Let's start with a visioning exercise. Imagine one year from now. You're sitting at home and reflecting on the year. You sigh contentedly. The year was truly amazing. You can hardly believe all the cool things from 2021. You think back over how different your life is now compared to 12 months earlier. Imagine each area of your life. What would need to happen in each area for you to say, "Wow!"?
Before we ever spent two weeks in Guatemala, I imagined a lake surrounded by volcanoes. It seemed impossible to work out all the details, but tiny steps made it happen.
I divide my life into buckets like family, marriage/relationship, health, finances, spiritual, career/work and creativity. I let my imagination run wild for a few minutes on each category. Don't do this when you're rushed or stressed. Get a nice cup of something warm, light a candle, get a journal and a pen and listen to that soft inner voice. What is it saying?
You'll notice a few things as you write. You'll notice hesitation and an inner voice saying, "and just how the heck do you think that's going to happen?!" or "who do you think you are?!" You'll also notice excuses about why something isn't possible.
Write your excuses in red off to the side next to each item. These are your beliefs. They're called limiting beliefs because they're limiting you. They aren't facts, they're stories in your head based on past experiences. Repetitive thoughts you believe because they're repeated over and over. Our subconscious brain isn't very smart. It believes the stories we tell it. We tell our brain, "I'll never have enough money. I fail at every health plan I try. I suck at relationships" and dozens of other stories. Our brain puts that story on a loop and after we hear it enough we start to believe it. We have to first identify what our recurring excuses or limiting beliefs are before we can change the story.
Ollie is one determined little girl. She told me she imagines herself doing certain gymnastics moves and then she says she "does them just like my mind told me I could."
Let's go back to the imagination exercise. You've got your life buckets and hopefully, you've written down a few things in each category that would make you say "WOW! This was amazing!!" a year from now. You also have your excuses. As the quote goes, you can have results or excuses, not both.
Now, jot down a couple of things for each category that aren't working for you. For family, you might say, "My kids are becoming spoiled, they don't do chores and expect money for toys". For marriage, you might write (like I did a few years ago), "Not bad, but not fantastic. Not as close as we once were, no time to talk after work, no alone time. Bicker too much". For work (at my last job), I wrote down that I felt trapped. Be careful not to get too caught up in the how. Skip the "how". Only write down what's not working. For work you might write, "I don't feel appreciated. I feel mistreated and underpaid." Go through and write down any areas that feel out of alignment for each bucket. For spiritual last year I wrote, "I don't feel as connected to God as I'd like. I don't make time on a daily basis." My brain wanted to focus on the excuses (I don't have enough time as it is!) or the how (well, I guess I could shorten my morning exercise or get up earlier), but don't focus on the how right now.
Look at all your excuses written in red. Off to the side or on another page, write down the opposite of the statement. For example, "I do have time to take care of myself and exercise" or "I am a smart and valuable worker, I will find another job" or "I am able to take charge of my health and make good choices." These will be your new mantras (phrases or words you repeat to yourself all the time to reset your subconscious brain. More on mantras another time).
Go back to what you jotted down for the amazing category. Work backward and imagine a few steps you'd need to take to get you there. If you wrote down, "It would be amazing if I went back to school to become a ____ ", you would have some steps listed like, "look into pre-requisites, call the local college, make an appointment with someone at the school of your choice to discuss this, look into scholarships, etc." Even things that seem so farfetched you're embarrassed to see them on paper are there for a reason. Your heart has these dreams for a reason. Be open to possibility, let go of the how. Focus on dreaming and being open. If you're still stuck in the brainstorming section, pretend a friend wants to do x, y, or z. You're telling her what she could do to bridge the gap between where she is now and where she'd like to a be a year from now. What would you tell her to do? Or, if this were your child you were helping with this exercise, would you poo-poo their ideas and roll your eyes or would you help him/her brainstorm?
By looking at the things that aren't working for you and comparing them to where you'd love for your life to be. This will reveal the divide or the distance you need to travel. Brainstorm ideas to get from non-alignment to full and total alignment. Again, ignore the how. Write excuses in red.
About 7 years ago when I was looking at what I wanted my marriage "wow" to look like, I wrote I wanted to have an amazing marriage. After all, we might have another 60+ years together. Why not dream of a wonderful marriage instead of a mediocre one? That's when I decided to invest in marriage counseling. I took baby steps, though. I read some books on marriage, I talked to a couple of friends, I read online reviews of marriage therapists. I picked one and made an appointment.
What if your job isn't in alignment with who you want to be? Our brains immediately go to either the "how" of solving the problem or we come up with excuses about why things can't or won't change. Don't worry about the how. Imagine waking up excited and grateful for your job. Imagine being energized as you go through your workday. How do you want to feel when you go to work?
Finances: We don't have a budget and frankly, I have major money anxiety. I'd rather not spend money than do a budget and have the money go towards house improvement projects or vacations. My excuses went something like this: If we have a budget, I will feel caged in and not be able to spend money on all my small amazon, target, and TJ Maxx purchases. Or, we'll be giving ourselves permission to blow massive money on our yard project. Write down your excuses or limiting beliefs. Write down what's not working for you with your finances. Maybe you have no cash flow, maybe you feel choked by your debt. Pick a word or two to describe how you'd like to feel (for me the word "free" pops up). Then work backward. How would that look in terms of your bank account, your budget, your spending?
Speaking of how you want to feel, this is the last part of the exercise. Go through each bucket or category and write down adjectives to describe how you'd like to feel. Curious, connected, driven, determined, calm, engaged, peaceful, focused, etc. Sometimes it's easier to do the words first and come back with the specifics of what you want later. Put your top three words all over the place. Repeat them to yourself over and over this year. You'll notice you start making decisions based on these words. If a decision doesn't support your words, then it's a No.