Think about your life for a moment. What excites you? What motivates you? What makes you happy?
This is your passion. For some, this is easy to identify. Maybe you really love fishing, painting, cooking or volunteering. Maybe you love spending time with friends and family. Maybe you love gardening, building, learning new things, skiing or hiking.
For others, they need to really think deeply about what they find most enjoyable. Perhaps it has been a long while since you did something that was exciting to you. Maybe you’ve been too busy with work, school or raising a family. Maybe there has been a lot of stress, financial worry or family obligations that have prevented you from really feeling like your full self.
I want you to now take a moment for yourself. Grab a notebook, piece of paper, phone, tablet, laptop or anything you can write on. You’re about to undergo an exercise in reflection and it’s important to get these ideas in writing. You will refer to them time and again, I promise you.
Start by finding a quiet place wherever you are. Far from television, conversations and distractions; where you can take a moment to relax. It’s often hard to think deeply unless you have a chance to wind down first. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing.
Breathe slowly and deeply to bring yourself to a sense of calm. Push out all of the negative self-talk, thoughts and worries.
Forget about what’s happening right now outside of where you are, stay in the moment with your thoughts. Continue to focus on breathing and clearing your thoughts. Do this for at least 1-2 minutes. Once you feel that your mind is clear, you are ready to begin. Draw a table with three columns. Write the headings: “Past”, “Present” and “Future”.
Reflecting On The Past
Take a moment to really think back on your life. If you’ve been stressed by recent or past events, think before that. Think back to your childhood, teen years, early adulthood, mid-life or even last year. Think back to a time when you were at your happiest. When you felt fulfilled, satisfied and truly alive. What was it about that time in your life that made you feel that way?
Starting in the “Past” column, write down everything from that happy time in your life that you can remember. This includes what you were doing, what kind of relationships you had, how you viewed the world, what stage in life you were at, what feelings you were feeling, what brought you joy, hope, excitement and laughter. Feel free to think about other happy moments from your past as well.
Next, review your list. Put checkmarks beside the items that you really enjoyed. Maybe your list includes things like taking a trip, getting married, sitting around a campfire, spending time with a friend or learning how to dance, for example. These represent the memories that you cherish and feel most positively about.
Your Life Today
Now come back into the present. Think about your current life stage. Where are you at in your life right now? Moving to the “Present” column on your chart, write down everything from this current time in your life just as you did for the past. What do you do for a living, what kind of relationships do you have, how do you view the world, what stage in life are you at, what feelings are you feeling, what brings you joy, hope, excitement and laughter? Write these down and then put checkmarks again beside those items that bring you the most happiness.
Now go back to your list from the “Past” column and review the items with the checkmarks. Considering your current life stage including your career, finances, health, thoughts and relationships, which of these items from the past do you feel you have some ability to bring back into your life? Circle them. Regardless of whether you feel these would be very easy to incorporate into your present life, or downright difficult to near impossible, I still want you to circle them if there is some small, minute chance you could give it a shot.
Now that you have a sense of what has brought you happiness in the past and present, I want you to think about the future. Sure, there are things we have done in the past that we enjoyed, but chances are there is a whole new world of ideas, skills, experiences, thoughts, feelings and achievements that you have yet to explore.
These, my friend, are stones yet unturned, mountains yet climbed and ideas yet to be thought of. Now is your time to spend on these ideas.
Planning For Your Future
Moving into the “Future” column, think about some patterns you are seeing from the other two columns. Do you really like drawing and painting? Maybe you would like to try sculpting. Do you like to go fishing and boating? Maybe you want to explore a new lake or river. Do you like playing soccer or softball? Maybe you might like to try coaching. Do you like to spend time with your grandparents? Maybe you would like to find more time to visit them. Or perhaps it is something that would make you feel better about yourself such as a change of lifestyle, kicking an unhealthy habit or becoming more self-aware. What is it that you already know you enjoy, or that you can improve upon or add to? What about something that you’re not sure you would like such as learning how to salsa or trying out kickboxing?
If you truly feel inside that you want to give something a try, write it down. There’s something in you that’s enticing you to do it.
Summary & Next Steps
Great. Now you have three completed columns with items from the past and present, and possibilities for the future. Your next step is to choose which items you want to turn into goals. For this, we will move onto the next article which talks about setting goals.