Poet Mary Oliver wrote: "Tell me what it is you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life". While we can’t control much in this world, we perhaps owe it to ourselves to take this question seriously. What do you care passionately about? What is your ambition? What does your ideal life look like?
If you don’t know, don’t worry - not knowing is a great place to start. Some of us might have a clear project in mind: write a novel, volunteer for a charity, run a marathon. But for many of us, things are a little more fuzzy or prone to change with the wind. Our ambitions, if we have them, can be difficult to pin down.
Here are ways to become your own life coach and begin to work out what you really, really want.
Enquire with compassion
Dr Gabor Maté created a therapeutic approach called Compassionate Inquiry and its principles can be used to discover our own core desires and values.
If you ask yourself what you want, it might be a hazy feeling state (happiness; love), an escape from your current burdens or issues, wishing you had more confidence.
Keep asking yourself what is beneath your imagined wants or needs until you find the thing you desire – but do so with compassion and kindness, accept and be curious about whatever arises, give yourself time to answer fully.
For example: if you want success – ask yourself:
Repeat these questions for everything you come up with (i.e. happiness, comfort, security) until you find something concrete - which could be anything from a life of travel to a new home.
Write to explore
Get yourself a journal, settle down in a comfortable, quiet space in your home or a café and answer the following questions:
Take five (or ten) minutes for each question and just write. Don’t worry about grammar or sounding like the Dalai Lama on acid. Writing in a flowing stream-of-consciousness allows direct access to the unconscious, bypassing all the miserable negative thoughts and beliefs that hold you back in life.
Meditate your dream life
Daydreaming is a form of self-hypnosis that allows you to explore your unconscious thoughts and wishes. Before phones, we used to daydream simply staring out the window on long journeys. Now you may have to create the time. Turn off your devices, get yourself into a comfortable position, lying down or seated, and take some deep breaths before closing your eyes.
Picture yourself walking along a path, allowing colours, sounds, images, smells and touch to appear in your mind. Ask your unconscious mind to create your ideal life and walk around in it for a while. What do you hear, see, touch, feel, smell or taste? It may make no logical sense, but just go with it.
Once you have a clear picture of the place you have created, bring yourself out of your daydream into the real world, wiggling your toes and batting open your eyes. Afterwards, write or draw what came up, or talk it through with someone – this is the point when the things you imagined begin to make some kind of sense.
Create a dream board
Sometimes called an action/vision board, a Dream Board is basically a collage that represents your life’s dreams and goals. This is a creative exercise that you can do alone or with friends. Collect a stack of magazines (glossy home, travel and lifestyle mags are good), glue, scissors, pens and paints and A3 cardboard, and go for it.
Or you can take time – weeks or months – collecting your material. Trust your senses to lead you to images that appeal or, as Marie Kondo says, spark joy. They can be anything: postcards, landscapes, cityscapes, houses, boats, activities, people, old photos, animals, pieces of poetry, art or song lyrics, weather, colours etc. You can paste them in a journal, scrapbook or on an A3 piece of cardboard. You can do dream boards online (Pinterest is a great option) – create a story board or collate things in a folder.
Once you have enough images, arrange them in a way that works; use it as your inspirational touchstone or a springboard to a new life.
Draw your wheel of life
A wheel of life looks like the cheese counter in Trivial Pursuit – which may be saying something. It’s a way of working out what might be missing in your life, but also balancing that with what you have already achieved. Draw a big circle and divide it into eight segments. You can make your wheel of life any way you want and include areas that are personal to you. General wheel of life segments might include:
These are all massive and in-depth topics, but the idea with the wheel of life is to think about each segment as a scale of 0-10. Relationships a five? Fill in that segment half-way with a colour. Once you have thought about and scored each segment, you can think about which areas you are happy with, and which need more work. Then you can get down to the details and set small, achievable goals.
This kind of exploration should be ongoing and include regular journaling, meditation, noticing and tuning in to yourself. Once you feel you have a clear sense of what you want to achieve in life, you can start the reality testing and goal setting tasks that will take you where you want to be – be it Open University, a savings plan or joining a dating site.
Give yourself permission to achieve what you want to achieve. And yes, you do deserve it.
13th January 2022
Clever, inspiring design, sublime views, a vast, clean and empty pool, solitary relaxation areas to read, write or commune with my muse.
Small talk, discussions about spirituality or astrology, any products containing tea tree oil or aloe (sadly am allergic), busy pools where you can’t do laps.
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