Finding Clarity

In a previous post, we discussed the Five C’s for Happy Teens, and over the next few weeks, we will be suggesting some concrete ways to promote these principles, the first of which is clarity.

Clarity is an essential component of any student’s ability to perform successfully and happily in school. When students clearly know what expectations they have for themselves and what others have for them, they are more able to perform tasks free from emotional and physical distraction. The barrage of peer and media messages that young people receive can make it difficult for them to hold onto any clear set of priorities, but we as educators and parents can help them clarify and stay focused on their goals, particularly if we have a clear understanding of our own expectations of them.

Making a vision board is often suggested as a way to discover and attain overarching aspirations in our lives. The basic idea is to create some sort of visual collage that depicts what we hope to achieve and then to place it in a location where we will be regularly reminded of it. While discussions of vision boards are commonly couched in language some consider “New Agey” and are usually oversold in their power to single-handedly bring wishes to fruition, I have found them a useful and fun way to help students gain a clearer sense of purpose in their academic pursuits. The conversations that ensue while making the board and revisiting it over time have been remarkably effective in opening reluctant students up to new ways for them to understand their relationship with their work.

One particularly straightforward way to make a vision board is to page through old magazines and cut out any images that seem inspiring. If magazines aren’t readily available, printing out images found online also works well. Once there’s a big enough pile, simply arrange and attach them with glue or tape onto a piece of poster board. As themes seem to emerge on the collage, consider labeling them with words either cut out from the magazines or written with marker. There’s no correct way to create a vision board. Rather, the goal is to be led by instinct and find the end result to be somewhat of a surprise.

Your child’s interest in this type of project will, of course, depend on his or her age and personality; however, if you start making one yourself, you may find that an initially reluctant child will be curious enough to join in. The key is to be totally nonjudgmental of anyone’s choices for their own vision board (including your own) and to avoid any appraisals of the “quality” of the work. The effectiveness of this activity hinges largely on how authentic the vision board feels to its creator.

You’ll find that working together on such a project will spark productive conversations about setting worthwhile goals and what it can take to achieve them. You might have fun comparing your boards and sharing some of your own motivations for the images and themes you chose. You can point out the goals or images on each other's boards that you share and talk about how you might work together to achieve them. Ultimately, you and your child will gain a better understanding of the expectations and goals you have for yourselves and each other.