As we welcome a new year, many people are making resolutions. I prefer to set goals rather than make a laundry list of “should do’s” that I will probably give up after a couple of weeks because they are just so dull, tedious and uninspiring! I promise you that the exercise I’m suggesting in this post will be a lot of fun and you’ll probably really enjoy doing it!
What I want to encourage you to do as 2018 begins is imagine your ideal life, the life you would want to live right now, if you had absolutely no restrictions. This is the time to let go of any limitations, such as money, time, circumstances, age…anything. The only rule is that the life you imagine must be a life that would suit YOU as the person YOU are. It has to be believable for you, or it won’t work. In other words, it would be of no use to picture yourself as the President of the United States if you have no interest in politics and would never run for public office, or to imagine that you are another person entirely (i.e., your favorite celebrity or public figure). This would be so beyond the realm of possibility that you would not be able to really get into the whole exercise. You can imagine your fondest dreams, but they need to be YOUR dreams; they need to be something that you can really believe!
Give your imagination free rein and ask yourself: “If I could have any situation I wanted, what sort of life would make me happy at this time?” I specify “at this time,” because our idea of what constitutes an ideal life changes and evolves as we do. Don’t worry about whether or not you might change your mind one day…this exercise is for now.
Here are some suggested questions to guide this imaginative journey. Jot down your answers in your journal or a notebook for further development later on. Take as much time as you need to formulate your answers. This should be an enjoyable, relaxing and uplifting pastime – no pressure. Do not get bogged down or discouraged by thinking about what your life is right now. Just let yourself dream!
In your ideal life:
- Where would you be living (town, state, country)? Near the ocean, in the mountains, in a big city? Warm climate, a four-season climate, a colder climate?
- Who would you be living with (if anyone)? Would you have a spouse, partner, any children, any pets?
- What things would be in your environment that would make you happy (furnishings, vehicles, other possessions)?
- How would you look? What would you be wearing?
- How much money would make you feel secure and comfortable?
- What would be your ideal job/career?
- If you are retired or don’t prefer a career, what is the ideal way you would spend your time most days?
- What talent or skill would you excel at?
- Would you travel, and if so, where would you go?
- What would you love to accomplish?
- What would you like to leave behind as your legacy to the world; for what would you most like to be remembered?
One effective way to come up with answers is to imagine how you would feel if you found out that you only had another year to live. Suddenly, all those unachieved goals, latent talents and unresolved issues would become front and center in your life. Use this as a jumping-off point to discover what really matters to you.
Now that you have your answers written down, it’s time to develop them into achievable goals. Take each answer from the preceding questions and tweak them so that they become realistic enough to become an actual goal. For instance, if you answered that “a billion dollars” would make you feel secure and comfortable, honestly ask yourself if you really would need that large an amount. Would you feel financially secure and be able to live comfortably with $1,000,000? With $500,000? Would an extra $100,000 or $50,000 give you peace of mind? This is a personal thing; everyone’s needs and comfort levels are different. It’s true that some people will never feel secure no matter how much money they have; but most of us have a “magic number” that we feel would do the trick.
If your dream is to be a Broadway star or a famous singer, this could be a possibility for some of you, but could you still be happy if you performed in community theatre, or sang with a band at local venues? Sometimes all we want is a chance to share our talents and shine a little bit, even if we never become superstars. After all, we know that fame and fortune do not always equal happiness.
After you have gone through your list of answers and come up with versions of them that seem believable to you, the next step is to formulate them into actual goals. I heard a great quote recently: “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Dreaming alone will never help us achieve anything; we need to unite dreaming with planning and action. Some of these goals will be short-term; others might take months, and still others years. It doesn’t matter; all that matters is that you create a plan that will bring you step-by-step closer to your dreams.
In this post, we’re going to take the first step in the plan to transform your dreams into achievable goals: Create a visual representation of Your Ideal Life. You can choose one or more of the following – or even do them all! It’s your dream, so do whatever works:
- CREATE A VISION BOARD: Get a large piece of poster board or foam-core board, or even one of those memory boards that people use for photos. On this vision board, you will post at least one picture for each aspect of Your Ideal Life. You can write “My Ideal Life” at the top of the board if you wish. Cut pictures from magazines, print out online pictures, or draw your own. Attach the pictures to your vision board, and in the center of the board put a picture of yourself, smiling and looking happy. Put the vision board in a place where you will see it every day.
- MAKE AN “IDEAL LIFE” SCREENSAVER: This is similar to the vision board, except that you will save the pictures to your computer as a screensaver. This is a great way to keep your goals always before your eyes! You can also post them in the image gallery of your smartphone where you can look at them every day, or make a collage of them in a photo-editing program and use them as the home screen on your phone.
- MAKE A TREASURE BOX: Buy an attractive box with a hinged lid, or use a decorative photo box with a lid. Embellish it any way you like with beads, glass gems, stickers, paint, etc. Inside the box put pictures and symbolic objects that represent each aspect of Your Ideal Life. For instance, if you want better finances, put some money in the box. If you want to live by the seashore, find a pretty shell and place that in the box. You can also write down each aspect of your dream on slips of paper or index cards and place those in the box as well. Keep the box in a prominent place of honor where you will see it often.
- CREATE AN “IDEAL LIFE” SCRAPBOOK: If you enjoy scrapbooking, or simply are the type of person who feels more connected by holding a tangible object like a book, buy yourself an attractive scrapbook and mount Your Ideal Life pictures inside it. Have a separate page for each aspect of Your Ideal Life. Give the page a title, and decorate it with appropriate stickers, or draw designs on it that represent your goals. Keep it in a safe place but where it is easily accessible to you.
Keep whatever visual representation you choose handy and look at it often. You do not have to have it in open view if you are afraid that other people will make fun of it or otherwise discourage you. Sit in a comfortable place when you have enough time to give it attention. Let the images, designs, objects and words permeate your consciousness. Smile as you immerse yourself in this visual representation of Your Ideal Life.
Another excellent way to impress your ideals on your subconscious mind is to visualize Your Ideal Life every night as you are falling asleep. It’s a way to put yourself in a positive mood at bedtime, which also can lead to better sleep.
Once daily is enough time to spend with Your Ideal Life exercise. Do not obsess over it. You must live in the present at the same time you are visualizing your future. If you get obsessive about your goals, constantly comparing your dreams to your current less-than-ideal situation, you will get depressed and discouraged about how far away you feel you are from them. When you do get disheartened because your dreams seem unattainable, just remind yourself that although you are not there yet, you are getting closer every day to a better life.
Also stay open to the idea that you might get something different from what you expect will make you happy right now, but it will be something that is actually better and more appropriate and attainable for you. Hold your dreams, but hold them loosely. Think of them like a little baby bird you have in your hand who will get crushed if you squeeze it too hard. Only if you hold it gently will it grow strong enough to be able to soar one day.
I have used all of these methods at one time or another. The first one I tried was the scrapbook. I was amazed a few years later when I came across the scrapbook again and saw that every one of the goals depicted in it had come true!
I want to close this post by apologizing for not having posted in quite some time. The reason is that I was reassessing my own life and formulating some new goals. One important goal is wanting to do more with my artwork. Art has always been a passion of mine since childhood, and although I have drawn, painted and done commissioned portraits for many years, I feel that at this time in my life I want to give it more attention, a more prominent place in my life.
Part of my plan for my own Ideal Life involves taking more commissions, doing much more artwork, and making people happy with it. I have spent the last several weeks making a new website for my art, and also creating more artwork. I do not intend to give up this blog, but I am working on balancing the various aspects of my life in a harmonious yet productive way.
If you’d like to visit my new art website, it is: http://gloriapinskerportraits.com
In my next post, we’ll explore more techniques to bring planning and action to your dreams to create Your Ideal Life. Happy New Year! I wish all of you the best in 2018. May all your dreams come true!