“You are not too old and it is not too late.” ~Unknown
In less than a month, I’ll be hitting a major “milestone” birthday. Six months ago I quit my job as a full-time employee, ending my twenty-plus-year-long career in education. I have been thinking about the future of my life and how I would like it to be. A drawing exercise from a couple years back influenced my willingness to make significant life changes.
Entering my mid-forties, I had come to a point where something just felt “off.” I wasn’t sleeping well, often waking at 3am with anxiety about real or imagined catastrophes. My temper was short and I felt stressed a lot. I was gaining weight and my health wasn’t in the top-notch condition the way it had always been. I felt directionless and unmotivated, but wasn’t sure what I would rather be doing.
I recalled a TED talk I had seen in which Patti Dobrowolski discussed the power of “drawing your future.” While the concept seemed a little silly to me at first, I decided to give it a go one evening while journaling.
The end result is a poorly drawn stick figure of myself in lotus position (which I can’t actually do) and a few notes in the margins. I wanted to describe and draw myself in nine years. What kind of “older woman” did I want to be? Was there anything I did? Did I overcome any of the current problems?
Because she doesn’t feel the need to get younger, my stick figure was drawn with salt-and-pepper locks. Instead, she proudly displays her silvers to show her appreciation.
She is a vegetarian…maybe even vegan. She practices yoga and meditation daily…possibly is a yoga instructor. She drinks very little alcohol, if at all, Her own company is successful and she has an excellent nest egg to retire from.
Most important, she’s at peace with who and what her place is in this world.
The fifty-five year-old figure of a stick figure seemed so different from me, the forty-six year-old who had drawn her.
My hair was being colored for eight more weeks than I had budgeted. I used to be an omnivore, but I found eating meat more disgusting than I realized. While I occasionally did yoga, it was not a regular practice and I rarely meditated. While I never identified as an “alcoholic,” my drinking went far beyond the recommended single four-ounce glass of wine per day. I did not own my own business, but rather was in a job that wasn’t going anywhere.
Here’s what I found amazing. After drawing this picture, I had stopped eating meat for several weeks. In just three months I was done with dairy and eggs. Six months later I had dyed my hair the final time. Every morning, I try to do at most a couple of sun salutations. Most recently, I stopped drinking alcohol and said “good-bye” to that dead-end job.
I realized that there was a fulfilling and exciting future ahead of me and it gave me the courage to take these steps.
I still haven’t accomplished everything that stick figure has. My nest egg is growing, but I still have a way to go before I consider myself comfortably “financially independent.” I don’t yet own my own business, and I’m still working on trying to meditate more regularly. But having this vision of the future has helped me to set manageable goals about what’s important to me.
All of it was hard work. This has meant a lot of research, education, new recipes and a lot of learning.
I’m blown away by how inspiring that little stick figure has been and how the simple exercise of drawing my future helped me to get clarity about what I want out of life.
According to research, the chances of someone making positive changes in their lives are nine-to-1. If you want to beat those odds, according to Dobrowolski, you need to see your ideal future, believe it’s possible, and then ask and train your brain to help you bring it to life.
That’s why a picture can be so powerful. We draw with our imaginations and creativity. Drawing allows us to escape our inner critic, which can often run the show and try to protect us from harm.
Once we have our picture, we’re able to close our eyes and connect the dots from the present to the future, factoring in all our life experiences and imagining the steps that would help us get from A to B.
If you’re struggling to picture your next steps in life, consider watching Dobrowolski’s video. She encourages you to first draw your current state—with complete honesty— and your desired new reality. You can add color to your vision to make it stand out. It should be something that grabs you and makes you happy. Then, you can outline what steps will be taken to create your dream reality. The clarity you get may surprise your friends! Draw the “you” you want to be.
Elizabeth Ross Hubbell
Elizabeth Ross Hubbell was an instructional designer and writer. She also taught K12 classes. Her co-editor is “Thriving in Higher Education as a Woman Leader in Higher Ed,” (2021), and she co-authored “Instructional Models: How To Choose One, How You Use One” (192019). Her freelance writing focuses on the topics of nutrition and health.
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Want to Change Your Life and Live a Better Life? Draw the “You” You Want to Be appeared first on Tiny Buddha.