Her match-made-in-heaven husband. Her thriving coaching business that reality TV stars call when they want to transform their lives. Her Activate women’s conference, which attracted attendees from around the world and had reps for Sherri Shepherd and our cover star Keke Palmer clamoring to get their clients involved. Lucinda Cross, 37, credits much of her and her family’s success to the glue, tape, cutouts and markers she uses to create her vision boards. “Vision boards allow me to put my dreams on paper,” she says. “Once I see them, I get the focus to bring my visions to life.” 

Cross was serving time in prison when she first created a vision board. At 18, she was targeted and recruited by a Nigerian drug cartel to launder contraband around the world. The easy money was hard to resist for a struggling college student determined to live a life better than the one she had growing up in housing projects in the Bronx. A few months after her nineteenth birthday, Cross was arrested and soon began her five-year sentence. “I refused to be a statistic,” she recalls. “No one talks about dreams and goals inside. It’s ‘You tarnished your name. You might as well give up now.’ I started creating vision boards so I wouldn’t lose my mind.” 

In a composition book and using construction paper, Cross put down her dreams for her future, including going back to school and reuniting with her family, alongside photos that encouraged her. “I was fearful of being judged, so I surrounded myself with pictures of people cheering me on,” she remembers. “Anytime I found images of cheerleaders or people at a concert with their hands up, I cut them out and put them up.” It was major for her rehabilitation. Cross started hosting vision board sessions for other women in the prison. Within one month of her release, she had already applied to college. After completing her degree, Cross began working in marketing and launched her own consulting and coaching business. 

Following a failed relationship with the father of her two young children, she had a new goal: The next man in her life would be her husband. “I didn’t want something temporary,” she shares. “I started to create a board with the qualities that I wanted in my mate. I would put in images of men who were hugging their moms and a picture of my father,whom I admired.” A year later she met her husband, who embodied all the qualities she sought. “One day I was moving fast to get ready for a date because he is a stickler for time,” she remembers. “I stopped and looked on my board, and time management was right there. I realized he was the man I was seeking.” 

The two married in 2011. Cross keeps an active vision board for the future of their relationship and still has the board that described her partner. Her children now make their own boards and each yearCross starts her own professional goals board that she updates yearlong: “I like to add to my boards as inspiration comes or I see something I desire to do.” A year ago Cross put her picture on the cover of the January issue of this magazine,determined to one day be in the pages of ESSENCE. You are now reading her manifested vision. 


Join Your Values And Your Vision

“Your vision board should reflect your core values,” shares Doreen Rainey, creator of the Radical Success Institute. “Decide what brings you joy and fulfillment.” After creating a successful coaching practice and women’s conference, Rainey decided to position her company to be sold. A year later she connected with Steve Harvey and the duo joined forces. She now serves as vice-president of transformation and development at Harvey’s company. 

Bite-Size Your Dreams

Break down your goals into four categories: your home, finances, relationships and career. Use labels from the previous page. “I tell my clients to focus on maybe two visions for each area,” Rainey says. “It’s nice to have a vision board where you have $1 million. But before you make a million, you’ve got to make $100,000.”

Let Your Personality Shine Through

Glitter. Old photos. Quotes. Don’t hold back when putting your dream life on paper. “Your vision board is for you,” Rainey says.“Pictures demonstrate.” 

Connect What You See To What You Do

It’s not enough to put together your board and continue living with the same routine. Surround yourself with your vision on your computer and phone and in places you frequent at home, including your bathroom and bedroom. “Use your board when you’re faced with an opportunity or decision,” Rainey says. “See if your choice is bringing you closer to what’s on the board or taking you further away from it.” Visit your board throughout the year as a measuring stick to achieving your goals. 

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After making your vision board, be prepared to bring it to life. As the founder of Aiming High, Inc., and a master coach with the popular Momentum Education transformational workshops, Sylvia High has coached thousands to live in their purpose by asking themselves the hard questions. “We upgrade our phones when they are outdated, but we don’t always upgrade our thinking,” says the author of The Little Book of Big Questions (Sumusic Group). 

1. What is my vision for my life?

2. Am I ready to live my dreams?

3. Who do I need to be to achieve my dreams? High says, “New dreams will require you to let go of your old habits.”

4. What are the recurring patterns in my life?

5. What’s working and not working in my life?

6. What will I do differently?

7. What am I afraid of?

8. How much of my past is shaping the way I think and what I do?

9. What do I need to let go of to get what I want? 

10. Am I willing to take responsibility for everything that happens in my life?

Share your vision board by using the hashtag #ESSENCEVISION. 

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of ESSENCE Magazine, on newstands now!