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I recently found this journal that I bought for myself years ago, when I was in my 20s. My original intention was to keep it in my purse and whenever I had an idea for a song, I’d write it down. It was meant to remind me that inspiration is everywhere and more often than not, I’d find it out in the world — not when I’m sitting in my living room by myself. Hence the need for a journal in my purse about living the life you’ve imagined.
The cover of the journal even says: “Live the life you’ve imagined.” It’s a quote by Henry Thoreau. Lovely and inspiring, right?
But as I thumbed through my old journal, I realized more than half the pages were empty. Untouched. Unimagined.
The question echoed in my head: “Are you living the life you’ve imagined?”
Or is the life imagined sitting in a box somewhere, unwritten and forgotten?
The goal isn’t to stir up feelings of regret or disappointment. It’s not about looking back on our past and noting all things that didn’t happen.
Instead, this is a reminder to reignite the hope we may have forgotten. A reminder that we are the writers of our own narrative. The deciders of our own destiny. The 20-year-old me was wide-open to unlimited possibility. That girl had a lot to learn, but this girl — the me of the present — has quite a lot to learn from her.
The unblemished optimism of youth is inspiring, but now I realize it’s actions that make those dreams happen. For years, I thought dreaming hard enough would will things into existence. I’ve since learned that dreams are useless without taking the initiative to do the work.
So. Are you living the life you imagined?
And then: Do you want to be living that life?
Next up: Do you want it enough to make the changes you need to make in order to live that life?”
When those last two questions are answered with “yes,” then we can say, “OK. What actions will I take to get there from this moment on?”
If we’re real with ourselves about making those adjustments in our lives that will allow us to make a reality out of our dreams, then the imagined life is possible. But it takes more than just imagination to get there. It takes vision, clarity, and action.
DO A QUICK ASSESSMENT.
Ask yourself these 4 questions. Answer them honestly. You don’t have to share your answers with anyone else — this is just for you.
- What did you imagine for your life 10 years ago?
- Are you living the life that 10 years ago you had imagined for yourself? (If not, how is it different?)
- What is the life you imagine for yourself right now?
- How do you imagine yourself in 5 years? (What are you doing, but also how does that make you FEEL? Is the future you peaceful, strong, energetic, joyful, rested, super fit, etc?)
As I did this assessment with myself, I realized I’m not living the exact life I imagined. I pictured a different career path, and I expected to be at a different place by this point in my life. Some things that I imagined I did actually get, but some are different than I thought they’d be. (For example, I expected to be a parent by now, and I am indeed, but it has come with many more personal challenges than I ever imagined.)
But it’s OKAY that life is different than expected. The 18-year-old me didn’t know what the 38-year-old me knows. 18 was very optimistic and hopeful and I like that about her, but 38 realizes that if 18 had gotten all her wishes, 38 wouldn’t be very happy.
YOU DID THE ASSESSMENT. NOW WHAT?
The first step of change is becoming aware that something needs changing. So here we are. Already doing it.
Now we take that knowledge, and move ourselves closer to that life we want, starting with these 3 steps:
1. Choose it.
Acknowledge your control over your own being. No, we don’t have control over everything that happens to us. We don’t have control over what others do or say. Or the weather. We don’t control that either. But we do have control over our mindset, how we respond and react, and where we put our energy. That’s control over an awful lot. (Tell yourself this often.)
2. Map it out.
Break it down into smaller pieces. Look at the way you want to be living in 5 years, and focus on the feeling. What are the things you will do that are going to lead you to that feeling? What things do you do now that make you feel that way? Name the one major evolution you will make: is it a lifestyle shift, a job or career change, a new hobby, a relationship change? Write it all down. When you follow a map to get to a destination, it’s very rarely only in your head. (And if you want some more guidance on mapping it out, read this post.)
3. Act on it.
Pick one task to implement. I envisioned a blog for a long time. I wanted to write, to connect with other women like me, and inspire creativity and self-worth. But I was scared. So I kept it in my pocket as that thing I was going to do… one day. I didn’t start it because if I didn’t start, then I wouldn’t fail. I kept it on the radar, but I didn’t talk about it too much, for fear that people I loved would start asking me about it, and I’d have to admit I still hadn’t started. It’s still overwhelming sometimes. But I made the choice, I realized that writing was living my most authentic life, and I wrote the first post.
Live the life you imagine, but stop thinking of it as a dream or a fantasy. It is a goal you will reach.
A BONUS TIP:
Change the way you speak about your imagined life. Instead of talking about it like it’s that dream for the future, talk about it like it’s a dinner party you have planned. You plan out the menu, you make the grocery list, and you know you need to make a dinner music playlist after you send out the e-vites. (Unless you are me and you just order take-out and serve it buffet-style from the kitchen counter to whoever responds to your group text invite.)
Either way: It is factual and happening. Nothing fantasy-like about it (unless it’s a Lord of the Rings themed party.)
Give yourself a daily reminder of the facts with a bracelet like this one (or even just writing it out on a piece of paper and posting it where you see it daily.)
As for me and my journal… I decided to put it to new use. I now have it at my desk to jot down ideas I think of for articles and blog posts. This is part of my “imagined” life. In fact, the idea for this post was jotted down in that very journal.
What next? Get your own journal and start making your action plan for the life you imagine. I couldn’t find one exactly like my original, but here’s a super cute journal with the same quote:
You’re already taking a step in the right direction. Go you!