I came across the word, “*make a dream board” in the sentence of New York Time’s (December 16) article titled “Split by Race and Wealth, but Discovering Similarities as They Study Steinbeck.” The article deals with the recent program of intermediate schools in two different town of Westfield and Plainfield to let their student read John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”

“Students in Westfield, about 25 miles southwest of Manhattan, said the project had brought a different world right to their doorstep and taught more empathy. As part of the exchange, each student made a “dream board” of goals and aspirations to be shared with the group on Tuesday.”

I searched for meaning of “dream board” on Google, only to find the following description in WikiHow other than the title of internet game.

“Setting goals is something we're all familiar with. In fact, it’s almost become a cliché that some people no longer pay attention to. Making a dream board can take the cliché out of setting your life goals, and can even help you to accomplish those goals.”

It appears to me “make a dream board” means to “draw a blue print” in our old expression. Did it come from “Dreamboard Game”? Is it a novel expression, because the NY Times writer uses this phrase in parenthesis?

2 Answers 2


Dream board is indeed a new term (also called a Vision board). That's why the author put it in quotes, to warn readers that they might need to figure out exactly what it meant. But the words are pretty transparent - it's just a creative, inspiring picture/text "collage" of all the things that are important to you now, and more particularly your aspirations for the future.

I assume the principle is that by creating one you're forced to think consciously and coherently about your "life plan". And once you've got it, you can keep looking at it to remind yourself what you want and how you're supposed to get it. One-on-one lifestyle coaches/personal trainers have routinely incorporated the technique into their work, but I don't think either of those two terms were normally used (if at all) until a few years ago.

It looks like a rapidly-growing internet phenomenon that in many cases is really just scamming - in most cases you won't be getting any personalised guidance at all. I haven't looked in any depth, but from a brief scan there are plenty of people trying to make money out of persuading others that this sort of thing will turn their unsatisfying lives around.

Most people's lives are no more likely to be turned around by getting involved in "dream boarding" than by buying a lottery ticket - you're usually being sold the chance to dream, not something that will actually realise your dream. IMHO in a few years time it'll be looked on much as we currently see pyramid selling. A few get lucky - but most will be at best disappointed, at worst exploited.

At the linguistic level (this is ELU, after all) I would guess that dream board is somehow more appealing to gullible people. Vision boards don't have quite the same sense of fairies waving magic wands and giving you your heart's desire. Competent qualified therapists would probably call them Mind Maps or Goal Maps, and draw on a wealth of skills to help you create one if they thought it would be effective in your particular case.

  • 1
    Nice sociological and psychological analyse adding more value to the question.
    – Mustafa
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 9:07

For several reasons or specific purposes, some persons might chose using "dream board" instead of "blue-print", but -at least in linguistic point of view - that does not necessarily mean they are synonmous.

Associations that are connected to "dream board" might quite be different than that of "blue print". Dream board has spiritual connotations or some sense of "encouragement", "remembrance" whereas "blue print" has more neutral connotation of "planning".

  • Plus blueprint is more suggestive of scientific accuracy, production effort, etc. Not the kind of connotations you want to wave around in front of fodder for "get rich/happy/successful quick" promotions. Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 14:13

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