Very hot shoes and ambitious women surrounded me. Despite my persistently itchy derrière caused by my choice of hosiery that day, I sat in rapt attention. The mistress of ceremonies, Marie Forleo, held forth from stage at Donna Karan’s sacredly luxurious Urban Zen center.
Marie gave us an assignment for that night: write a “painted picture” of what you’d like your life to be like 3 years in the future from this exact date.
Who are you spending your time with?
Where do you live?
What are you doing during the day?
How much are you making?
What are you working on?
How do you feel in your body?
What are your relationships like?
Like me, you’ve probably done exercises like this one before. Notice if you just checked out because you decided you “know this already.” Stay engaged. When we approach life as though everything is new we get a heck of a lot more out of it.
What I love about this version of visioning and what made it different for me is that a 3 year time window seems just far enough out to allow myself to think a little bigger and dream more than I would with a 6 month or 1 year time window. But, a 3 year window isn’t so long that I can’t imagine what I could possibly be doing in my life that far out.
(If you’re a read-the-instructions type of person, you can dive into Chapter 1 of Cameron Herold’s book Double Double where Marie got the inspiration for this exercise here – it’s free!)
You can create visions of all the fabulous things you’d like to do, be, and have in your life until the cows come home. You can make stuff up, think about what your best friend might like her life to be like, imagine what Oprah might like in her life, and think about what kind of a life would make you look really good. You can think about what you could create to prove something to your former boss who told you you don’t have what it takes or your mother who warned you not to get too high on your horse when you shared your dreams with her.
Or you could create your “painted picture” by listening to your soul. Sounds really easy when I write it like that, doesn’t it? “How do I listen to my soul?,” you might ask. She doesn’t have a phone number but you DO have her direct line.
When you sit down and create your “painted picture”, which I highly recommend you do, just start writing. If you like a little ritual to invite “her” in, light a candle, take an Epsom salt bath, and put on some beautiful music (or dirty hip hop if you want – your soul might really like to shake it – mine does). It might take a few minutes to get into the flow, but if you let your pen touch the paper and commit to not picking it up, she’ll feel welcome.
Feel free to invite her in verbally: “Hey soul! Come on down! I’ve got this exercise I want to get your opinion on!”
Or you can invite her with your silent reverence to a voice wiser than the chatter that usually takes up all the bandwidth in your consciousness.
Refer to the questions I wrote above, refer to the Double Double chapter, or simply write and refer to nothing at all. Here’s what’s great: there’s no “right” way to listen to your soul.
Now here’s the part that’s really important. When you’re done, choose someone who loves you dearly and supports you no matter what to read it aloud to. (If you don’t have this kind of person in your life, feel free to read it aloud and be your own witness, just so long as you can do that with loving kindness.)
Marie suggests sharing your “painted picture” with your business partners and team and anyone else who’s a key player in your life.
I decided to read my “painted picture” to my man. I hadn’t written it intending to read it to anyone and I hadn’t re-read it since writing it. Naturally, I felt a little shaky and vulnerable as I opened my RHH Live notebook and began. About a paragraph in, tears welled up in my eyes. At the bottom of page one I had to take a break and breathe deep because my words got so caught in my throat that no sound was coming out of my mouth.
When your truth is present in a profound way, your body will tell you. Some people get chills, some people feel it in their gut, and some people, like me, cry.
Mike listened to my whole “painted picture”, waiting patiently as I paused and cried and blew my nose. When I finished he smiled, gave me a tender kiss, and said, “Sounds good.”
Your vision for your life has to send sparkles up your spine, make you want to drop to your knees in rapture, or at least burn the back of your eyes with some liquid truth tears. If your “painted picture” doesn’t get you so jazzed that you have a physical reaction, go back to the drawing board.
If you’re not so practiced at listening to your soul, this may take you a bit more time. But the time put in is so worth it. Why bother organizing your life to move toward a future that doesn’t make your cells jump for joy in anticipation?
When you get clear on where you’re going, then you can go about getting there. Breaking down your “painted picture” into projects, choosing which projects to work on each year, and laying out tasks to assign to yourself and your team is really the easy part.
But there’s no sense in steering your ship in the direction of a future that doesn’t profoundly pull you from the depths of your being. Sound dramatic? It is. This is that important.
Don’t create your life to make your mother, father, boss, husband, or dog happy. Don’t create your life so that you’ll look good.
Call it God, your soul, your inner guide, your higher power, your deepest knowing, or Yahooti. It doesn’t matter what you call it or that you call it anything at all.
What does matter is that you live from that place of your deepest truth. Because when you do, you’ll always be in the right place right now, and you’ll always be headed in the right direction too.