A few years ago, I was in a bit of a career slump (in much the same that way that The Grand Canyon is “a bit of a hole”). After doing the same job for 15 years I was bored, burned out and ready to quit. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I just knew I didn’t want to be doing the same thing for another 15 years. Or 15 minutes, if I could help it.
So I arranged a meeting with a friend who runs a company specialising in personal development training. That’s actually how we met—she ran a few of her courses at work, and I enrolled in every one of them. (It was a lot more fun than sitting in front of a computer screen all day.)
What I was hoping for was a job. She once said I’d be a great presenter, and so I was hoping she’d take me on to present… well, anything really. (“Hello, and welcome to ‘Ten ways to look busy at work’.”)
She didn’t give me a job, and rightly so. But she gave me some great advice (as all good friends do), and one small task that’s had a huge impact on my life. And I haven’t even finished it yet.
She asked me to imagine myself in five years time, living my perfect life. I had to forget about what was possible, or even logical, and just imagine the life that’s perfect for me—great job, great friends, perfect location, fantastic relationship, the works.
She then wanted a letter, but not from me. Well, at least not from me right now. Instead, she wanted a letter from me in five years time, when I’m living this perfect life. And in that letter I’d be telling her how wonderful everything is, and how everything turned out just as I’d imagined it would. I guess you’d call this “positive reinforcement”, a way of making it all seem more real.
Finally, I had to look at each facet of my new, “perfect” life, and work out how I’d get there. How would I get that job? How would I be able to afford that house? How much would it cost to hire all those friends (and would it be tax-deductible?)
I never wrote that letter for her, which I’m a little ashamed about. And while I’ve imagined my perfect life a few times, writing it down feels like trying to nail down a shadow. Just when I think I’ve captured it, it shifts and changes form.
But in the past few months the image of my perfect life has become a lot clearer, not to mention brighter. Not only can I see it, I can almost reach out and touch it.
I think I’m ready to write that letter now.