Are you unhappy with your life? Are there things you’d like to change? Do you want a full reset?
Maybe your health is keeping you from enjoying what you have. Maybe your relationships have soured. Maybe you’ve finally admitted that you hate your job. Maybe those goals you’ve been pursuing for years haven’t actually made you happy.
Are you ready to change?
Here’s the first step:
Imagine what you want your life to look and feel like.
“Imagination creates reality.” Richard Wagner
Nothing happens until you can start to imagine a new reality. Imagination is a little different than dreaming. I can dream up all kinds of wild plans. I want to tour the world on a sailboat. I’d love to live in a house by the beach. I want to live in one of those intentional communities where everyone helps each other, and we all get together for dinner every night and talk about important issues.
However, when I take these dreams and actually begin to imagine myself living them, it's clear that they don’t fit me. If I sit back and imagine myself on a sailboat, I realize that I get tired of the sun glare in my eyes and go nuts sitting around a sailboat for days at a time. No thanks. The beach is great for a few days, but the SAND. Not happening. And the reality is that I really prefer meals without talking to people and would quickly get tired of having to eat at the same time every night. I’ll pass.
“Imagination should be used, not to escape reality, but to create it.” Colin Wilson
If you are just dreaming up things that might make you feel better, you are simply trying to escape what you don’t like in your life. It’s not just imagining the absence of something. For instance, you can’t just imagine what you’d feel like if your pain went away. You actually have to imagine what you would do with all your time and energy if you didn’t have pain. You have to figure out what your authentic self wants to do in this world. By actively envisioning what you want your best life to look and feel like, you are using imagination creatively to create a new future.
Here are some things to think about creating in your pain-free life: What goals will you set for yourself? What will you do that you aren’t doing now? Who will you reconnect with now that you have more time and energy? What brings you joy and how can you get more of that in your life? It’s much more powerful if you can do this to imagine living your best life pain-free.
Don’t just imagine leaving your job and things getting “better.” Sit down and imagine what your better life feels like. Do you have more time to spend at home? Is your schedule flexible? How do you start your mornings? What kinds of people do you work with? Walk through your day and envision all the details of what you smell, taste, touch, hear, and see. Imagination is immersive. Use all your senses to BE THERE.
“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” Stephen R. Covey
Here’s the other piece of creating a better future that can be difficult for many: they can’t imagine anything different than what they have right now. We’ve been socialized in so many ways to believe that our illnesses are permanent, the choices we make about schooling dictate our careers, our family of origin determines our beliefs, and our traumas damage us for life.
Thankfully, none of this is true. People have incredible stories of healing (I believe our bodies can heal many things we mistakenly accept as permanent). Tons of people switch careers (sometimes multiple times). Breaking away from beliefs learned from your family of origin is possible. There are dozens of modalities to heal from trauma and I actually know people who have done it.
Don’t let your past determine what is possible for your future. If you can imagine healing, overcoming, breaking out of, or freeing yourself from whatever you are struggling with, then it is possible.
So, let’s add a second step to change your life:
Imagine what you want your life to look and feel like.
Believe it is possible.
“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” Mark Twain
About 15 years ago I started imagining a life without my food sensitivities. I had spent years before that learning to live with what I had. I was networked with many other people who had to deal with gluten-free, dairy-free, basically-everything-else free diets. I was invested in living the best I could despite my limitations. But I finally decided that my limitations were keeping me from doing so many things I wanted to do. I sat down and made long lists of things I wanted to do with my life. I imagined how it would feel to live as that person who could eat whatever she wanted and be free to do those things. I imagined finding the people I needed who could help me heal. I imagined AND I started to believe it was possible. Do you know what happened? I created that reality. I broke out of the box of my beliefs and found what I needed to heal. You can learn more about that story here.
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.” -George Benard Shaw
Imagining your future doesn’t always come in a neat package like that, though. Sometimes it’s messier and slower to take shape.
I spent years in a love-hate relationship with my teaching job because I couldn’t think of anything I’d like to do better. I mean, I had a lot of dreams and wild ideas, but when I sat down and imagined myself living those lives, they just didn’t fit. Part of the problem is that some parts of my job were perfect for me. I was using my skills and talents to create something I was proud of. However, there were also many things that really didn’t fit with my core values and kept me from living parts of my life that were important. I definitely needed to do something different, but simply couldn’t imagine the next step.
If you know my story, you know that my job changed, the parts that I loved were minimized, and it was extremely clear that it was time to leave. Whether I could imagine a different career or not, I couldn't stay. Since then, I’ve been imagining a new life bit by bit. It’s not all that I hope for yet, but I’m building it one piece at a time. I still have gaps where I’m not even sure what to imagine in those spaces, but for now, I’m thoroughly envisioning what I know I want and waiting for the rest to take shape.
“True change takes place in the imagination.” Thomas Moore
So many people are limited by their imagination. Because they don’t believe they can change, they can’t envision it. They imagine things being better, but they don’t know what better means. Some of that is simply a limit of experience. If you live in poverty, it’s hard to imagine how a middle-class life feels. If you grew up experiencing trauma, it’s hard to imagine what it would feel like to have that be a part of who you are. If you’ve always had an allergy or illness, you don’t know what life is like without it.
The answer to this is to go seek out other people’s stories. Read books, watch videos, and find people to talk to. Connect with people who have healed from the same type of illness or trauma you have. Talk to others who have left their belief systems or broken away from their family of origin. Find others who had a similar job as you but who recreated themselves in a new career. They have been where you are now and can help you imagine how your life could be different. Use their experience to help you believe that you can change.
Once you believe your life can be different, then sit down and start imagining what you want for your future. I recommend you take ten minutes a day, sit down, and simply imagine what you want to create. Use all your senses and try on different dreams. What fits? What doesn’t? What makes sense? Where do you still need help filling in the gaps?
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” William Arthur Ward
Once you’ve imagined a better life for yourself. Once you can see and feel yourself in it, you’ve taken the first big step toward a new future, then you can start to create it.
The first step in the creation phase is to start making your imaginings concrete. Create a vision board. Write some affirmations about the future you want. Start to talk about it with friends and family. Choose small things you can do to step toward the future you imagine (I think that cleaning out your stuff can be an excellent way to begin your transformation). You don’t have to quit your job today or make a dozen appointments with specialists. Find small ways to start pulling your ideas down into the physical world. As you do this, you will see the next step to take.
Sit down today and start to imagine a better future for yourself. If you believe it is possible, you can transform your life and create that reality. Isn't that exciting?