To discover your true aspirations, tap into your brainʼs creative side.
As highly social beings, we tend to look with obsessiveness and envy at other peopleʼs lives—in part to gauge how well weʼre doing in our own. That may be why so many of us refresh our social media feeds with the compulsive, joyless regularity of lab rats releasing reward pellets.
Comparing ourselves to the rich and famous, or even the highly curated self presentations of our peers on social media, can give us a warped idea of what a successful life looks like.
Instead, try to “vision board” your interests and ideals
When it comes to examining my own life and setting aspirations for myself, I find image-collecting websites and apps a far more benign attention-sponge. I recently created a virtual image catalog of how my ideal life would look and feel. Images activate what scientists call our “right brain”—the emotional, intuitive, artistic side that controls creativity, imagination and color.
Like most of us, I spend much of the day using my “left brain”—verbalizing thoughts, being analytical and logical. While this rational part of my brain helps me achieve my goals and get what I want, it has no say over why I want what I want, or what my fundamental goals should be in the first place. Our deepest longings are sometimes hard to put into words. What I find so useful about vision boarding is the childlike way it allows your imagination to run wild. I choose images that speak directly to me; they symbolize future possibilities and let my fantasies unwind.
My recent vision board contained a lot of clean white spaces, the Oregon coastline, mugs of steaming coffee, marzipan and a bottle of wine enjoyed among friends. These images were a visual representation of things that are most meaningful to me in my personal life.
Be the strongest flavor of yourself
One way to set meaningful long-term life goals is through images that instinctively speak to you. The language you need to verbalize those desires and the strategies to help you fulfill them will come afterwards.
Try it: An online vision board or an old-fashioned scrapbook can be a surprisingly powerful exercise, stripping you down to your very essence and helping you make concrete those unconscious yearnings for which you cannot find words.
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