Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Last summer, a friend brought me a wonderful gift: four bulbs from her mother's garden. My friend helped me figure out where to plant the flowers. I was excited to see them emerge this spring. My friend cautioned me: it might take more than one year for the bulbs to take root and flower. Still, their presence gives me hope. 

In January, while I was still curled up on the couch, drinking wine and whining about the weather, my gardening friends were pouring over their seed catalogs and planning their gardens. As they looked out at piles of snow and saw rows of vegetables, I saw only snow. I knew my bulbs were there, hibernating. But with all the snow, I could not imagine what else I might plant in my tiny yard.

I love using the image of a garden to think about our lives. In the next week, we will be doing write2vision journaling, and the garden is a rich metaphor for these exercises. During the write2transform project, we've poked around in the gardens of our lives. We know what's planted and what is flourishing. We have sensed what is taking root, waiting to emerge. We have also found the fallow places—the strengths and passions we've left untended. This week, we get to take a look at the garden of our lives and imagine what we might plant next.

Psychology professor Laura King discovered that writing about one’s best possible future self improved participants’ moods, health, and ability to set and achieve goals. In the study, psychologists instructed participants to write a vision of their lives five years in the future, imagining that they had worked as hard as possible and everything had gone as well as possible. I've used this exercise with many clients over the years. I've seen it transform their lives. Like a gardener with a seed catalog and a sketch book, the exercise gives people the ability to sketch out the details of their happily ever after.

So are you up for the challenge? I certainly am! Here are the basic instruction for the exercise:

Imagine yourself five years from now. Everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your goals. Write in the present tense about your life.

In the original study, participants did this exercise four times. I like that. I found that the first time I tried this exercise, I experienced the same difficulty I had with imagining my garden. I was so tethered to the present that I could not vision the future. The second time I did the exercise, my tether was looser. Each try brought bigger dreams. As I worked at it, my description of my best possible life became more detailed. 

Here are some other hints for doing the exercise:
*Use as much sensory detail as possible. 
*Write about every area of your life—not just your job. Think about your living environment, what you wear, how you exercise, the foods you prepare and eat, and who you connect with. 
*Think about creative ways you could do the exercise. Instead of simply journaling about your best possible future, write an article about yourself, an acceptance speech for a coveted award, or a profile of yourself for a television news show. 
*Consider doing the exercise away from home. It's hard to see the seeds for your beautiful future when you are staring at piles of dirty laundry and unpaid bills. Go to the art museum, a coffee shop or library and write there. You will be able to think bigger thoughts away from home.

Finally, and most importantly: have fun! Enjoy this exercise. I know I will!


  1. Oh! I love this one! This is perfect timing for such an exercise.

    Let's see...."Ladies and gentleman - introducing the next President of the United States.."

    Too much? :)

  2. Okay, I can't help but be a pickle here... but... what if you don't have 5 years to live? What if you're stuck with some terrible terminal disease and won't be around in 5 years? What then?
    This exercise is one for the Futurist within us(I am such a person). Imagine your best possible life. I remember you said something about that once. The hardest part is moving your fantasy into reality.

  3. I was thinking since I'm more free to think about gardening (and the rocky waterfall I would love to be able to afford), perhaps I could start there and see symbolically what those elements/plants I would include might be in my life.

  4. Bill, I think Sally's comment answers yours in many way. We don't have to vision five years into the future--we can vision tomorrow or a garden or how we want to spend our last months on earth. Keep connected to the blog. I will be talking about how to move fantasy into reality.