Athletes, motivational speakers, artists, and others in successful careers know the value of visualizing success. The Olympian's training is not only physical, but mental. In advance of the race, he visualizes lining up at the start; he hears the gun and sees himself running, then crossing the finish line first. By doing these mental exercises, he affirms his ability to win even before suiting up.

Likewise, mapping our life goals, or finish lines, as conscious realities increases our chances of succeeding. Dream, or vision boards are one way to accomplish this. Examples are found everywhere, including Pinterest. Pinterest itself is just one gigantic Dream Board. They are a collection of what we love and want to have or be in any area of life.

Dream boards have their value. Families can create a family dream board as well as the individual members. Traditional dream boards are created from photos, magazine pictures, small objects, and anything you can pin up on a cork board. Displaying the board in a prominent place helps to activate your purpose and determination each day.

Benefits of dream boards

Kids love tangible objects. In fact, the brain craves concrete visuals. It stimulates memory. Kids also love cutting and pasting pictures, keywords and objects into a collage-like display that represent their creative side; who they are, their likes and dreams. They start with possibilities, then narrow down to focus on what they really want.

Families and individuals have made representational shields, or family crests for centuries. These tell the viewer who they are in a few symbols and pictures. The same can be done with a dream board. Divide the area into four main quadrants of human development:

1. Physical: display a picture of a person swimming the butterfly stroke with a stopwatch and the timed goal, or a picture of people hiking.

2. Socio-emotional: cut out and post a picture of friends having lunch together or post a birthday card to remind you to send one to another.

3. Intellectual: display a diploma with your name on it and the desired degree, or a list of books you want to read.

4. Spiritual/values: post words such as "service" "compassion" or hands folded in prayer. If we include a spiritual compass and values-based goals, we tend to choose more worthy pursuits that infuse meaning and purpose to our overall goals.

Adults as well as youth may find using electronic "boards" a better fit to create and display their dreams. Use it as your computer or phone wallpaper. These give others an opportunity to peek at your life goals ("Hey what's that on your computer screen?"), listen as you describe your passion and progress (or lack thereof) and help you along the way.

Use your dream board to affirm the positive every day. Look at it before bedtime and when you wake in the morning and focus on one or two items. Say affirming statements: "I will learn to do the butterfly stroke in one fluid action. I can do it!"

The "Doing" part of Dreaming

Those who truly succeed rise up after their visualization exercises and do. Dreaming without doing is described in this Chinese proverb: "Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time." Following are four "dos" that will help you reach your goals.

1. Post pictures of long and short-term goals. Focus on one or two of them, writing down a specific plan for each.

2. Become accountable. Review your goals at regular intervals with a partner. If your goal is to hike five miles each week, find a hiking buddy with a similar goal. Parents encourage their child by setting a specific time to review how her goals are progressing. A five-minute progress report each week for short-term or slightly longer interviews monthly for long-term goals is a key to success.

3. Find resources. Get in touch with someone who can teach, mentor and inspire you or your child. Even if your child drives you crazy because their goals keep changing ... ("I want to play the guitar; I want to play the drums; No wait! I don't want to play any instrument. I want to become an actor!") all experiences explore his potential and blossom his talents.

4. Be true to yourself. Refine and reaffirm your goals. Take pictures down that aren't working. Adapt to new ones and embrace the process of finding out what you love to do and who you want to be. One failed attempt can lead to another opportunity; therefore, the process is worth it. Never compare your dreams and accomplishments with others.

My brother, Brian, had a dream. He and his family had outgrown their small home and wanted a larger house in a family-friendly neighborhood. He drove around likeable neighborhoods where he could envision his children growing up. After viewing the outside of many possible homes, he narrowed it down to one.

Brian got the courage to knock on the door of the "dream" house and ask the owners if they were selling. No, they weren't. But they struck up a conversation and the retired couple liked him and invited him to bring back his family to swim in their pool.

As his kids were swimming, squealing with delight, and generally infusing life to the backyard, the couple looked at each other and said, "We can see this family living here. They should have this home." After a series of amazing events, both Brian's family and this couple ended up in their dream homes.

Life can be like that. We just need to get up and start knocking on doors.

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