More years ago than I care to count, I attended a corporate program by an efficiency consultant who is now very well known. He was teaching us to set personal and career goals, at the time a concept that was something new to me.
He facilitated a session where we were mind mapping (also a new concept to me) our desired future. It was fun and engaging, since at that point, I really had spent most of my time reacting to life rather than doing any actual planning.
Fast forward to ten years ago when I was starting my business. I’m attending a year-long intensive program on personal transformation. A small group of people who were interested in moving their head, hearts, and spirits ahead in an intentional way met quarterly at a retreat location to prepare for our lives of the future in a deeper, more spiritual way. One of our homework assignments between retreat sessions included writing about a day in our life at the point at which goals were achieved and joy abounds.
In both cases, intentions were set. In both cases, I put the documents away after crafting them. I didn’t review them again until several years later, although the things I’d written down were ever-present in my mind and my heart (what gets written down gets done, after all). And most amazingly, in both cases the documents fully described my life all of those years later as I read through them. It was a wonderful surprise and a lesson in setting intentions.
How to start planning your life/career
These were both creative exercises that helped me to become unstuck from what I knew at that time to imagining a future that I wanted, at a time when I needed to have some solid ground to walk on and with a small investment of time that provided great returns. My favorite exercise, and one I use with my clients, is the second one, which I call “A Day in My Life”. Maybe it will help you too, so here is a brief description:
Describe a day in your life as you desire it to be at some point in the future. For some people, this may be a methodical narrative – starting with getting out of bed and going through your perfect day until you lay your head back down on a pillow. For others, it may be bullet points, and for others less methodical. The point is to write it down in your own less than perfect way and describe it as if you were in that moment, in present tense.
Go beyond descriptions of what you are doing as you describe your day. Where are you and what are you doing? What emotions are you feeling? How are you behaving? How do others see you? How do they interact with you? Who is helping you? What do you want more of? What does your environment look like? Describe these things and write them down.
Share your narrative with someone you trust. And then put it away. Sharing it will help to further engage your brain around your future day, and putting it away and marking your calendar for the point in the future in which you believe you can achieve this perfect day will help you remember to re-read it. Be amazed as you read.
What does your desired future look like?