Last week, we began the process of imagining 2009 as your best year yet. If you are just joining us, you may find it useful to read an earlier post where we introduced the Wheel of Life, as a way of evaluating where you are in your current level of satisfaction and fulfillment.
By way of review, we asked you to take four steps last week regarding your Wheel:
STEP ONE: Answer the following three questions about the eight elements in your wheel:
- What do I like about each area of my life?
- What do I find dissatisfying about each area of my life?
- What ideas or actions might create improvement in each area?
STEP TWO: Identify areas of possible improvement for each element
STEP THREE: Narrow your list of improvement areas to your top two or three
STEP FOUR: Imagine it is a year from now. How would your life be different because of improvements you made in 2009?
What if you can't imagine 2009 being much different?
The smart-ass answer is, "Then 2009 won't be much different?" However, there's more smart in this response than might meet the eye. (How's that for mixing a metaphor?)
If you have ever been told that you are "too smart for your own good," then you may need to slow down here just a bit and actually do what I am suggesting here. If you haven't constructed your wheel, do it! If you haven't created the lists in the steps outlined above, do it!
Now comes the hard part - unless, of course, this is the easy part - I really want you to imagine what 2009 would be like if you focused on improving those two or three areas. What would your life be like if you not only focused on improving those areas, but actually did something about making those improvements? You don't have to know what it is you need to do - at least not yet - just imagine doing something that produces an improvement.
Before we dig into the actual goals, plans and action steps you might take to make your desired improvements, we need to spend a little more time on the role of imagination.
Why does imagination matter?
Imagination is a way of internally creating focus. Have you ever noticed that you can keep thinking about something in your mind and sooner or later it starts to come true? I know this can get pretty weird for some of you, but hang in there for just another moment.
There's a principle here I call, energy follows thought. Try this one on: have you ever found yourself hungry and then thought about eating one of your favorite foods? You could even try it right now.
Let's suppose you really like apple pie. Warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet gooey apple pie. Perhaps with some freshly made ice cream on top. Or how about those cinnamon buns they make in airports and shopping malls? Can you smell the aroma wafting through the air?
If you persist in the imagination of that favorite food, you may discover that saliva starts being produced in your mouth. Have you ever been there - just imagining eating something that isn't there and all of a sudden you have saliva in your mouth? I'll bet you have.
So what happened? Energy (saliva) followed your thought (imagination). Part of the phenomenon is that your body can't tell the difference between a well imagined thought and reality - the simple act of imagining can be enough for the body to start responding as though it were really there. I'm sure you have imagined (fantasized) about other things happening and found your body responding as though something were really happening as well.
Have you ever been at home, watching TV, and started thinking about ice cream? If you have, and you kept up the thoughts about the ice cream, you may have found yourself jumping in the car and driving to the local store to buy some. Energy followed thought.
One value of imagination, then, is the ability to produce the energy or motivation to have you get up and do something about the object of your inner focus.
Another is that when you hold a well imagined thought long enough, your brain will start to filter in data that supports the imagined reality. It can be as simple as thinking about buying a new car, and all of a sudden you start to notice the exact make and model you have been thinking about. It's as though everyone went out and bought one yesterday. You know that isn't true, and yet you are suddenly noticing all kinds of them
The simple answer is that as you become increasingly clear in your own mind about what you want, your brain will start to find data to support the object of your imagination. There's a lot more to this, but for the moment, let's start with imagination.
Your mission for this week, should you decide to accept it, is to return to your Wheel every day and simply imagine what your life would be like if two or three of those elements were to improve in 2009. Better still, how would you like to see those two or three areas a year from now?
Literally, every day, as in every day, just imagine your life going the way you want it. You don't need to know how yet - just imagine the improvement you would like to experience.
Next week, we will turn our attention to how you can translate imagination into practical reality. By the time we get to January 1st, you will have a pretty good idea about how you can go about making 2009 your best year yet!
I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.