One of the mechanisms the mind uses to sort through the enormous amounts of data that flow in daily, and keep it manageable is called “preparatory set.” It helps your brain to focus on items deemed important. You can “program” that mechanism by writing down the things you want to accomplish and making them clear. Once programmed, it directs your attention to certain events and occurrences. To illustrate: when you decide you want a certain car, you see them everywhere, you notice each one on the freeway, you see every ad or commercial. The preparatory set works that way. Once you program it with your goals (visualizing in addition to writing is most effective) you will automatically be more aware of certain events, opportunities and people who can be helpful. You’ll also be more clear about what you want, and this will sneak into your conversation and your general attitude, where others can pick up on it. It’s not really magic, unless you believe as I do, that the mind is a miracle in itself.
For example, to make it easy to include easy exercise in your life, write down your goal (I will walk an extra half hour a day) and picture yourself walking and enjoying it: perhaps you picture parking a few blocks away (where it’s cheaper) and walk the rest of the way, or get off the bus or subway one stop early, or walk to that nearby restaurant for lunch, or take the stairs instead of the elevator when you can, or take a sandwich to a nearby park, or take the dog for a bit longer walk than usual before and after work. If you picture yourself walking and enjoying it, you’ll soon find that you’re noticing new and different ways you can walk more without stressing about it.
As soon as you have a goal, you can actually make a “road map” for yourself.
Creating a visual representation of what you want to achieve can do several things: First, the process of creating it will force you to be more specific and clear about what you want. Second, taking the time and energy to create it is a powerful signal to yourself that you are serious about accomplishing it. It sets an intention. Third, if you keep it where you can see it, it will be a powerful reminder of your intentions for your own life.
Your visual road map consists of two parts: 1) a picture of your destination, and 2) your map of how to get there.
Road Map Exercise 1: Picturing Your Destination
This is a visual representation of your ideal life, and you will use it for the next several years to remind and motivate yourself, so treat it as the important project it is. When you look at your finished picture, you should be able to see each of your goals clearly represented.
1. Collect the materials necessary to make a collage you can write on: a large piece of paper and colored markers, pens, paints, pastels or other art materials; several magazines full of pictures and advertisements that you can cut out, paste or a glue stick, and several photos of you and others in your life. If you enjoy drawing, you may want to dispense with the magazine pictures and draw your own. If you’re a computer whiz, computer art may be the way you do this. You can also add solid objects, pieces of cloth or jewelry, tokens and keepsakes that are meaningful to you. Keep in mind that colorful, graphic pictures are powerful subconscious stimulants, and the point of this exercise is to help to focus your subconscious on your goals and dreams.
2. Divide your paper into sections representing your personal life, your business or career, your family life, your friends and your free time.
3. Title each section, and think about what, if you designed your own life, you would want to create in that section.
4. Begin with the personal life section, and think about what activities represent the private, personal part of your life-including the images that symbolize you. Begin with a picture of you as you are, or as you would like to be (in a graduation gown, wedding clothing, thinner, successful, you can paste a small picture of your head or face on a magazine picture if you wish). Are there hobbies or talents that are important to you? What kinds of images make you feel good about yourself? What symbols would you use to represent yourself? What do you want to use to represent your physical health? Your happiness? Your determination? Choose one or two images to represent the various ways you identify yourself: Hobbies, spirituality, relaxing, exercising, working, parenting, having fun.
5. Now, look for pictures of concrete items or goals that would complete the personal section of your road map, such as the following: Your home, car, clothing, travel, pets, personal growth goals and any other significant factors representing your personal life.
6. Arrange these pictures in the personal section of your collage in a way that suits you, or draw representations of the items that are important to you. Be sure your chosen picture of yourself is front and center of this personal section. Arrange and rearrange and adjust your collection of pictures until the final result pleases you.
7. Now complete the other sections of your results picture in a similar fashion. Each section will probably include some elements repeated from the personal section because you will personally be involved in each category. Use an image of your idealized self prominently in each section; either create a different version of your idealized self for each section, or use black-and-white or color photocopies of your original in each section.
When you have arranged your picture, stand back and take a look to see if it reflects your ideal life. If not, play with it some more. If it is, paste things down or save them, and place the collage where you can look at it often. This picture only needs to represent your future as you presently think it should be; you can alter your picture, add to it or make a new one as your goals grow and change.
Road Map Exercise 2: Making Your Road Map
Once you put the necessary time and energy into picturing your destination, you’ll find that by focusing on specifics and details you have clarified your picture. Most people who have done this process in workshops and classes report that they feel very motivated, much clearer and energized by their vision. Take that energy and use it now to create your road map; a plan of action to get you to your destination.
1. Use a separate piece of paper or artboard, and entitle the left side of the roadmap “Where I am Now.” Place sufficient symbols, words or numbers to indicate where you are now in all the areas outlined on your destination picture.
2. Entitle the right side of the paper or artboard “My Destination” and arrange similar symbols, words or numbers to indicate where you will be when you reach your goals.
3. Divide the space in between into columns, and in those columns, develop the steps you’ll need to accomplish to get from where you are now to your destination. For example: In the work area, the steps might be 1) graduate from school, 2) do a job search 3) develop career skills, experience and expertise, and 4) move up in your career. (Each of these steps can be broken down into smaller steps, as you approach that segment of the Roadmap and need to accomplish specific goals).
Use Your Roadmap Daily
After completing your destination picture and road map, use them daily to remain focused on your goals and maintain your motivation. Keep them where you can review them frequently, and change and update them as needed. You’ll find that having a clear picture of your goals and aspirations in front of you will make it much easier to reach them.
All your decisions from now on can be made in relation to your road map. If you consider each of your subsequent decisions according to whether it will get you closer to your goal or not, your choices will become clearer and more direct.
Using your destination picture and road map to set your priorities and to keep you focused will help you keep all the important areas of your life balanced and will help shape your future. Knowing where you want to go and how to get there will minimize your tendencies to worry, and reduce your indecisiveness and confusion.
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (www.tinatessina.com) is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 40 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 15 books in 17 languages, including Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today; It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, The Real 13th Step, How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together and How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog (drromance.typepad.com), and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” and offers courses at GenerousMarriage.com. Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts. She tweets @tinatessina