You Can Have Your Ideal Life
I’ve recently had a few huge epiphanies and I thought they might be worth sharing. While in Wisconsin this summer at my mom’s house I had the task of cleaning up boxes of old tax and business documents I had been storing in her attic. I discovered an old life coaching workbook I had saved from my days as a singleton living in my tiny, rented New York City apartment. I had just started my life coaching business (this was 20 years ago). In that workbook, was an exercise that I still give to my clients to this day—design your ideal life—make a scrapbook, a collage, draw a picture and or write about it in as much detail as possible. Now in my own workbook I found a sketch of my ideal life and I was astounded. I had achieved almost everything I had sketched out. Now mind you, my sketches were simple little stick figures, but there I was dancing with my husband (okay, he doesn’t dance, but he is a wonderful man!), there were two little stick figure kids, a house by the sea, an international speaking career as a bestselling author, a jet plane to represent all my international travels, a horse ranch, and a loft in Manhattan overlooking the East River, and $5 million dollars.
I was astonished to see that I had achieved all the most important parts of my sketch. Okay, well I don’t have the apartment in NYC, a horse ranch, nor do I have anything close to $5 million in the bank, but that is the also the good news because it proves that you don’t have to have millions to have your ideal life and a lot of what you think might be ideal really isn’t. Now that I actually do own property (the beach house) I can tell you it is plenty enough to maintain. I wouldn’t know what to do with a horse ranch and I certainly don’t want to scoop up after any horses—all I really want is to ride a horse on occasion that someone else is looking after. Yes, I’d be happy to have $5 million socked away, but not having it hasn’t prevented me from having all the important stuff—a wonderful family, a career that I thoroughly enjoy, travel, and a lovely home by the seaside.
What is the epiphany? First, this ideal life exercise is much more powerful than you may at first realize. Second, you don’t necessarily want everything you may think you want. Third, you don’t need nearly as much money as you think. Fourth, it will take the time it takes, which may not be as fast as you think it should take, but ultimately is the perfect amount of time. Fifth, you don’t have to worry about drawing the wrong thing because you won’t attract the wrong things (like the horse ranch).
At this point, you may by wondering, “Geez, how could she have missed the fact that she had her ideal life? Isn’t it obvious when you achieve it?” I had thought it would be, but if I hadn’t written it down, I might never have realized that I had in fact “made it.” How is that possible? Well, when I sketched out my ideal life I was imaging all the ideal elements of it—cuddling two little kids in bed for example, but not the mad scramble to get the kids off to school and arriving late because of a lost shoe that defied all attempts to be found. Or the 2 am wake ups when my three-year old has a bad dream, which wouldn’t be so bad except that after I settle her back down I’m wide awake for hours after and end up slogging through the next day. So yes, while I have my ideal life, it is still a very real life with kids who get sick and break their arms and drain pipes that get clogged, and so on. There is a whole lot of maintenance even though I have lots of extra help—the gardener, the au pair, the house cleaner, and babysitters.
The point here is that if you don’t write down your ideal life, you may miss the fact that you’ve actually achieved it and that would be a real shame.
Now, that wasn’t actually the second epiphany although it could be. After seeing that I had achieved my vision and feeling rather jubilant for a few minutes my next thought was, “I’ve achieved this so now I need a whole new vision for a new ideal life! What should I create now?” I suppose that is the life coach in me, thinking a new set of goals is now required. But then I realized, wait a minute. I LIKE my life and I don’t want to get rid of the kids or my husband or the beach house or my international career or stop writing books. In fact, there wasn’t anything I wanted to take off my already rather full plate. If anything, to really perfect my life all I needed to do was add in a new hobby. Instead of tossing my ideal life and picking a brand new one, it is time to stop striving and start enjoying what I’ve created. What a concept. I felt this amazing sense of peace and almost disbelief. I don’t have to strive anymore? It feels a bit odd because for years I’ve been striving, striving, striving. Now that doesn’t mean I won’t ever write another book again, but I don’t have to. It is a subtle, but wonderful difference. I can simply enjoy my life, my family and friends and my career. This is it! One wise coach had told me early on—you don’t start really living until you stop striving. Now here is the bad news— I could have stopped striving years ago as I’ve had my ideal life for quite a few years now and didn’t even realize it! Ha!
Now if this doesn’t inspire you to take a few minutes to sketch out an ideal life right now, what will? You may be living your ideal life and not even be aware of that fact simply because you are caught up in the daily maintenance. Stop striving, start living! And the real secret is that you can do that right now, just the way your life is because the present really is perfect. (If it doesn’t feel perfect, read the related article, here).
What do you want?
I was just working with one client who was struggling with the question, “What do you want?” She spent a few weeks in inquiry and even polled her friends and family and in the end was no clearer than when she started. So we decided to try a different strategy. Instead of starting with a blank page and sketching an ideal life, let’s start with the life she has and just work on tweaking and perfecting it a bit. After all, she had many elements that were in fact already ideal—a loving husband, a new puppy, a new home, but some things needed to change. Instead of working 90 hours a week, what would happen if you got your work done efficiently and left at 6 pm to be home for dinner? How about swapping the rushed lunch in front of the desk for a 30 minute bike ride at the gym or a walk in the park?
Most of us don’t need to start over with a whole new plan. A little bit of refining and a few adjustments may be all that is required to turn a less than ideal life into an ideal one. What fine-tuning could you do this week to take your life one step closer to the ideal?
The Power of a Visual Reminder for Reaching Your Goals
If you’d like to leverage one of the laws of attraction—like attracts like—to reach your biggest goals, try this very simple, powerful technique. Create a visual reminder of your top goals and wishes. You can write down your goals on an index card, post them up on a bulletin board and then add an image that represents each goal. One of my goals was to go to India this year to speak. I put the written goal up as well as a little sketch of an Indian goddess. And guess what? I’m heading off to India to speak to the coaching community.
You can make your visual reminders out of anything you wish— a piece of cardboard with push pins, a collage, a whiteboard, or just a piece of paper. Post it someplace where you will see it every day. Change the pictures and move them around on occasion to keep it looking fresh. Otherwise you may find it just melts into the background and you don’t look at it. Very simple, very cost effective and it works!