My Year of Living Backwards – Name That Goal, Watch It Grow

imageI don’t believe in magical thinking. Movies like The Secret leave me cold. Been there, done that, doesn’t work.

What I do believe in is creating a vision of what our life can be, then working toward it. This is especially important for those of us who are “growing younger.” Failure to create a life vision is like falling asleep in a rowboat: we may wake up somewhere far out to sea, with no inkling of how we got there and no idea where we’re going.

In Everything I Know I Learned at Puppy School, I spoke of my regret at not having a dog before my children were born. The training I received would have been invaluable in childraising. Today I am the proud owner of two dogs. The little one has, ahem, issues. I acquired him when he was just over a year old. This was how he looked to an unsuspecting world:

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This link tells you something about his true character.

I knew I could not carry this huggable little sausage around like a baby. The effect on his character would have been unsavoury to say the least. Instead, I created a vision of the adult male dog I wanted him to become. He remains on the floor, enters doors last, and eats only on command. I’m proud to say that he’s developing into a respectable citizen. He can even be snatched up for a hug now and then, with no deleterious effects on his personality.

It’s the same with children. While it may be hard for parents to see their sweet, cuddly baby as a fully functioning adult, it’s vital they keep that ultimate vision in mind. Imagining the end result will help you raise a child with integrity, courage, and judgement.

The visioning principle that works so well for dogs and children can also be applied to our own lives. Our subconscious is a funny thing. Left to its own devices, it will lie around on the sofa and eat cheese twists. But give it a vision of any kind and it quickly rolls up its sleeves and gets to work. I give the following example in my workshops:

I recently purchased a grey Honda CR-V. Until that moment, my city was populated with random vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Now suddenly, I see CR-Vs on every corner. It’s as though my subconscious is saying to itself, “Clearly, she seems to think grey CR-Vs are important to our survival. So let’s get to work. ‘Look, Susan, there’s one over there. And there’s another one in the McDonald’s parking lot.'”

While our subconscious is brilliant at ensuring our immediate survival, long-range planning does not seem to be its strong suit. Think of it as having a willing but not terribly bright slave. Why let it focus on spotting CR-Vs when you can give it a really important task — such as advancing your career, ensuring that you’re fit and strong, or planning a retirement filled with joyous activities? It’s up to you to provide the vision, one that is specific, realistic, and timed.

Let’s imagine that your dream is to travel. As far as your subconscious is concerned, “travel” might be a 10-kilometre jaunt into the next community. (Not terribly bright, remember.) Tell it instead that you want to go to Iceland within the next five years. Suddenly, it will be avidly scanning flight deals for trips to Iceland. While you sleep, it will stay up all night pondering creative ways to travel for free, such as house swapping or WWOOF’ing. You’ll be in the supermarket lineup reading the latest headlines about Kim Kardashian; your subconscious will be eavesdropping on a conversation between the cashier and a customer. The topic? The safety and cleanliness of Icelandic hostels.

Having a vision, or many, is essential at any age. My daughter understands how foundational are the years between 20 and 30 when building a career. Here is a recent tweet of hers.

Creating a vision is just as important for those of us in our 50s and beyond … perhaps more so, because time moves faster for us. The currents that carry your little boat into dangerously deep waters are far faster and stronger than they once were. Pick up an oar: it’s the best thing you can do for yourself in these years of living backwards.

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Susan Young de Biagi is a regular contributor to PRDN.

“As a trained historian, my twin passions are writing and teaching. In addition to Cibou – my first novel – I have written or co-written three books of non-fiction, and authored a number of digital, educational products.”

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