Get fit. Get organized. Make money. Connect with family. Lose weight. Find a dream job. Get a life.
Do these goals sound vaguely familiar? Most of us have had one or more of these old-faithful New Year’s resolutions on our list of things to do for several years running. Maybe for so many years running that they’re starting to sound just a little bit dull and worn out.
One reason New Year’s resolutions are failure-prone is that most of us don’t spend enough creative time or energy on the front end of goal setting. We identify a goal – often a fairly generic goal – and then jump into the trying and doing. But without a clear picture of your heart’s desire focused squarely in your mind’s eye, it’s hard to generate much life-energy toward achieving your goals. In our heads, we may think we know what we want, but the most powerful parts of our mind and heart aren’t really on board – in part because we haven’t spent the time or effort to get them there.
Carl Gustav Jung maintained that the realm of feeling, desire and intuition communicates primarily through a visual language. Like dreams and art, this visual vocabulary is the domain of the intuitive right brain, and according to Dr. Lucia Cappacione, an art therapist and author of Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams, it plays an essential role in goal setting. By appealing to the wisdom of the visual, artistic right brain, she says, we can gain direct access to our heart’s desires – the key to authentic motivation. Then, by employing journaling, list making and other methods of articulating our goals, we can bring the process back once again into the logical, analytical left brain, which helps us define an effective, sequential course of action.
Infusing your goal setting with creativity also tends to pay off in synchronicity, which Jung defined as “a phenomenon where an event in the outside world coincides meaningfully with a psychological state of mind.” In other words, you may notice that the clearer you are about your goals, the clearer, more abundant and more frequent helpful signs will become.
Whether you are visual or verbal, try out some of these methods and see how they fit your personality and the nature of your dreams.
Seeing is Believing
Cappachione’s “visioning” process, based on the same process designers use when bringing an idea to fruition, coaxes dreams out where they can be cultivated, shaped and held until they are reality.
Collage making is the primary task of the visioning process. You’ll just need scissors, glue, a bunch of old magazines and your instincts in order to experience what Cappachione calls “Zen and the art of cut and paste.”
- First, ask yourself, “What do I want?” Your answer is your “focus phrase” around which your collage will center.
- Cut pictures and phrases from magazines, catalogs and other visual sources for an image bank. Practicality is not an issue; the only rule is to collect the words and images that reflect your wish. Go with your gut.
- Once you have a nice stash of raw material, examine each image or phrase. If it relates to your theme, keep it. If not, set it aside.
- Build the visible expression of your wish. Begin to compose your collage’s design, assembling the pieces from the “keep” pile. Lay the pictures and words out on a big piece of paper, then rearrange them at whim, seeing how they relate to and support each other. There is no “right” way, only your way.
- Commit to your goal by gluing down your chosen images and words in the arrangement that best reflects your vision.
- Reflect on your collage’s meaning, deciphering the symbols that may have not been clear in the chaos of creation. First, just quietly contemplate the finished collage. Next, use journal-writing exercises to help draw out and explore deeper meaning.
- Look at the completed collage daily, using it as a sort of visual affirmation of your intent. The images will be reinforced in the imagination and memory centers of your visual right brain, according to Cappachione, and as they take hold in your mind, they will also begin to manifest themselves in your daily life.
Reap What You Write
Dr. Henriette Anne Klauser’s Write it Down, Make it Happen: Knowing What You Want and Getting It! is another manual for becoming a dream-come-true synchronicity magnet. The author’s techniques are varied, but they are based on a single, simple imperative: Write it down.
Like Cappachione, Klauser insists that the process of naming your dream by committing it to paper often results in a mysterious, meaningful convergence of events. Klauser compares writing down your dreams to hanging up a sign that says, “Open for Business.” Putting it on paper, she says, stimulates the reticular activating system (the cluster of cells at the base of the brain stem responsible for sorting out noise and sending the important messages to your active brain) and gives it the message to stay on the alert for serendipitous connections and opportunities.
It doesn’t matter what you write on – a beautiful leather-bound journal, an index card or a cocktail napkin work equally well. What does matter is the intent. Mean what you write, and write what you mean.
The first step is simply to make a list of your goals and dreams. At this point, money is no object; time is no object. Just list them fast and furiously, and if you start dismissing one notion as impossible, ridiculous or grandiose, Klauser suggests putting a star by it: That’s a “live one!”
Not sure what you want, let alone how to get there from here? Let your writing help point you to the path you were meant to follow. Klauser provides the following alchemical exercises to pull your dreams out of the dark:
- Set your alarm 15 minutes early for a warm-up writing stretch. Start writing as soon as you wake up; bring the pad and pen right into bed with you. Write whatever comes into your groggy mind, even if it’s “I want to go back to sleep.” After you get your kvetching out on paper, keep the pen moving – that’s when the useful information starts to flow. Try this for two weeks without rereading what you wrote. At the end of two weeks, read your entries and look for patterns.
- Write down three questions or quandaries about your life on separate pieces of paper and seal them in randomly numbered envelopes. Over a period of the next few days or weeks, find an opportunity to meditate or sit quietly for a few minutes. Once your mind is clear, open your eyes and write a quick story about the first thing that catches your eye. After you have written the story, open one of the envelopes and see what question you have answered. Through your writing, your subconscious will let you know what it is that you really want.
The Devil’s in the Details
Another reason it’s important to give goal setting a bit more energy than whipping off your New Year’s resolutions at 11:59 p.m. on December 31 is that there is a big difference between wanting a thing and being ready to get it. Sometimes goals need a little preparation.
One way to get there is to be extremely specific. Writing down in great detail what your goal’s outcome would look like, and even the outcome of the outcome, is a way of saying you believe it is attainable, which leads to being ready to receive it.
Write an over-the-top description of your goal’s attainment. Visualize the details of what the particulars of your daily life will look like when your goal is realized. Keep your writing in the present tense: “I am savoring a café au lait at a sidewalk café after closing on my Parisian apartment”; “I just bought a slinky little black dress to celebrate losing 60 pounds.”
Pretend you are sending someone to the store to find your dream for you. Make a list of details; be specific. If it’s a new job you’re after, name your salary, hours and benefits. Describe your boss and coworkers.
To keep track of the synchronous events as well as all the insights and ideas your brain starts to have, Klauser advises crafting a “suggestion box” for your brain. Coming up with a system of recording and reviewing the milestones and miracles along the road to your goal’s achievement is a tangible way to stay connected to your dreams.
Always carry a pen and a little memo book, index cards or some other portable pages. Make it a ritual to stop what you are doing and write down ideas when they hit you; note synchronicity when it happens. This simple action honors your intention. It trains you to pay attention, pushing you toward the possible.
Next, devise a system for managing your notes – review and file your cards, transfer your insights to your journal at the end of the day and ruminate on them a bit. Klauser claims that these “tidbit journals” prompt your brain to give you ways to move your goal along. Use them to keep a record of confidence-boosting compliments you receive (which tend to silence your inner critic), and other signs and signals that you are on the right path. Once your goal is clearly articulated, take some small action toward realizing that dream. Once you have accomplished that task, let its success be the foundation for another.
Regardless of what creative avenues you choose to explore in the goal-setting process, one very healthy and helpful step is to be grateful for what you already have. Gratitude is magnetic: It tends to attract more windfalls and satisfactions. So, whenever you achieve your goals, small or large, be sure to express thanks for those successes and for those who helped you get there. Lastly, extend a helping hand to someone who is working toward an inspiring goal of his or her own. Hone and share your dream-crafting skills at every opportunity. Then get ready to watch more dreams come true.
Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams by Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D., A.T.R. (J. P. Tarcher, 2000)
Write It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want – and Getting It! by Henriette Anne Klauser, Ph.D. (Scribner, 2000)
Wishcraft by Barbara Sher (Ballantine Books, 1986)