Thinking about 2021 and dreaming big. What do you want?
Because of Covid, life as we know it is unlikely to ever feel the same again, or certainly not for a long time. But please don’t fret about it; you can’t change it, so it is far easier for your own wellbeing to simply accept it. It sounds easy I know but wasting time and emotional energy on something you can’t do anything about is using energy which would be better spent elsewhere.
So, let’s use that energy to achieve something positive and that applies to the people who I know follow me and read my blogs every week and are battling with medical conditions, a couple of which are terminal. We can still plan for a positive future, set goals, and have things to look forward to even if we only have a finite amount of time left to do that in.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” …
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” …
“The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”
These are just a few of the sayings I like to keep in my head, especially when stuff goes wrong.
So, let’s start with things we can change and the biggest of these is our mindset. And before you groan collectively, being positive or finding a way to take a negative and turn it into a positive is crucial to being and living a happy life.
A couple of years ago I became closely involved with the St. Catherine’s Hospice organisers. I visited their main site, met with the staff and spent a lot of time talking about the people they looked after at the end of their lives. One thing which really stuck with me was being told that right from birth our lives are planned for. We seek medical advice during pregnancy; we are surrounded by medical support throughout the birthing process; we have health workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends around us helping us to achieve our goals every day. So why don’t we plan for a good death? The Grayson Perry series on TV last year about planning a good death was fantastic and completely supported what I had learned through the hospice. So, to those of you facing the end it doesn’t have to be a bad one. It can be beautiful with people, pets, flowers, or any other items which make you happy. But it will only happen if you start thinking about it and planning it now.
I am not asking you to do what many positive thinkers will ask of you which is to plan aims and goals for the next three, five or ten years. Apart from being totally overwhelming, I can imagine that you would still be in the same mindset then as you are today, so let’s keep this simple and just think about the coming year and not get overwhelmed as you may well lose sight of other beautiful possibilities. It is my hope for you that through this process you will be creating a “doable” vision of your immediate future. So, let’s plan just for 2021 to be a great year and accept that not all our dreams and desires will come true but unexpected wonders arise when we are looking the other way.
The very first thing I would like you to do is write yourself a letter. In that letter I want you to think big. Write about all the amazingly wonderful things which could happen to you in the next year. One of my big dreams which makes it into my annual letter to myself is to have a piece of my artwork hanging in a palace owned by a member of the royal family. It is my ultimate dream that I refuse to let go of and one day I am sure it will happen.
However, your ultimate dream is very likely to be something very different. Maybe you simply want to sell your work; take an award-winning photo or do something for someone in your life which will make them happy. Whatever your big dream goal is, write it down. Then write down your achievable aspirations. Those could be having your first exhibition; producing your work larger or smaller; taking a class with an artist you admire; or changing to and perfecting a new medium. These may feel scary, but they are doable. And, frankly, if you don’t do at least one thing a year that scares you then you are missing out. I can honestly say I have done something huge and terrifying every year for the past decade and I haven’t died; the world hasn’t stopped spinning; and, best of all, I have learned loads.
Having worked out what you want to happen you need to think about what to do in the event that it doesn’t. So, you want to take part in an exhibition in March? Doable, but Covid could knock that on the head. So, you have a choice, do you prepare for it going ahead or should you just wait and see what the world throws at us? I would say prepare for it. The March exhibition may not happen, but you could find an even better one in April and you won’t have a last-minute panic to get ready. Equally, you could be offered an online exhibition and all the planning for the real one can be simply adapted. So, make plans but be ready with solutions if things don’t work out exactly as you expect. What are you going to do in such circumstances? Well, you are not going to panic. If something doesn’t work out, take a look at why it went wrong, figure out what you could have done to make it better and then take the next thing on your list and make sure those lessons learned don’t make the next task go wrong.
Then don’t beat yourself up but do something to make yourself feel happy. We are always going to hit obstacles, but it is important to learn from them. Once you have recognised all that, reward yourself for your positivity. I normally buy myself flowers, but for you it could be an afternoon watching weepy movies, or Formula 1 motor racing or simply an early night.
When everything does go right, remember to congratulate yourself. I have one friend who planned that when she sold her first painting for £500, she would buy herself a bespoke outfit made by a tailor. She did and she looks amazing in it. Even better, she didn’t sell one painting for £500; she sold three. She planned for success and she celebrated it when it arrived.
Dreaming big is about having no limits to the possibilities. Quite often if you take a walk on your own or sit and contemplate, that is when big dream ideas will appear. Write them down before you forget them, and they disappear. I have a friend who keeps ‘spider’ diagrams in her studio. She has her name in the centre of a piece of large paper and she writes things she wants to happen, and sometimes when, on it. She then links the words by drawing circles in different colours and lines. In this way she was able to find the best way to connect with a gallery owner who now sells most of her work for her. Writing these dreams down is really powerful.
Being successful in realising your dreams comes from recognising that they are possible and even though it may feel like climbing Mount Everest, it is rarely so difficult. Fear is the one thing which stops us from doing so many things. If you struggle to feel or find a way to be positive, I highly recommend you read a book called ‘Big Magic’ by Elisabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. It is a self help book which looks at Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust and Divinity but it is an easy read and some of her concepts have really helped me to adjust my thinking. Her ideas about ‘ideas’ and how they come to you and what happens if you don’t acknowledge them is fascinating.
So now spend some time thinking about all the fantastic possibilities and opportunities next year could bring to you. Write that letter and then put it away until this time next year. I keep my letters in the back of my address book. I always have the address book out at Christmas time, so it makes sense to me to keep the letter here. I do know a lady who keeps her letter to herself in her knicker drawer on the basis that no one else ever goes in there and she knows where it is because she sees it all the time. Whatever works for you.
Having written that letter to yourself the next step is to think about the more obtainable things you can plan for next year. The next blog in this series will be about how to set your goals and make them really happen.
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