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A step-by-step to the dream-releasing 12-Rectangle Solution, Part 3

Are you ready? This is not for the faint of heart


By Denise Connell, Publisher; Éclairity.org Founder

This weekend we're diving into the nuts and bolts of the 12-Rectangle Solution. If you need a quick summary from Part 1 and 2, try this:

Part 1: If you want your dream or goal to be accomplished, bring it into the light, visualize its reality, and pay attention to it with your time and focus. Like the rectangle blanket for our cats, and like their brush in the rectangle receptacle…what’s visible and acted upon nets rewards

Part 2: In your dreams and goals wishlist, include ones that help you connect with and contribute to something beyond yourself. This gives life significance, meaning, and value… and ultimately will net a life you love and find worth living.

Every corner of our home whispers reminders of what Reggie and I love and want more of in our lives. We’ve taken our cats’ visual, attention-grabbing examples with their blanket and brush, and magnified them to cannot be ignored levels; kind of like the leave-your-keys-in-the-refrigerator strategy, times 100. Maybe it’s our older brains that need the extra help, but we’ve really come to embrace the not forgetting to live a more intentional kind of life, even if we do trip over a few of the visuals now and then. Some examples:

- a 1920’s Royal typewriter sits prominently in the dining room reminding us of the writers who came before and urging us forward in our writing dreams;

- our French Press is intentionally left out on the kitchen counter to woo us back to slower coffee-making, savoring and lingering instead of always rushing through;

- books that spur us on in journalism, spirituality, traveling, and cooking sit stacked on stairs, in reading nooks, and by our bedside tables, inviting action by their presence;

- a canvas with “Paris is always a good idea” sits propped on the floor in our bathroom – no explanation needed.

But it wasn’t enough. Not this year. Not for my dreams. And Milo and Snow showed me the way with their reactions to the rectangles in their lives.


"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." 

-  Neale D. Walsch


I first learned about “vision boards” back in the late 1990s when working with youth and college students. Making a vision board is a creative process that helps identify, and then visually represent our goals and dreams in order to keep them front-of-mind. Over the years I led vision quest workshops helping people identify their priorities, and then supplied poster boards, magazines and glue with instructions to find images, words, and symbols that best represented those dreams and goals, and paste them to their boards as lasting inspiration.

Except, while I dove in with the participants and made my own, I never once felt inspired by the end-result, nor used it beyond the workshop.

The process was exhilarating. Taking time to clarify what really matters and what we want to create, experience, or accomplish is essential to a fulfilling life. Naming our desires is the first step to bringing them into reality, and it’s exciting any time we give voice and prioritize what’s been stirring inside.

But, for me at least, translating those lofty and exciting dreams into a paper collage that looked like a first grader made it ruined the result, rendering it completely ineffective in reminding or motivating me to action. (No offense to first graders; theirs would likely be better than mine any day.)

Fast forward to this year. I journaled out my dreams and priorities in January, and then jumped online to see how vision boards had improved since the new millennium… only to find they hadn’t. The same chaotic-looking collages kept popping up as examples.

Determined not to repeat past regrets and inspired by our cats, I created my own path to possibilities: The 12-Rectangle Solution to keeping dreams and goals visible and important; a visual guide that inspires and keeps me focused on what I want most in the next 1-5 years.

I hope it will help you do the same.

The 12-Rectangle Solution

STEP 1: Clarify priorities into one word each.

Narrow your dreams/goals that you wrote out over the last two weeks, down to one or two words each.

EXAMPLES: Here are four of my seven dreams/goals narrowed down.

Daily stretching and exercises to build core strength and counteract hip and back pain: Stretching

Write every day toward my book for personal joy, and inspiring people to deeper living: Writing

Research religion/god/transcendence/meaning for my spiritual journey, and to help others expand and deepen theirs as well: Research

Live in different states and countries for 3 to 12 months at a time for writing, enjoyment, to mentor students in building news sites, and to facilitate creative living retreats: Deep Travel


"To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world"   -  Unknown


STEP 2: Decide location and size.

Let the space where you spend the most time – and where you will be inspired to pause and linger – dictate the location and size of your vision board.

Most vision board instructions suggest creating something the size of a poster or smaller, even condensing to a computer screen if opting for a digital version. However, as I sat at my desk pondering possibilities, the big blank wall that faced me about eight feet in front of my desk kept drawing me to it, and I realized: why should I settle for a vision board when I could have a whole wall?!

Fun tip: Being open to doing something different opens our minds to seeing - and actually doing - something different. Take this into every step of your dreams and goals.

STEP 3: Look for images, words, and symbols that best represent your dreams and priorities. Take time to be inspired in this step. 

(1)  When looking at the key word that represents each dream/goal, what picture comes to mind? What are you doing? How are you feeling when you imagine yourself in the midst of your dream/goal being lived/accomplished/experienced? What images, objects, colors, words best represent the essence of that dream/goal?

(2) Look through sources of inspiration to find an image, word, graphic representation for each of your dreams and goals. Potential sources: (a) your house: are there any objects that inspire and could represent your dream/goal? (b) books at home that are inspiring: any book that has photography, images, or illustrations that connect with you and could represent your dream/goal? (c) a local bookstore: spend time perusing books and magazines that draw you in and that might have content/images that capture one of your dreams/goals; (d) card shops: inspiring sayings and quotes can be found in card shops, or the card sections of Target, Barnes & Noble, etc.; and (e) online: try these sources for free images to print out: pixabay.com, unsplash.com, pexels.com or pix4free.org.

EXAMPLES:  What I chose to represent my dreams and goals.

Stretching: Object: yoga band - from home

Tennis: Object: tennis ball - from home

Golf: Object: golf ball - from home

Writing: Objects: (1) a journal a friend gave me with the word “write” on it; (2) a black pen – both from home

Research: Image: I found a picture of a desk stacked with books and tabbed pages – I carefully tore it out of one my favorite books; Object: a yellow highlighter – both from home

Travel and Deep Travel: Objects: (1) my old passport; (2) postcard map of USA; (3) postcard map of the world; Image: picture of a country house in Provence, carefully torn out of a favorite book – all from home

Farmers market-inspired cooking: Image: I found a picture of colorful vegetables at a farmers market that I gently tore out of a favorite book; Object: a wooden spatula – both from home

Additional: I found four cards with quotes on them from Barnes & Noble that inspire me toward my purpose. They are sprinkled throughout this article, like this one:


"Proceed as if success is inevitable." 

-  Unknown


STEP 4: Arrange your images, objects and quotes so they are visually appealing and inspiring.

Here’s where the cats  - and the wall - were inspirational to me. The cats were drawn to take action with visible rectangles that netted rewards; I would do the same. By arranging my objects and images in rectangles (ie frames) on the wall, the vision board became my gallery wall of dreams. Here’s how:

(1) I ordered a package of 12 rectangle cardstock mattes in varying sizes to use as frames, and a package of 3M stickers that won’t damage walls when removed (total cost: $25.27). We have white walls, so I chose white mattes to blend in, keeping my focus on the symbols.

(2) I measured the wall space I wanted to work with, marked off the dimensions on the floor (width x height), and then played with the arrangement of the frames until I found a layout I liked. I then brought my objects and images into play, arranging and rearranging them in the rectangle frames (and sometimes beyond them) until I found the placement that felt right.

(3) I took a picture of the arranged “gallery of dreams” on the floor, and piece by piece transferred the frames and objects to the wall, with tweaks here and there until I loved it, and it worked. Figuring out how to secure a tennis and golf ball to the wall was the trickiest part.

STEP 5: How to use your vision wall effectively.

WARNING: Vision boards/walls are powerful and effective for both succeeding and failing. It all depends on how you use it. 

Imagining yourself living your dream… fantasizing about how you’ll spend the money you’ll make… thinking how incredible it will feel to reach your goal and change the world – those are only the beginning measures of your dream-song waiting to be sung. It’s the inhale before the first note releases. But if you don’t exhale and keep the rhythm going, you’re going to pass out, and your dream will pass you by. Just as the breathing-in needs the breathing-out to keep us alive and moving forward, so do our dreams and goals. We need both the imagining and the making happen. The faith and the work. The dreaming and the doing.

Here's how to use your vision wall to breathe your dreams and goals into reality:

(1) Pause at the wall: The vision wall reminds you to keep your attention on your priorities. Remember “selective attention”? You have already selected what you want to pay attention to – so pause daily and pay attention.

(2) Visualize: This is the breathing it all in part. Take a moment and be inspired by your wall. Imagine if every image came true. How awesome would it be –will it be – to do it. It’s exciting – enjoy the moment and the needed inspiration as it breathes life on you.

(3) Remember: Why each one is important. This is what gives your life meaning, purpose, helps you grow, fills you up, keeps you healthy, will make the world a better place – whatever the why behind your dream/goal – remember it. This is the reason your wall is here in the first place, and all the ways your life is, and can be beautiful and worth living.

(4) Ask, and visualize again: Ask “What is one thing I can do today/this week to move this dream/goal forward?” There is one easy thing you can do today for each one. You don’t have to do one thing for every single one, every single day; it just depends on how much progress you want to make. But having a plan, a to-do, is a must to moving forward. Figure out what that one easy thing you can do today.  

KEY NOTE: When thinking of what you can do to move your dream/goal forward, picture yourself in the process of doing it, taking action, being the one that’s getting it done. This is where visualizing makes impact, and how vision boards/walls work for success. When you visualize the process – specifically you doing the work in the process – that’s when your brain starts making the grooves, making it easier and easier to keep doing (like a habit) until you get it done. Picture yourself doing the work and taking the steps, each and every day.    

(5) Action: Just do it. There’s a reason those three words are powerful and effective, and netted Nike serious success. Do the one easy step you thought of in step 4 to move your dream/goal forward. Schedule it. Make time for it. Do the one thing. And the next day… do it again. And again. And one small, easy step at a time you will move your dream into reality.


"Do not be afraid of what is new. Let it challenge and prepare you for the journey you have been called to." 

-  MHN


There are other steps that can support your success, but the ones outlined here are a proven pathway to help bring your dream into the light, and a great place to start.

I hope a spark was ignited for you, and that you will take active steps toward the life you want to live. I’ll keep looking for ways to keep the sparks coming, and would love to hear how they catch fire for you. I invite you to leave a comment, or send me an email (denise@theapopkavoice.com) or text (407.415.6218), and let me know the dreams and goals lighting up your horizons in Apopka and beyond!

How can I move my dreams and goals forward? What is a vision board? Do vision boards really work? How can I make sure my vision board is most effective? What is Éclairity.org? What is a creative activity for setting goals and dreams? Faith and Inspiration, Sparks Ignite Here, What can I do to step into my life purpose and live my dreams?


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