I have always been a goal-driven person and instead of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve set goals. I pulled out an old journal in which I wrote them down and had quite a bit of fun reading about myself twelve years ago.
In 2003 I set goals in the following categories: financial, professional, physical, relationships, spiritual, home, knowledge development. Most of the goals in the list are completed, things like ‘pay off house in five years’ and ‘gain a new skill’. But some are still so elusive ‘run 5 km in less than 25 minutes’. I also have a page where I wrote criteria for the ‘Perfect Life’. By age 34 I had accomplished all the things on this list – I had a loving husband, a healthy baby girl, professional success, overseas travel annually, strong relationships and a healthy fit body.
So I’m asking myself what went wrong between age 34 and 40 ? The past six years have seen a decline in my health so much so that I can’t work for several months. The introduction of kids into my life has some relevance for sure. Many busy mothers reading this will understand the strain that children introduce into your life. A lot of joy, which is well worth the strain, but they nevertheless contributed to my health decline – because I let it happen.
Two things that are evident by what I’ve written in this journal is that I didn’t manage to get on top of my stress and that I, even in 2003, aspired to have writing in my life. There is mention, even before kids of more time for myself. I did not make the time and space back then for me and how much was that exacerbated by the introduction of needy little people who literally suck from your body! I didn’t prioritise myself then and that was a big mistake.
In working on my goals in the past few years, I engaged a coach who is really great. She mostly works with working women and focusses on confidence and the ability to cope with the dual pressures of motherhood and career aspirations. She has a wonderful technique called a Vision Board where you literally make a collage of the things you aspire to. It can be electronic or physical and you should look at it daily. This encourages your brain to keep a look out for opportunities on the path towards these goals.
Visualisation is used by many professional sports people. They train their brains to live the visual image of success and thereby making it attainable. I remember reading about it when I was much younger and creating a mini collage of the things I wanted. The amazing thing is that I have achieved all of the things I included. I had an image of a jogger husband pushing a baby in a pram – check. I had a picture of a fit lady in the gym – check. I had a picture of a baby girl – check. I am now quite frightened by their power and am throwing away the pictures of babies as I certainly can’t handle another one in my depleted state!
The interesting thing is that I cut out those pictures and put them in a journal in my bottom drawer – and yet all of them were achieved. How interesting that the mere process of consciously choosing them and being clear about what I wanted had such an impact.
I’m still (yes, still) reading The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. A happiness-inducing strategy that strongly appeals to me is that of formulating the ‘Best Possible Future Self’. She proposes spending twenty minutes on writing about your best possible future self. What will you have, and be, and do in the future?
I have done this exercise and not only is it a proven happiness booster but how empowering! It helps us clearly articulate what we really want and makes us think about what we need to do now in order to be that future self.
If this appeals to you, I’d highly recommend the activity. Have you articulated, in text or images, what you really want? How can God or the Universe or whatever you believe in, respond, if you don’t ask? Put it out there. What’s the worst that could happen?