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Cara Holland runs a visual thinking studio and an online training academy that teaches practical visual thinking skills. Since setting up Graphic Change over a decade ago, she has drawn everywhere from a muddy field to Buckingham Palace, and has worked with clients such as TimeWarner, Google and Microsoft. Her book, Draw a Better Business, is available to buy from all good bookshops.

Visualising your writing goals can be a first step towards making them a reality. Neuroscience shows that when you visualise something you stimulate the same parts of the brain as when you actually do it. We asked visual thinker Cara Holland how to visualise your writing future – read her step-by-step guide to drawing your dream.

Visioning, the act of imagining and drawing the future, of sticking a pin in life’s map where you want to be in one year or five years, can help bring clarity to your ambition.

It is this clarity that can help you realise your dreams more quickly. In fact, the very act of making the marks that represent your dream on paper, rather than making a digital note on your laptop for example, has been shown to embed the message deeper and help you retain it more clearly for longer.

Visualising the future

Now, I’m not saying that visualising your dreams is a magic wand, you still have to put in the same amount of hard work to make it all happen, but articulating WHAT your dream is and capturing it visually, makes the next steps of looking at HOW to make it happen much more likely. In fact, you’ve gone and got yourself the makings of a PLAN… and more importantly you’ve pulled your dreams one step closer to reality.

It might seem too simple to be serious, but using visual tools is powerful stuff.

>> Read more: Visualising success for writers

Turning dreams into reality

Over the past 11 years I’ve run a visual thinking studio working with organisations to help generate, capture and deliver information creatively. The following step-by-step guide is based on a tried and tested model for visualising and articulating a vision – it works equally well for business strategy and personal goals and dreams.

It worked for me.

Before I started Graphic Change I drew, on the back of a napkin, my dream. I’d been fantasising about having my own business for a while, but this was the first time I’d actually sat down and put some energy into visualising my dream. Within one year of visualising my dream I’d set up my business and now in its 11th year it’s still going from strength to strength.

So how can you go about visualising your own dream? Try this super easy method.

>> Related read: How to set a writing goal: the ultimate guide

How to visualise your writing dreams and goals

1. Get drawing

Grab a pen and a sheet of paper (or a napkin).

In the centre of the paper draw yourself. Now it doesn’t need to be fit for the National Portrait Gallery – just a face or a person that represents you to YOU.

On the top right hand position of the page draw a star, or another positive image that resonates with you and write the word DREAM.

Cara Holland Your Dream

2. Get thinking

Now you need to think. Really think. Take as long as you need, grab a cuppa, put your feet up, whatever helps you relax your mind and imagine:

What is your dream? What does it look like? Try and identify all the different elements of it. Give it some solidity, imagine you are doing it already. Imagine it being real, right there in front of you.

3. Draw your dream

Now draw or write something that represents each element of your dream in the space underneath the star. For my business dream I drew:

  1. Earn my living drawing, earning enough to replace my current salary = Money
  2. I wanted to work with interesting people = 3 different smiley heads
  3. be a part of varied projects = a group of different shapes to represent projects, a circle, a triangle and a square with the word projects
  4. get to be creative in a way that was functional = a paint brush, a lightbulb and a tick.

I edited my list down to four for this blog, but in reality, there were lots more elements to my dream, so don’t be surprised if you end up with a lot more than four points.

What you draw doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else. This is your dream and it only matters that the images and words you pick remind you of that specific element of your dream.

4. Break it down into steps

Over in the space on the left hand side draw some steps and a frame…something like this one I’ve drawn here:

Cara Holland Steps to reaching dream

Then write a list of steps or actions.

This is the start of figuring out HOW you’re going to make it happen. Don’t make them unachievable, no one wants to set themselves up to fail. Don’t make a next step “hand in my notice at work”, instead perhaps, make it “set up a blog or start to share my writing on Medium”.

>> Read more: How small steps lead to great progress

Once you have your list you can start to work your way through it over the coming weeks.

Make your dream a reality

Take a snap on your phone so you can look at it again when you’re waiting for the bus or queuing for a coffee. Print it out and stick it up on your fridge or your computer so you can see it every day. Find ways to keep your dream in the front of your mind to remind you exactly what you’re working towards.

Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to make our dreams real, and even if it’s a really long journey to get there, taking those first steps are what makes it possible. You got this!