In the first two blogs of this series we looked at Creating Your Dream Life and The Art of Reflection. In this final one, we will consider the second of the two competencies I believe are essential to develop in order to create your dream life: Imagination.
Blog Three: Imagining Your Way Forward
The art of imagination is a favourite pastime of mine. So much so that I have to work on getting out of my fantasy world and putting things into action in order to avoid the resentment that builds when watching others moving forward and staying stuck in the same place myself! This is where imagining needs to be balanced with its sister competency – reflecting – on the way to creating your dream life. Reflection will show you the stuck-ness that inaction and hiding in imagination will create.
Since this is a strength of mine, I find it hard to understand that there are people out there who find it a challenge to imagine a life they would like. But experience with my coaching and workshop clients has shown this to be true. Many people are at a complete loss for an answer when asked what they would like out of their lives. And they find it so difficult to access their imagination to create anything other than the soul-sucking mundane or toxic existence that they are currently mired in.
Working on your skills of imagination takes creativity, bravery and the willingness to say ‘yes’ to many things that may at first surprise you and make you feel uncomfortable. Like an executive who is courageous enough to stay with his imagination to consider a dream life that may not involve the dizzying forays up the corporate ladder, and may instead involve growing herbs in a tiny village in the Karoo. This is terrifying as it very likely will rock his entire perception of himself and call his very identity and life into question.
Or what about the PhD student who, with a little bit of imagination, comes to the realisation that although she is an outstanding researcher and a top expert in her field, it is music that makes her soul sing and, when she is deeply honest with herself, this is the journey she would rather pursue, even after the fortune of money, time and effort spent on her degrees.
The truth is that, like the process of reflection, imagination can give you access to many emotions and thoughts that paint a picture of who you really are – or at least show a better direction to take in this search than the path you are currently on. This often causes an incredibly uncomfortable, rocky lead into the unknown that most people would rather avoid. Change is unpredictable and messy so why would we want to bring it upon ourselves unnecessarily? The honest truth to this is that without working on your capacity to imagine your dream life – your true dream life unfettered by the consumerist, egoist trappings of society – you will never experience what it is like to feel truly free. You will never know the exhilarating rush of realising that you are doing what you love and that you wouldn’t want to be anywhere other than where you are now. And, importantly, you will never be able to live out of the gratitude that comes from going deep inside you, facing some of the toughest times and knowing that you did it anyway.
Quite simply, without the capacity to imagine, and to imagine grand things, you will never have a direction to move towards. To many people, this rudderless, safe existence is what sucks enjoyment from their existence in a more profound way than any other thing could do, and they are very often completely unaware of it.
Using your imagination to envision something so exciting and full of hope that it leaves you tingly and breathless is what will propel you forward to reach it. And the amazing thing is, you will probably far exceed what you imagined. The momentum of going in your right direction, doing what you were created for, will bring so much more that you could ever have imagined.
Do you have the courage to do this? Are you ready to open your eyes to what you really want – and start to take some steps towards it? You never know, you just might find your dream life after all – and it won’t just be in your imagination.
If you take this journey, surround yourself with encouraging people who only want the best for you. And, if you can, invest in a life coach to help you create your dream and achieve it.
In the previous blog in this series, we looked at Creating Your Dream Life.
Blog Two - The Art of Reflection
There are people that are good at reflecting on their path, circumstances and reality. And there are many that are not. Those of us that find it difficult to do so very often avoid reflecting and thinking about the situations we are in and the choices we have made because it is difficult, uncomfortable and sometimes unpleasant to see the truth. Far easier to keep pushing forward and let things happen as they may. The reality of this, however, is that it makes personal mastery – the ability to grow and achieve our potential – far more elusive. And it often results in lack of responsibility or initiative within us. When we fail to reflect in life, we are living in a rather haphazard and directionless manner and are less able to make choices that we feel we can engage with. So we live with a mentality of life happening at us, instead of with us.
The capacity to reflect requires great discipline, courage and honesty. It asks us to stop what we are doing and to think and feel deeply about what is happening, what we are doing, and our impact on the situation. We reflect on conversations we have had with our partners, colleagues, family or bosses, and become deeply aware of the emotions we experienced. Was the conversation fueled by anger, fear, pride, shame, ease or manipulation? What was our part in this reality? What is driving our behaviour here? What are we truly trying to get out of the situation? The truth is often very different from what we first think!
We reflect on choices we have made and the results and outcomes. What had we correctly assumed, and what not? What worked well and what would we like to do differently next time? What do we need to change and seek forgiveness for? What do we really believe and want?
The art of reflection engages us deeply with our inner being. As we get to know ourselves better, our self awareness leads us into a more considered and effective way of showing up in the world. Crucially, reflecting is the capacity that will allow us to connect to our true self. We will be able to see those instances where we are following the plans of someone else or where we are striving to fulfill a false sense of self that has always led us to misery. We will start to see the patterns in the relationships we choose, the roles we end up with at work and the self-talk we use during our waking hours. And it is only once we start to see these patterns and understand the assumptions, beliefs and perceptions we carry that fuel them, that we can finally start letting go of what is holding us back from creating our dream life.
The reality is that it is impossible to ever truly know what our dream life is unless we master the art of reflecting.
A final powerful dimension to the capacity of reflecting comes with the image of a physical reflection. In looking at a tree reflected in the perfectly still water of a lake, we see what looks like a perfect representation in the reflection. But the longer we stay with the image, the more we begin to see the differences. The minuscule ripples become obvious, the minor distortions in shape, and – importantly – the truth that the entire reflection is upside down! We literally see the image from a different perspective. This then is the gift of the capacity to reflect. We are able to see things from a different perspective and notice subtle changes that wouldn’t be available if we had never paused to observe.
So finally, what can we do to develop our skill in reflecting?
The final blog in this series will look at the importance of imagination on creating your dream life.
Blog One - Creating your Dream Life
There is something so liberating about finally realising that you are, in fact, your own worst enemy when it comes to living the life you dream of. This is because of the existence of the reciprocal principle: You are also your greatest advocate when it comes to living the life you dream about.
The reality is that, because it is ultimately up to you to make the choices that lead you toward your dreams, you are the one with the power and so you don’t need to rely on anyone else.
But equally, because it is up to you, this also means that you are the one that needs to go through the pain, challenge and difficulty to make it happen. This is unavoidable.
When we wait for someone else to do it for us, it will never be what we want. And the reality is that we very often won’t even recognise it as being our dream because we haven’t personally done the hard slog to get there.
All that said, the question becomes: How do I do the work of creating my dream life?
Many of us are very aware of what is not our dream life, but feel completely out of our depths in knowing what it is we really want our lives to look and feel like. We know what shuts our soul down, what we vehemently dislike and what drives our intense anxiety, anger or boredom. However, we struggle to identify what will set our souls alive and allows each day to be faced with joy and excitement. While we may look to others and envy the lives they lead – the online programmer who works every few months in a new city of her choice, or the dolphin trainer spending his time in the water – this doesn’t necessarily mean that we would love to do what they do. Very often it is something else entirely, something far more elusive, that creates the feeling of envy and interest within us. Perhaps it is the feeling of freedom and adventure within the life of the travelling programmer that we aspire to, or the connection with an animal spirit instead of an ego-maniacal boss that appeals to us in the life of the dolphin trainer. Unless we realise this we may find that when we look at any path we‘ve taken in life, we experience discouragement with what appear to be dead-ends that never seem right for us.
My experience and research has led me to the following beliefs:
How do we create our dream life then?
My thoughts are that it takes two competencies: the capacity to reflect and the capacity to imagine. Each of these takes on a particular flavour depending on the individual and circumstances involved, but essentially it is these capacities that form the fertile ground for our journey towards our dream life. Ultimately, it is our ability to reflect on the perceptions, assumptions and beliefs that are driving our behaviours and choices. This allows us increasing self awareness. And it is our ability to imagine that allows the creation and desire for movement towards a particular direction…and takes us toward our dream life.
Watch out for the next two blogs in this series that will deal with each of these independently.
On a personal note...
I am curious, creative, determined, committed and (a bit too much of) a perfectionist.