Brainstorming the life you want means looking into the future. And thinking about the future can cause us to feel two things: 1) excitement about the good things we know are coming and 2) anxiety about the things we can’t be sure of.
I used to believe that I was in control of my future. That if I focused and made enough lists and a thorough action plan, I could virtually guarantee success. Of course, most of us learn quick and early that there are many things beyond our control. That life takes lots of detours and reroutes us through territory we most certainly wouldn’t choose for ourselves.
So what to do about brainstorming for the future? Do we sit back and wait to see what might happen? Or do we painstakingly plan every detail, knowing full well that our plan might get derailed? We can be consumed by trying to plan for every bump and hiccup, or we can take an entirely different approach.
When we make a plan and hold loosely to the steps involved for getting there, we give God room to reroute us onto the path He wants for us.
Lots of us get stuck before we even start. If you’re feeling stuck and not sure where to begin brainstorming the life you want, here are four easy things you can do right now:
Yep, just breathe. The very nature of creating plans puts our focus on results. Where are we headed? How do we get there? We start with the end in mind and our anxious thoughts about how in the world we’ll accomplish something so bold take over. We forget to relax, settle in, and learn the lessons of the path we’re on. It took me years to figure out that life is happening right now. Not in the future. Not in the past. But right here and now.
Don’t let another minute go by without noticing the people and experiences happening at this moment. It’s the only place that matters as we cast a vision for the future. It’s where we’ve got to begin. So take a deep breath and give thanks for the moment you find yourself in.
Close your eyes and picture your five-year-old self or your ten-year-old self. Get a good look at her. What does she love? What is she doing? What is she dreaming of? Take time to sit with her. Long enough to discover if some of those things might still be waiting in your heart. Tucked away safely out of sight while you did all the things that brought you to today.
It’s time to pull out those dreams and passions and ideas from childhood and ask, “what if?” Grab a pen and a pad of post-it notes and start writing those big dreams down. Stick them on your mirror or a wall or someplace where you’ll see them and remember the audacious little girl who grew to become the strong, smart, capable woman you are. Nothing is too silly or off-limits. Write it down, look at it often over the next few days, and ask yourself if any version of those dreams might still be knocking around inside of you.
Expand your list of ideas by asking the people who know and love you what they think you’re good at. Do you have a skill or talent that people come to you for? What do they think of when they think of you? Their answers should give you a few more post-it notes to add to your mirror. Keep them where you can see them. What jumps out at you? And how can you start looking around for ways to make them happen?
Always wanted to learn how to play the piano? Find a teacher who offers adult classes. Never learned to draw? Find a course for beginners and get yourself signed up. Wanted to be a chef? A dancer? A soccer player? A pirate? No matter how far-fetched or seemingly impossible your little girl dreams sound to grown-up you, get yourself on Google and start asking questions, finding classes, joining groups, and taking chances. “How to start…” is a great way to begin your search. Remember, at this stage, no idea is off-limits.
Now it’s time to try a few things. Do them before you think you’re good enough. Whenever we want to learn anything new, we have to rehearse the necessary skills before we master it. Give yourself permission to play, pretend and rehearse whatever it is that your heart is drawing you to.
Remember that trying doesn’t have to mean a long-term commitment. It means adding to your collection of life experiences that will lead you to the next thing and then the next. You may discover that you don’t enjoy playing the piano, but you love humming along and find yourself singing the songs long after the lessons are over. That makes you wonder if joining the choir might be a good next step. A step you might not have seen until you rehearsed your dream of becoming a piano concerto. Apply this to your other ideas and see where things lead.
Breathe. Remember. Research. Rehearse. Use these four steps to brainstorm a blueprint for discovering what’s next in your life and embrace the truth that God wants us to keep learning and growing and welcoming new experiences through every stage and season. Identifying and trying out your dreams will keep you moving forward into the great big life God wants for you.