33 tips to make 2021 your BEST year yet & how a vision board can help

33 tips to make 2021 your BEST year yet & how a vision board can help

I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling 2021 is going to be pretty much the same rollercoaster-of-a-year as the unforgettable one we are leaving behind. Unusual times need unusual measures. In 2021 you should look at your goals, dreams, and your whole life a bit differently. At least if you want to be happy.

In this post I’m going to look at how to do it, bring in some interesting science, and give you 33 tips and tricks you can (and should) try for yourself to make 2021 your best and happiest year so far.


  1. The problem with New Year's Resolutions

  2. The science of happiness

  3. How our biases guide us away from happiness

  4. Why stuff doesn’t keep us happy

  5. Why there's no happily ever after, but complete strangers can make you happy

  6. How money can make you happy but why you’ll never feel you have enough of it

  7. Kindness is so powerful even just thinking about it could make you happy

  8. Why experiences really make us happier than stuff

  9. How to make your work a powerful and sustainable source of happiness

  10. The science of stress, anxiety & good routines

  11. How sleep can make or break you

  12. Why feeling in control of your life helps relieve anxiety

  13. Magic pill no 1 - meditation

  14. Magic pill no 2 - physical activity

  15. 33 tips, tricks, interventions & habits

  16. Visualize the work you need to put into achieving goals

  17. Conclusion

Reading time: 20 min


Vision Board Reimagined Bold Tuesday

The problem with New Year's Resolutions

Picture yourself putting together your New Year’s resolution or next vision board. Usually, it’s all about thinking BIG and daring to challenge your wildest dreams. But this year it’s time to focus more on self-compassion, happiness, small wins, self reflection and stress reduction. Less of big life goals in 10 years, more of what’s going on internally, here and now.

What we need now the most is:

  • mental resilience;
  • some effective coping strategies;
  • a bit of self-coaching;
  • habits that keep us on track.
The good news is that all these strategies are out there. And what’s even better - they’re not that difficult to implement. But just knowing them won’t help you. Only putting them into practice will make a positive change in your year (and life).

And this is where things get tricky. Why do goals fail? In January we all remember our New Year’s resolutions, the gyms are packed with people, we’re suddenly the best versions of ourselves. But month by month your goals get a bit dusty and lose their shine, you’re seeing fewer crowds in gyms and bad habits creep back into your life. There’s even a dedicated holiday - Ditch New Year's Resolution Day - to poke fun at this. Any guesses when it’s celebrated? January 17th! Now that says something.

That’s where vision boards come in. (PS If you want to brush up your knowledge, we have a great blog post on how to make vision boards.) Vision boards happen to be the perfect tool for:

  • keeping goals in focus;
  • making them concrete and visual;
  • prioritizing - choosing the few things that are really most important for you.

So what should you put on your vision board to make 2021 not just an okay-ish but the happiest year?


Vision board, notebook, motivational cards, coffee, woman writing
Vision Board Reimagined: Photos Visualization Cards, Classic Grey Covers & Balance Motivational Cards

The science of happiness

Let’s look at some science of happiness. Firstly, can happiness be measured? I mean, isn’t it kind of subjective? The answer is yes, of course it can - there are several different tests for this. And that’s why we can talk about facts and numbers, not just guesses and gut feelings.

Do you know how much of your happiness depends on genes? And how much on life circumstances - e.g. on something as awesome as winning the lottery or something as terrible as becoming terminally ill? And how much depends on your own actions? Take a moment and give a guess. Ready?

If you’re like me and most of the crowd, good chances are, you’re thinking the external life circumstances have the biggest impact. But hold on to your seats - according to research by professor of psychology at California University, Sonja Lyubomirsky (and author of a great book on this subject The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want), they make up only as little as 10% of your overall happiness! Wow.

So yes, after winning the lottery, your happiness level will sky-rocket for a short while, and then, sooner than you think, it’s back to where it was before. The same goes for negative events. Your happiness level will plummet but much less than you expect, and it will climb up to the same level where you started out, much sooner than you expect.

What about the other factors? Genetics determines about 50% of your overall happiness, giving you a kind of set point for happiness. This basically determines whether your glass is half full or half empty.

Now we get to the 40% of what’s left. And which is in my opinion the coolest news! This is your actions and thoughts. Things which you actually can change and influence a lot. If we put all this into the context of 2021 - whatever comes your way, we know this directly affects your happiness by only 10%. The rest is your baseline and how you react and think.

A great deal of how good you will feel is in your own hands!


How our biases guide us away from happiness

So let’s jump over to your dreams, goals, and 2021 New Year’s resolution. What to include on the next vision board? What do you think will make you happy?

    • Lots of money?
    • A dream job and a great career?
    • Meeting the love of your life?
    • Living in a big and beautiful house?
    • Traveling the world?
    • Being healthy?
    • Having a crazy expensive awesome supercar?
    • Reducing stress and anxiety?
Woman's hands using open vision board with photos
Vision Board Reimagined: Photos Visualization Cards & Classic Grey Covers

    You might think it’s fairly obvious where I’m heading with my list, but I promise there will be some scientifically proven surprises as to what increases or decreases your happiness, and why.

    Here’s the thing - our minds are not that great at figuring out what really makes us happy. We have a lot of bizarre biases that sometimes guide us right in the opposite direction from where we want to go. According to Yale psychology professor and author of a really cool podcast “Happiness Lab”, Laurie Santos, the main problems are:

    • we are terrible at predicting how happy “stuff” (as opposed to experiences and relationships) is going to make us;
    • we get used to the good things very quickly;
    • we cannot think in absolutes, which means we are always comparing ourselves and our lives to others, often choosing unrealistic reference points;
    • our strongest intuitions are often simply very wrong (think of optical illusions: even if you know it’s an illusion and you know the correct answer, your eyes still see the illusion wrongly, well, our minds do the same things in the realm of happiness).


    Why stuff doesn’t keep us happy

    So let’s look at all the goals I listed above on our imaginary vision board, in this context of biases. First let’s take the “stuff”: big house and awesome car. As you might predict, there’s a bit of a problem with happiness here. But not because things are just “bad” in some way. And I’m also not saying “stuff” should be kept off of your vision board at all costs.

    But there is a trick. As shown by experiments, we tend to overestimate how happy these things will make us, compared to how we really feel after having them in our lives. There’s not much we can do about that, apart from just acknowledging the data and reminding ourselves when we get excited about “stuff".

    We also get used to things really quickly, the effect and newness wear off fast.

    It’s called the hedonic adaptation and it can be compared to how your eyes get used to darkness in a while. But there are a few great ideas about thwarting the hedonic adaptation from professor Santos:

    • Savoring - mindfully stepping out of the experience and appreciating it; in our example - enjoying driving that car or taking a mindful moment to appreciate the wonderful architecture of your big house.
    • Negative visualization - imagining your life if it had taken a different turn, a kind of bad turn, and you wouldn’t have the things you have today. Sounds a bit counterintuitive perhaps, but it’s super powerful for generating gratitude and helping to look at your life with fresh eyes. Also helpful in relationships!
    • Make this day your last - by this she doesn’t mean as in last day before dying, just having to leave those things. To turn back to our example - imagining that it was the last day you could live in your house and drive your car.
    • Gratitude - practicing it mindfully, for example keeping a gratitude journal is a powerful tool, listing 5 things/people a day that you feel grateful for.

    Classic grey vision board closed with photos


    Why there's no happily ever after, but complete strangers can make you happy

    Let’s take another goal from our vision board: meeting the love of your life. Sounds like a recipe for happily ever after?

    Well, actually no. What experiments show is that your happiness will go up for a while after for example getting married, compared to your baseline. But just after two years, your level of happiness will have returned to baseline. It’s the hedonic adaptation again - you just get used to the good life and your partner. So you can use the methods for thwarting them.

    If we think about the vision board again - it’s no problem to have a wedding goal on it of course, but don’t forget the small everyday steps to keep appreciating your partner! But now comes an intriguing extra nugget of research - while our partner (in a way) can’t make us happy, then social connections in general can and will. And what’s more, even with random strangers!

    Just being around other people will make you happy.

    Psychologists have compared the lives of very happy and very unhappy people. Strong evidence suggests that happy people:

    • have a greater number of close friends;
    • stronger family ties;
    • more romantic ties such as marriages;
    • very happy people simply have more and better social connections;
    • very unhappy people, on the other hand, spend more time alone.

    What about the complete strangers I mentioned earlier? Here scientists have done all sorts of cool tests. One is where they had people eat some chocolate (in the lab environment, large data sets, control groups, etc - a proper experiment), either alone or next to a complete stranger. Guess what, chocolate tastes better, has more and finer flavors when you’re not eating it alone.

    Talking to complete strangers will also give you a huge boost of happiness and make them happier as well, even if you don’t realize it and think they feel super awkward. So when in doubt, always hit up a conversation with a barista!

    Social connections also have some crazy health benefits, it can literally make you:

    • less vulnerable to premature death;
    • more likely to survive a fatal illness like cancer or heart disease;
    • it makes you less likely to fall prey to stressful events that mess up your life.

    So if getting healthy was also on your vision board, here’s a good chance to ace two goals at the same time. When making your vision board, don’t forget social connections!

    The goal to spend more time with family and friends is not a cheesy cliché, it’s a survival strategy.

    If we put this into 2021 context, we have to talk about coping with social distancing. Here I want to share some great tips from Steve Joordens, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He has an awesome free course
    on Coursera about mental health strategies for managing anxiety and stress during the COVID-19 situation, which I really recommend. Joordens points out how wrong it sounds to call what we’re doing social distancing and suggests calling it physical distancing instead. In fact, we should do everything we can to stay socially as connected as possible.

    Professor Joordens recommends deepening your connections, really creating emotional bonds. People must hear your voice and see your face. As he puts it, "this is no time for texts and emojis.”. Another idea is “adopting” someone who is in a great threat of loneliness. Maybe it’s an elderly relative or neighbor? Put this on your vision board! And then call them and have deep and meaningful conversations.

    Photos visualization cards and notebook


    How money can make you happy but why you’ll never feel you have enough of it

    What about money? Having a really high salary? Perhaps a promotion? I promise there will be some surprises here too. Can happiness be bought? Yes and no.

    It really is true, however much money you make, you always feel you should make more. Returning to professor Lyubomirsky - what she concludes in her research is that your goal is always slipping away from you. If you make $30 000 a year, you predict you would actually need $50 000 to be happy, if you made $50 000 then you think you would need $100 000. And this goes on and on, there is no cap to our perception of how much we should earn to be happy.

    However, there is a cap where our actual (not predicted) perception of happiness doesn’t change anymore by earning more. This data comes from a recent and very famous paper by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, both of whom are psychologists and economists who won the Nobel Prize in economics. They found that your actual emotional well-being rises with your income until you hit $75,000 a year (we’re talking about the US). And then it stops. Nothing changes for the better.

    What about if you’re making less than $75,000 a year? What about people who are really struggling? What about the countries that are struggling? In these cases, money will absolutely damn right make you happy. Because having a roof over your head and food on your table will increase your well-being.

    There is also a way money can make you really really happy.

    By spending it on others.
    Sounds a bit cheesy? I know, but bear with me, even this has been researched and proven by some experiments.

    The authors of the book Happy Money, two Canadian psychologists Liz Dunn and Mike Norton, have done one where they got people to spend money in different ways. People were given either 5 or 20 dollars and given the free choice to spend it either on themselves or somebody else. As you can imagine - getting $5 usually resulted in going to Starbucks and either getting a latte for yourself or for someone else. No surprises here. But what is surprising - solid and quantified numbers say that people who spent the money on others, not themselves, were much happier as a result. And what’s more, there was no difference whether it was $5 or $20.

    There is absolutely nothing evil about money. The only bad or sad thing about money is that if we only focus on getting more of it, and forget about other aspects of our lives, we will end up really unhappy because the feeling of enough will never come. So my advice for your vision board? Think through what you will do with more money. In the case of our own Vision Board Reimagined, we have a dedicated space for notes on the backsides of the images. Write down your thoughts so you can revisit them. And don’t put money on your board for money’s sake.


    Illustrations for vision board, hand writing on backside

    Kindness is so powerful even just thinking about it could make you happy

    Spending money on others - that sounds like kindness? And that’s exactly what it is. Kindness is another proven and powerful happiness booster. As professor Santos puts it: "It sounds like a Hallmark card or the kinds of things your grandmother sends you in bad fonts over Facebook or something like that. But it turns out lots of empirical evidence is suggesting that simple acts of kindness bring us happiness.”

    What you find is that consistently, happier people are:

    • thinking about doing more kind things and are more motivated to do them;
    • they're having more recognition of kind acts so they remember them more;
    • they’re doing more kind things than unhappy people.

    Even just thinking about kindness works, e.g. thinking about past acts of kindness, which is pretty cool. There's an endless list of smaller or bigger things you can do every day to practice kindness. You can help out a friend, family member, neighbor, or colleague. You can donate time, money, things such as clothes, or even blood. You can be nice to others, offer support, lift their mood, etc. And then there also are the random acts of kindness.

    I want to share a personal experience from my work life. I’m the co-founder and designer at Bold Tuesday where we're creating products that help people reach their dream lives. The main product is Vision Board Reimagined, which, whether we want it or not, is a first world self-development tool. But we believe everyone in the world deserves a chance to make their dreams come true. So we found a way of giving back and practicing kindness by donating from each Vision Board Reimagined purchase, so kids in the world's poorest neighborhoods could have access to education and thus take a huge step closer to achieving their goals. Without doubt this has changed our happiness levels as a team, given us an extra boost of motivation to work even harder, create even better products and serve our customers in the best possible way.

    Take a moment to think, what’s something kind you could do already today or tomorrow?

    Visualization cards of gifts on open notebook page

    Vision Board Reimagined: Powerful Questions Notebook

    Why experiences really make us happier than stuff

    What about the other things on our vision board? Traveling the world? Experiences? Here you’re absolutely on the right track if you think they make you happy. Sounds a bit self-helpy, but it really is true: collect memories, not things. The mechanism behind why it’s so might be a bit trickier to figure out. But if you’ve paid attention above, you already have a few hints. It has everything to do with hedonic adaptation.

    Experiences make you happy because they are temporary, they don’t last.

    And if they do or repeat too often, you might easily fall into the same trap of getting used to them. And so the happiness disappears.

    Of course, currently traveling is something you might not be able to check off from your bucket list, but no worries. There are ways to work around the situation. For one, you can boost up quite a bit of happiness even thinking about a trip, savoring every moment of the planning process. The thing is, our brain is not very good at distinguishing between what is really happening and what’s only going on in our own heads. So in a way, we travel three (or more) times - first, in our imagination, while planning, secondly when we’re actually there, and the third time when we return in our memories. And for our brains, all three seem pretty real. So why not use your vision board for some planning?

    But experiences are of course not only limited to travel. Almost anything can be turned into a true experience with a bit of creativity. This is especially true for periods of isolation.

    So let’s dig a bit deeper into experiences:

    • First, we’re strongly biased to predict we will enjoy physical things more than experiences.
    • In reality, people will consider experiences a better investment in hindsight.
    • There is a correlation with your income - the more you earn, the more you will value experiences over things.
    • Experiences are more difficult to socially compare and create less envy than things.
    • Your enjoyment of experiences increases when you share them with others (remember, chocolate?).

    Motivational Cards Happiness, scattered photos
    Vision Board Reimagined: Happiness Motivational Cards & Visualization Cards


    How to make your work a powerful and sustainable source of happiness

    But let’s shift from vacation thoughts to more mundane questions. Can a dream job and a great career make you happy? Turns out yes, even very much. But it’s not the money that will make you happy (as you’ve probably already guessed). Instead, flow, using your strengths, and purpose are what can bring you deep, meaningful, and long-lasting joy.

    Your brain believes you will really enjoy leisure activities. But some of them, such as randomly flicking through Netflix, can put you in a very passive role and be even kind of boring - so in reality, far from the enjoyment you imagined. Instead, feeling super engaged or absorbed, being in the zone, will give you immense enjoyment. When you get into the flow or the zone, or optimal experience, as it’s also called, you lose all sense of time passing, you’re just so absorbed in what you’re doing, you’re feeling energized, you’re completely here and now, in the moment.

    How to get there? To give a few hints:

    • you should have a clear goal;
    • your task should be challenging enough, but not overwhelming;
    • you should stay clear of distractions.

    But that’s only scratching the surface of a great theory. I recommend reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” to dive deeper.

    Flow is something that happens to all of us occasionally, but it’s not the only thing that’s making us happy at work. The so-called father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman emphasizes the importance of using your signature strengths, the ones that lead us to recognizable excellence. They tend to be:

    • ubiquitous, so they're recognized across all different cultures;
    • morally valued in most moral systems of the world;
    • the kind of virtues that don't make other people feel bad;
    • they seem to always have an opposite.

    Using your signature strengths gives you higher job satisfaction, greater productivity, and simply makes work more fun. How do you know which are your signature strengths? Probably you can already guess some of them, but there are several tests you can take online. Some of them are paid, some are free, just google it and give one a try.

    And then we get to the third pillar of work happiness - purpose. Knowing your strengths and then using them in the service of something larger than you. Knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing and finding it meaningful. The effect of purpose on your happiness is the strongest and the most long-lasting. This is what turns a job into a calling. How to discover your life purpose? That’s already the subject of some next blog post, as there are some great ideas here too, from the Japanese concept of ikigai to the works of Viktor Frankl.

    Pink closed vision board covers, notebook and illustration cards


    The science of stress, anxiety & good routines

    What about the next item on our vision board - reducing stress and anxiety? I think for a lot of people 2020 pretty much revolved around this subject. Happily, there’s a lot you can do for yourself by knowing a bit about how stress and anxiety work and maintaining a few healthy habits. There’s also a huge bonus - by nailing this, you’re getting huge health and happiness benefits too.

    This is a large topic, probably one that needs its own separate post in the future. But for now, to give a very basic overview, the first thing that might come as a surprise - stress, and anxiety are not innately bad, they actually have a function in our survival and they were super on point at the time we used to live in caves. The problem is that our lives have changed so much, but our caveman instincts and reactions haven’t kept up. We are actually really well adapted for short term stress. In fact, some research suggests that a bit of short term stress is good for you, boosting your brain and immune system. But things get nasty pretty soon if the stress doesn’t go away. So what can you do to manage stress and anxiety?

    One of the most important things is having a structure to your day. A routine. Some rituals.

    Especially if we have to deal with self-isolation again.

    I know, usually, I’m the first to say how bad routine is for me and how I’m always doing everything I can to break out of the routine. Well, I guess I have to second guess. Some pretty convincing research says that waking, eating, working, and going to sleep at the same time and having repetitive routines is super good for your health and happiness. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why dog owners are proven to be happier than the general population - because their pups force a routine on their owners.


    How sleep can make or break you

    Let's have a closer look at sleep. The first thing I want to mention is a vicious cycle of stress and sleep. Stress messes up our sleep. Then becoming sleep deprived makes us even more stressed. Which in turn makes it even harder to sleep. And life gets really challenging very quickly. According to professor Joordens, whom I mentioned earlier, virtually every psychological disorder we know of has some form of sleep disorder that's connected with it. The other health consequences of sleep deprivation are also pretty grave. I’m not talking about only chronic deprivation - even one night of too little sleep has some pretty serious impact on your health. But jumping back to happiness - sleep is a huge factor in your mood as well.

    So fixing your sleep is one of the biggest things you can do for your well-being. This is something I’m putting on my own vision board 100/100.

    I’m sure you already know a few techniques on how to fix your sleep, but it’s always a good idea to remind yourself what's good and true:

    • go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time - this will make falling asleep much faster;
    • avoid screens before going to sleep (various studies suggest different times here, test it on yourself what actually works for you) - it’s not only a question of the blue light but also what you see on the screen;
    • avoid news and arousing info before going to sleep;
    • be careful with caffeine and note that coffee is not the only place where you get it from.

    Powder pink closed vision board covers with image cards


    Magic pill no 1 - meditation

    Another great insight into how anxiety works and how to alleviate it, comes again from prof Joordens:

    “You can’t be relaxed and anxious at the same time.”

    You can’t actually get rid of anxiety by actively focusing on it.
    Your mind just doesn’t work like that. It’s like if you actively try to not think about polar bears. What will happen? Naturally, you will think of polar bears. What you need instead is to keep your mind occupied otherwise, crowd out the anxiety, find ways for laughter and relaxation.

    And that’s where we come to meditation. It can be literally called the magic pill:

    • it doesn’t cost you anything;
    • has some crazy health and happiness benefits;
    • but absolutely no side-effects.

    Why does meditation make us happy? It seems there are different effects that are a bit intertwined. The “side-effects" of meditation are an increase in kindness and social connection, which are strong generators of happiness, as I discussed earlier above. The other aspect is very obvious when it comes to meditation, but not so obvious in terms of happiness - shutting off mind-wandering.

    Mind-wandering is something that our brains do almost all the time. In fact, it’s presumably something that makes us humans - probably no other animal on the planet has this ability. It’s what makes us so good at abstract thinking. But it comes at a price - we are actually not at all happy while we do it. And meditation simply stops the brain from wandering aimlessly. If you’re seasoned and well-trained in meditation, the benefits of this are felt even outside of meditation practice.


    Woman holding visualization cards

    Another really cool, health-related feature of meditation is that it helps build brain tissue and literally strengthens your brain. That was tested in a Harvard experiment, where people were asked to do an eight-week meditation course. Nothing too difficult, about 30 minutes of meditation a day. And that was enough to increase the size of your brain's grey matter!

    Meditation might sound tedious, something that is inherently difficult and takes enormous self-control. It might sound like an aching back and cramped legs. At one point it sounded like that to me. But it doesn’t have to. Here I have another book recommendation "Joy on demand” by Chade-Meng Tan, who was a former Google engineer, who kind of made the whole company meditate. His point is that you can do it with ease, relaxation, and being gentle to yourself, starting with baby-steps, just one breath at a time. And by doing so, you are always in the reach of an infinite supply of joy - hence the name “Joy on Demand”.

    Magic pill no 2 - physical activity

    Now I come to the second and even more powerful magic pill - physical activity. Gosh, there are so many benefits to mention here. The list would literally be ridiculously long. I’ll keep my point short:

    • exercise has a bigger chemical impact on your brain than antidepressants;
    • it’s quite literally the “flight or fight” action that your anxiety wants to see you doing;
    • it makes you sleep better;
    • it reduces the likelihood of catching a million different diseases;
    • and it boosts your brain function and cognitive function - yes, exercise makes you smarter!

    It sounds like it’s the answer to everything - the ultimate solution. Then why on earth are we so bad at sticking to our exercise routines? Because forming any habit is super difficult:

    • we are creatures of habit;
    • we really enjoy living in the comfort zone;
    • our willpower is a very limited resource;
    • when we get excited, we try to change too many things at a time;
    • we’re impatient and too perfectionistic;
    • and many many other reasons.

    Habits are another subject that deserves a post of its own, without any doubt. And this is something I want to learn about more in the future. But in the meantime, I’ll leave you just this thought from writer, speaker, coach, and sociologist Christine Carter: “You just have to accept that you will suck at things at first.” Check out her TED talk on how she finally got herself to exercise.

    Woman holding sand beige vision board covers


    Why feeling in control of your life helps relieve anxiety

    Another important thing that affects anxiety is how empowered you feel, how much you feel in control of your life.

    Anxiety is actually telling you: do something! It wants you to fight or flight. And if you do, you will feel better. But sometimes you can’t do anything or you feel doing it won’t matter. That you’re completely powerless. And that’s a gateway to depression.

    There’s something scientists call the internal and external locus of control. People with an external locus of control have the attitude that stuff is just happening to them, both good and bad. If they fail at a task they blame it on circumstances or on others. If they succeed they likely attribute it to some external force - being lucky or the task simply being easy, not their own work. People with an external locus of control experience more anxiety.

    Looking at people with an internal locus of control it’s the complete opposite. They take responsibility and credit for both success and failure. They tend to feel mentally healthier, because:

    • they feel empowered,
    • they are more motivated,
    • more willing to learn,
    • more willing to make an effort,
    • and they will take action.

    Do you hold yourself accountable? Keep an eye on your reactions, beliefs, and self-talk. Notice where you can make a change.

    One great way to change your beliefs is by using daily affirmations.

    are positive statements that give you emotional support and encouragement. These are usually short and powerful expressions that you can say to yourself (and others) to boost motivation and self-confidence.

    You can find out more about affirmations, their benefits, and about how to use them from our free e-book “30 daily affirmations for a balanced and happy life”.


    33 tips, tricks, interventions & habits

    Thwarting the hedonic adaptation:

    1. Savoring - mindfully stepping out of the experience and appreciating it
    2. Negative visualization - imagining your life without the things you have today
    3. Make this day your last - imagining having to leave those things
    4. Gratitude - practicing it mindfully, listing 5 things/people a day that you feel grateful for

      Social connections:

    5. Make more close friends
    6. Create strong family ties
    7. Form romantic ties
    8. Deepen your connections
    9. Instead of messaging, call people
    10. “Adopt” someone who is in a great threat of loneliness
    11. Talk to strangers


    12. Spend money on other people
    13. Do more (random and not random) acts of kindness
    14. Recognize, remember and think about kindness more


    15. Choose experiences over things
    16. Find creative ways to turn everyday experiences into Experiences
    17. Share your experiences with others


    18. Get into flow
    19. Use your signature strengths
    20. Find purpose and turn your job into a calling

      Stress and anxiety:

    21. Do something! Get in the driver’s seat of your life. Be accountable.
    22. Sort out your daily routine, get a dog if you have to
    23. Create rituals
    24. Relax
    25. Laugh


    26. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time
    27. Avoid screens before going to sleep
    28. Avoid news and arousing info before going to sleep
    29. Be careful with caffeine

      The magic pills – meditation & exercise:

    30. Take baby-steps, don’t try to do too much at a time
    31. Don’t force yourself - willpower is a limited resource
    32. Let go of perfectionism
    33. Be consistent

    Woman looking at vision board


    Visualize the work you need to put into achieving goals

    As you can see, most of the stuff still has to do with habits. Big victories and goals are achieved step-by-step by small wins, habits, and everyday choices. The devil is in the details. So when setting your goals and making your next vision board take the time to break these big things into smaller chunks. Think about the steps of getting there. Take agency and take action. Don’t just put a picture of a car on your board and sit around waiting for things to happen.

    This is the most typical criticism of vision boards by psychologists - while visualization as a method is all well, proven, and working, it’s the aspect of becoming a passive spectator. What’s more - when running some visualization experiments on students, scientists have found that there’s a difference in focus that will change whether the visualization is beneficial or instead harmful.

    In one experiment a group of students was primed to visualize the outcome of receiving a high grade on an exam. Another group was primed to visualize preparing for the test, not just passing it, but the process of actually learning and working for it. And as always in experiments, there was a control group who didn’t do anything in particular.

    Any guesses who actually did best? Naturally, the ones who visualized preparing, studying, and putting in the effort. But what might come as a surprise - the ones imagining passing with a good grade did even worse than control. Similar results have been found with athletes. It’s the "getting there" aspect that shifts our locus of control to internal, makes us active, gives us motivation and empowerment.

    Whatever your goal or dream is, visualize the process of working towards it.


    We’re going through a challenging time. Anything might happen tomorrow. It’s time to be gentle and nice to yourself, to set realistic expectations, and look at the here and now. But this doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. The good news is: our happiness is more in our own hands than we intuitively think. The bad news: our brains are biased and not very good at predicting where happiness comes from. So use these strategies and ideas to overcome your biases, form helpful habits, and figure out what will really make you happy. Whatever 2021 will throw at you.




    Kairi Kuuskor is the co-founder and designer of Bold Tuesday - a company that aims to help you live a better life. To do that they create vision boards, motivational cards, notebooks and other self-development tools with an emphasis on high quality and great design.


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