My Perfect Life – Mapping

DAY 16

Thursday 16th January 2014

Today I sat down and wrote up all of my dreams and goals for this year. I use a few different models and ideas these days when I am writing up my plans for the year.

I usually start with creating a ‘map’ of my perfect life. This is a way of getting everything down on paper before I forget. It usually covers a range of aspects of my life. The dreams I have for my relationships and family, my health, fitness and well being, my career, finances, personal development and my big ticket dreams.

I used to just write this up in list form, but a few years ago I got a fantastic little work book called “Goals” from Kikki K, and it has a visual version of this model that I use now.

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The book is great, but if you can’t get a copy, it’s just as good to use a big sheet of butchers paper, some coloured pencils and textas. I usually settle down with a cup of my favourite tea, some good music, a few yummy smelling candles and brainstorm away! I put a key heading in each of the circles and then write down all of the different things I want to see happening in each area. You can change the key topics around, or add if you like, but if you are a bit of a virgin to this sort of thing, then stick to the basic key themes first until you get the hang of it.

The rules are that there are no rules, and no idea is a bad or wrong idea. This is meant to be your perfect life. So what does your perfect life look like? What kind of things would be happening if each aspect of your life was on fire? Don’t limit yourself. Or think “this will never happen” because if that’s what you’re thinking then I assure you it won’t. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?”

So have a bit of fun! Go wild! Write that dream down!

Mapping

Once you have written everything down, pop your Perfect Life Map somewhere that you will see it at least twice a day. You might like to put your map up on a wall, a mirror or wardrobe door. A friend of mine also takes a photo of her map with her mobile phone, so she can ponder over it while she is public transporting everywhere. Another friend puts his map up on his fridge, so every time he goes to the fridge for something, like milk for his cup of tea, he is also checking out his dream life. Give yourself a few days to consider what you have written. Over the next few days you might want to add something, or take something off.

Once you are happy with your map, it’s time to start developing goals. Don’t be too freaked out. They are not as scary as they sound. Tomorrow we’ll look at developing ‘Living Goals’ and the SMART model…and how to make your Perfect Life Map a reality.

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” – Anatole France

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Life would be better if we wore more tutus

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Tracey was my friend. My best friend. A year ago today she passed away in the arms of her husband. The man she had loved since they were teenagers.

We met when we were 9 years old. I’m still not sure to this day why or how we became friends. She was in the cool group, and I definitely was not. But from that first day when we walked home from school together, she became my teacher, my protector and my very best friend. And I became hers. She taught me so much. Important things like how to light a match, how to ride a bike, how to scramble an egg, and how to dog paddle to save my life.

She taught me ridiculous things as well, like the choreography to Abba’s Mama Mia, the words to Carole King’s entire album, Tapestry, and how to talk to boys.

In the months leading up to her death, Tracey slowly ticked off most of her ‘bucket list’. She snorkelled, went whale watching, visited with friends she hadn’t seen for years, built bridges with her sisters and got married to the man she had been in love with for over 30 years, but was too scared to commit to before now.

She told me that she had been a fool, living her life to please everyone and being too frightened to take risks. When she was young, we had imagined her life on stage, singing to audiences across the world, with her beautiful voice that made our souls quiver. Instead, here she was, trying to cram everything she ever waned to do into months. Weeks. Days.

One night I came home after visiting her in palliative care and I got out all of our photos. They were full of two wild and crazy girls, who used to sing on the tram and dance in the street. Who dreamt of being extraordinary; every day. When did we take off those tutus?

In her last few days, Tracey made peace with herself, but I was left wondering, long after she left, what would have happened if she hadn’t been frightened. What had the world missed out on because she just couldn’t risk it?

The day before Tracey died, we sat in the hospital holding hands, and she told me how amazing I was. Me? I could only think how lucky I have been to have such a friend. Such an extraordinary, wise, beautiful, gutsy, brave friend.

I just wish we had worn more tutus.

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leaving the land of the walking dead

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I used to work for an organisation that one of my dear friends referred to as the ‘land of the walking dead’. No one looked happy. No one. People wandered the corridors looking lost, in their grey corporate suits, shuffling papers for 8 – 10 hours a day. They sat in their cramped little cubicles, at their grey desks barely speaking to each other, heads down, bum up, endlessly typing up yet another corporate policy. I’m sure you could see their spirits slowly being sucked out through their ears and up into the air conditioning. Even the staff room which was located at the bottom of the building was referred to as ‘the dungeon’.

It was hard to imagine anything better when you were surrounded by this level of living death. I have often wondered, if I hadn’t had some amazing friends on the outside, how would I have escaped? I’m not sure I would have realised what kind of culture I was working in every day if not for them.

Realising that you are born to fly, not endlessly walk the corporate corridors, is the first step. Working out your dream and purpose is the next. Once you realise that you have a dream to manifest, the next steps are all about being brave and vulnerable.

Most people go back to being grey. It’s safe and they may not like it, but it’s predictable and they know this way of life well. No surprises. No putting yourself out there and above all no risk of failure! They may be part of the living dead, but there’s a level of certainty about it – and its true that we need a level of certainty in our lives. But not everything in our life should be certain. If we don’t have uncertainty as well, we wither and fade. Never being vulnerable or failing or making mistakes doesn’t protect us in the end, it makes us empty and will finally kill us, or at least kill our spirit.

For a very few, finding our passion and realising our dream becomes such a driving force in our life that we are willing to risk it all. (A bit similar to how we feel when we fall in love or lust!) We are prepared to do almost anything. We are prepared to put ourselves out there. To become vulnerable. To fall over and pick ourselves up again as many times as we have to. To make mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes. Nothing will stop us realising our dreams and living a life of purpose!

But what if you are in the ‘certainty’ community and you would really like to escape the walking dead? You just don’t know how and it all seems too big and hard and so overwhelming!

Why not trial it for 30 days?

Here’s the thing: You can change anything. Add anything. Delete anything from your life. Change any behaviour you like in just 30 days. This concept was first thought up by Steve Pavlina, who is an awesome blogger on personal development. His idea was based on the 30 day trial, which most of us would be familiar with when buying software products or anything off the shopping channels. Do steak knives for a 30 day trial sound familiar?

Recent research tells us if you introduce small sustainable changes into your life, they have a much better success rate and are much more likely to stick.

So the process is pretty straight forward.

If you are a little anxious about change you can start with something fairly simple and small. In an earlier blog I spoke about taking on a planking challenge for 30 days and achieving five minutes by the end of the challenge. Another one of my recent 30 day trials was all about adding more raw food to my diet. I really wanted to eat better and after lots of reading up on the benefits of eating fresh raw food, I decided to give it a go.

The trick is that instead of thinking that you will change this for the rest of your life, which seems paramount to climbing Mount Everest, you just think, I’m just doing this for 30 days. If you don’t like it you can stop after 30 days, or you can add another 30 days.

So for me, I decided to make it even simpler. Every day, for the next 30 days, I would make one of my meals 51% raw. You may want to add a juice, walk in the mornings for 20 minutes, mediate, write a gratitude list every morning,  stop drinking coffee, write a hundred words, learn a new word in another language, write a love letter to your partner every day, drink water, do a headstand, stop smoking, make your lunch for work, go to the gym, read a chapter of a book, hula hoop for 10 minutes every afternoon, read the newspaper, get up half an hour earlier every day, cook a new dish…the list goes on.

I’m up to eating two meals a day that are 51% raw, and I add a fresh vegetable juice every two days. Every time I add something, I tell myself, “It’s just for 30 days”, but I find that the 30 days is usually just long enough for the new behaviour to become routine.

Practice with something small. You may like to do a few trials. Remember you can add as well as delete. Add something positive to your life! Don’t just stop something. Test the water!

Over the past year I have changed quite a few things in my life with a 30 day trial. Every now and then I get to the end of the trial and think, well that was a great experience, but I don’t want to keep going with this.

As Matt Cutts said in his TED Talk: “Thirty days will pass whether you like it or not, so why don’t you try something new. Think of something you have always wanted to do and give it a shot!”

The world of dreams and nightmares

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Nightmares are funny things. When you are asleep they can make the most mundane things, like cats, incredibly frightening. One minute you are patting a cute kitten, the next you are running down alleyways from a hoard of giant cats with razor sharp claws and diamond edged teeth.

In daylight though, the absolute opposite is true. The really frightening things seep into our lives slowly and before long we have accepted them as every day, mundane aspects of life. This is just how it is. Deep down we still ache to be truly wonderful and live extraordinary lives. A life that leaves a legacy that is talked about years after we have left this planet…well at least by our family members and friends.

Instead though we live these sad little nightmare lives. These safe and responsible existences. We struggle to work out why we are unhappy. Where did this funny emptiness come from?

When I was little, my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was sitting on the kitchen bench, kicking my gum boots against the cupboards below, watching him cook breakfast for my little sister and me. I knew straight away. I didn’t hesitate for a second. I wanted to be a dancer, a singer, a writer of books and an artist. My dad laughed and told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as I was prepared to work hard for it. If my dad told me I could be anything, then I knew I could be anything. Anything in the world. At five, I never once doubted that what my father told me wasn’t true. For years I would sing and dance where ever we were. I practiced writing all the time, and I painted and drew for hours (much to the exasperation of my younger sister who wanted to play outside with bats and balls and such). Not once did it occur to me that I may never become any of those things. It was all I thought of. All I day dreamed about. My biggest problem was which one would I become first?

I’m sure that you all have similar stories to mine. And perhaps like me, you had well meaning people around you advise you to grow up. It was time to get a job that paid the bills. Perhaps you thought so too. Like me, there was a moment when you walked away from your dreams towards the quiet predictable nightmare.

But today is the day.

Today is the day we are going to wake up.

Today is the day we are going to reconnect with that feeling you had, when you knew exactly, without a doubt, what you wanted to be in the world. Your actual dream may have changed from when you were five. But that feeling, that obsession, that excitement you had when you imagined what your life would be like when that dream was realised – that’s where we are going to start!

5 Steps towards your dream

1. Lay your head down You need somewhere that you won’t be interrupted and where you can think. This may be on the couch, or lying on the floor, or in a park. Just make sure you are safe, comfortable and you can have at least half an hour to yourself.

2. Breathe Focus on your breathing. Breathe through your nose, into your belly, and breathe out through your mouth. Try and slow your breathing down, so you can relax. If your thoughts are distracted, acknowledge them, and then focus on your breathing again. I find it helps to talk to myself in my head. “Breathe in. Now I am breathing in. Breathe out. Now I am breathing out.” Keep going until you feel relaxed, and you are breathing deeply with and easy rhythm.

3. Step back in time Take yourself back to a time when you were passionate abut becoming something. Something that you lived and breathed, day in, day out. It could be a time when you were five and wanted to be a mountain climber, or when you were sixteen and wanted to be in a boy band. No, I’m not suggesting that you put all your effort in starting up the latest Backstreet Boys! But I want you to remember that excitement. That thirst you had to find out everything there was to know about what it took to climb a mountain, or record an album and then put together a choreography to half of the songs! I want you to remember how you used to day dream about living that life; a life that was full of the things you loved. Remember the excitement you felt. Remember the feeling. Focus on that feeling now. Focus on that passion now. Give yourself permission to reconnect the energy you had back then.

4. Imagine Once you have remembered what it was like to feel utterly passionate about something again, bring yourself back to the the present and focus on your breathing again.This time you are going to imagine the perfect life. Close your eyes again, and allow yourself to daydream. If there was nothing stopping you from what you want to do, and who you want to become, what would you be doing? Who would you be?

Imagine yourself walking into a room.  You are in your favourite place, and you are incredibly happy. You are living the best life you can, doing what you have always wanted to do. Look around you. What do you see? You are with some amazing people. They are your greatest supporters, and you love having these people in your life. Who do you see around you?

You walk over to a huge mirror on the wall, and look at your reflection. Who do you see? Who are you? You can hear people talking around you. What are they saying to you? What are they saying about you? How do you feel inside knowing that you are living the life you have always dreamed about? What are you saying to yourself? What are you telling yourself? Open your eyes and think about your day dream.

You may want to do this exercise a few times until you really connect with the person in your day dream. Sometimes we have been living our quiet nightmare lives for so long, that even when we are all alone in our heads we find it difficult to allow ourselves to dream. The important thing is that there is no failure in your head. Who would you be if you knew you could not fail?

A side note: Now just in case you are thinking the dream is to become a millionaire, lets be clear that these things are not dreams but consequences. Often people will say to me, but if I become a millionaire then I can be the artist/rock climber/film maker/sports commentator, that I have always wanted to be. They think that the money will buy them the freedom to follow their dreams. But it doesn’t work that way. You are giving yourself an impossible task and then abdicating all responsibility. “Well, until I’m a millionaire, I can’t follow my dream.” Do you see how crazy that sounds? It’s also a bit like those who will say, “Well until I have everything lined up perfectly I’m just not going to risk it.” The truth is, it will never line up perfectly. Those little black ducks will never line up in a row! Little black ducks have a way of wandering off…All you are doing is giving yourself insurmountable challenges, because you are afraid to risk going after your dream. The dream is not to become a millionaire. The dream is to become the person you think becoming a millionaire will give you the freedom to become.

5. Live the Dream After day dreaming for a while, you should have an idea of what your dream is. If you don’t, take some time to write down all of the possibilities, even if they sound completely impossible. Remember, there is no failure. It’s your dream, and for the moment that’s all you are doing; dreaming a little.

Next time we will talk about the first steps to living your dream. For now though, if you haven’t watched it, you might like to check out Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey

It’s the inspirational story of Kevin Clash, a boy who followed his dream and changed the world with a puppet.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

Creating the space to dare to dream

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I don’t have any time. I want to be a writer/cure cancer/start my own business/learn how to dance/climb that mountain/learn how to ski/paint that masterpiece…but I am just too busy. I have sooooo much to do. You don’t understand – I have kids! I don’t have any money. I’m tired from my day job. I’m sick. I’m too sick. I’m alone, I just can’t do that by myself. I’m not smart enough/beautiful enough/rich enough/tough enough…well you understand.

I could go on. I’m sure you have plenty of your own stories you tell yourself to make yourself feel better about why that amazing dream that you have always had tucked away in your head, that you probably barely think abut these days, just can’t happen.

I get it.

Our lives are just too busy. Way too full of other important stuff.

But it’s funny how sometimes we have the energy and focus to move mountains.

I’m guessing most of you have been in love. Or at least been so attracted to someone they are all you can think of.

I remember when I fell in love with Cristian, it was all I could think about. I wanted to be with him all the time, and when I wasn’t with him, I was thinking of the next time we would be together. At the time I was working a full time job, managing two large facilities and a big team of staff. I was recently divorced and had four little boys who need to be fed, watered, cuddled, homework sorted, bathed, put to bed, loved…well you know the deal. Before I met Cristian I seemed to be always exhausted. I was falling into bed at midnight after the tenth load of washing was on the washing line and the school lunches were packed and in the fridge, and then I was dragging myself out of bed to a a mini football team who needed to be pried apart, fed porridge, and danced with in the kitchen (a story for another time) and driven to school. I was sure that I couldn’t fit another activity into my life. Not even an extra cup of tea. Impossible.

Funny word that: impossible.

Within days of meeting Cristian, I was renegotiating my diary to go on a date in the middle of the day. Then a few days later, I miraculously found enough money to pay a baby sitter so I could go on a date at night. It wasn’t long before I was seeing Cristian almost every day. As if by magic I seemed to have an abundance of time and, I was buzzing with energy.

Here’s the thing: If you are really passionate about making that dream happen, nothing can stop you. You will move mountains to make whatever is important to you, happen.

Talk to anyone who has achieved their dream and they rarely talk about it falling it their lap. They talk about working their bum off and refusing to give up when they failed, or fell over. They got back up and tried again. You have to be passionate about your dream to get up again after you have screwed up or made a mistake. Because if you are not, you will give up and go and lie under your doona and dream of it happening ‘someday’. But the truth, my friends is it will never happen if you don’t get yourself up, wipe up the blood and try again. Never.

So why am I telling you this? Over the next few days we are going to find work out what we are passionate about, and how to make this dream real. And we are going to do it with all the intention, and ‘mountain moving’ determination we have when we fall in love or lust.

We are going to create the space to dare to dream.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Neil Gaiman, Coraline