When I first met Thomas Crum, my most generous mentor in this work I do with conflict and aikido, he asked the group he was leading to partner up and do an exercise on visioning--a very different kind of visioning.
Instead of imagining the year ahead and writing down goals, Tom asked us to imagine we were looking back on the year ahead from a vantage point of having already lived it.
We were to tell our partner all the things we hoped the year would bring--financial well-being, strong relationships, physical health, workplace success--but in a way that told the story as if these things had already happened.
This was a valuable exercise that I use often. Sometimes I'm not sure how the things I imagine will come to be. For example, last year I envisioned my new book, Turn Enemies Into Allies, successfully published and out in the world. I didn't know how this would happen, but I imagined/envisioned that it did, and the book's out there in the world now.
It's not like I didn't do anything else, mind you. But I've experienced many times over the years this important fact:
There is something magical about bringing clarity to what you want that helps you take the needed steps to get there.
It helps to have a partner when you do the exercise. And to really make it work, you have to use the past tense. Remember that you're placing yourself a year in advance and telling your partner how great the year turned out, as in the following:
Wow, Tom, it's been a great year. My book got published and, by all accounts, is doing really well. People write me about how they're enjoying it, and the reviews on Amazon are 5-stars. Besides that, my health has been great. I've been swimming and walking, and I took up yoga and love it. My Mom and the rest of my family also had a great year. We had relatively few problems, and a couple of us worked hard on healing some rifts. I'm so grateful.
Your partner then does the same thing. And if you don't have a partner, you can write your vision down. The only limits are the ones you put on yourself. When that voice comes along that says, "Are you kidding? That's not likely to happen..." Just say "hello," put it aside, and keep envisioning what you want.
I engage in the exercise annually, but I also use it for any situation that causes stress, or where I want to be my best. Examples:
- Presentations. I give a lot of them, and before each one I imagine myself at the end of the presentation, walking out of the room feeling centered and successful, seeing the audience happy and with immediately applicable skills.
- When I leave home on a work trip, I imagine myself walking back into my house as scheduled, glad to be home, safe, and happy with how things went.
- Before a challenging conversation with a family member, coworker, or friend, I envision the end of the conversation and everyone feeling good about what we learned, and the solutions we created.
This year I want to add some qualities of being to my list. I want to look back on December 31, 2020, and say something like:
You know, Tom, it was also a good year for me personally and relationally. I was nicer to people, more patient and compassionate. I listened and acknowledged what I heard before jumping in with content of my own. And I was able to spontaneously center myself in situations that normally would have caught me off guard. I was also nicer to myself, less self-critical and more open to seeing and appreciating the things I do well, which helped me be more appreciative of others.
Looking Back on 2020
On this last day of 2019, I encourage you to place yourself one year in the future--December 31, 2020. What will you have accomplished? How is your physical and emotional health and well-being? What does your workplace look and feel like? Your home life? What relationships have continued, healed or grown stronger? Which ones have you let go of? If you can find a partner to do this with, it's a lot more fun, plus I think it helps to keep things real.
Wishing you a Happy New Year and blessed and peaceful 2020, where all your dreams come true.