape has to be looped around and stuck to the back of each piece so that the tape pieces don’t stick out on the front of the poster, and then they can loosen and let pieces fall off. So go for glue – and glue sticks are better than the Elmers school glue, which is gloopy and can cause lumps and bubbles in your paper.
Once you’re finished, give it some time to dry and, voila! Hang your poster somewhere you will see it regularly.
If nothing more, the process can be a great bonding experience for you and your partner, or for family members, because you get to talk about your dreams, aspirations, and values while you work on it together.