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Resolutions – Beginning at the End

“A journey of a thousand li starts beneath one’s feet”
Laozi

My wife and I spent New Year’s Eve with our neighbors.   Misa is a talented spiritual guide and healer (check out her sites New Dream Foundation & Misa Hopkins).  Her husband Jeff is an equally talented musician, composer and artist.  Needless to say, the conversation was, as usual, rich and the ideas flowed across a wide range of topics. 

During the evening they mentioned a visualization exercise that brought back some old memories.  It is something I have used (in a modified form) with my clients in preparation for Strategic Planning sessions.  It is also something I taught to my students at the University.  So, I thought I’d share it here with all of you.

This process is based on the idea that a Journey (as opposed to aimless wandering) requires some idea of a destination.  The basic idea is to visualize the end of the Journey – describe the world as it looks to you from the vantage of the completed process.  Once you have a picture of the end, you can pick the route (actions) to take to get there.  You can also anticipate any obstacle that might occur and prepare for them (as much as possible).

When I do this for an organization, I ask the people who are affected in any way by the process to describe their work world as it looks to them after our project is successful.  This description needs to be very detailed.  It can not rely on vague generalities (like “better”, “faster”, “Cheaper”, etc.).  Once we have agreed on this target state, we can look at where we are vs. where we want to be and chart a path between them.

The same basic process applies to personal reflection and goal setting.  First you pick a time in the future; one year is usually a good target since it is relatively easy to think in terms of the next 12 months.   However, this technique can also be used to consider shorter or longer time periods.

Once you have settled on a time, you put yourself into a comfortable setting with minimal distractions.  I like to shut down all media and conversations then stretch out and close my eyes.  Next, you visualize yourself as you would like to be in that time.  Do not concern yourself with ideas about what “makes sense” or is “possible” or “reasonable”.  Let your aspirations have free rein.  Key questions are: What are you doing?  Where are you?  Who are you with? 

I like to go through a “typical” day.  What is the first thing I see when I open my eyes?  When I get up, what do I do next?

Like the business planning exercise, you need to avoid vague generalities like ‘richer’, “thinner”, “happier”.  Instead, take yourself through the day in great detail.  No factor is too small to consider; temperature, light, what you eat, where you eat it, what you see outside your window, what color are the walls, what you are wearing, what do you look like, all of those “mundane” aspects of living that are what “Life” is really made of.  The more complete and detailed you make the picture the more effective the exercise will be.

Once you have the picture solidly in your mind, write it down; make it complete.  Don’t bother about making it pretty or well-organized, you can do that later.  The most important thing is to take the ideas and images out of your brain and through your hands onto paper.

Now you have a powerful tool.  If there are two of you (or more) you can now compare your visions and look for overlaps – see where your aspirations truly match or not.  More important, you can see what truly matters to you and, whenever you are about to make choices in your life, you can hold them up to that vision and ask yourself “does this choice move me closer to or further from my ideal?”.

If you make this a regular routine in your life (do it every 4 to 6 months) then you can, over time adjust your choices and guide yourself toward the life you really want; not settle for the life you think or that you’ve been told you “should” want.

Life really is just doing the dishes

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