Everything I Want
At least 30 years ago, I read an article about “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams that focused on his habit of writing affirmations about his life. Fifteen times a day he would write out—by hand—statements like, “I, Scott Adams, will become a syndicated cartoonist.” I read about this long after Dilbert and Adams had become syndicated and famous, but his habit of writing these came well before. He wrote them about lots of other areas in his life, as well, and met with similar success. He says people ask him about this technique more than about his success as a cartoonist. If you Google Scott Adams and "affirmations," you can read not only about his experience with these positive statements, but about lots of other people who have tried it.
Lots of us have long-held dreams about things we’d like to accomplish, places we’d like to visit or live, activities we wish we could engage in. At this end of life I think, “Why not? Why not me?”
I was so taken with the idea back then, that I started doing it myself. I would love to say here that everything I wrote about came true, but what really happened is that I got busy and lost interest. Clearly, I wasn’t a great candidate for changing my life at that point since I seemed too consumed with just getting through the day-to-day.
The point of the exercise, of course, is to know what you want and to hold that desire in your mind so intentionally that it informs your actions and behaviors. I had a lot going on in my life during the time I was playing around with these affirmations, so I fault my own lack of focus and desire much more than the technique itself. In fact, I’ve thought several times since then that I might try it again. But then, just recently, I learned about a new way to envision the future you want, and it actually appealed to me a little more.
Graphic designer Debbie Millman has been talking on social media about a somewhat similar technique she learned from the renowned designer Milton Glaser. In this activity, the participant imagines that it is 10 years from today. In a notebook, imagining that it is, say, November 14, 2032, you describe your entire day in present tense. You include everything in your house, in your work, in your relationships—everything. You describe where you live, what you do, who is in your life. The key is to include every single thing you want in your life as if you already have them. You stop at nothing. You describe your life as if every dream you have ever had about your life has come true. Millman says that everything she described the first time she did it came to pass in that 10-year period.
Just reading about this has grabbed my interest again, because I fully believe this is a way to move us past our perceived limitations and help us do things that we might think we couldn’t do. If I don’t think I can do something—if I have a list of reasons why I might not be successful at something I really wish I could do—I don’t have much of a chance of making it happen. Of course this is all within reason. I can't say that I'm 6 feet tall or that I'm 10 years younger. But, if I believe I can achieve what I want, I'm going to start taking the necessary steps to get there. Especially now, when I really can try anything I want to try, this seems like the perfect kind of exercise to get me thinking about how I want to use my time and energy. I heard Melissa McCarthy in an interview this week describe her mother’s positive response when she told her she was dropping out of college to become a standup comedian. “Well, why NOT you?” her mom said. And that has really stayed with me.
Lots of us have long-held dreams about things we’d like to accomplish, places we’d like to visit or live, activities we wish we could engage in. Our old stories, our belief in our shortcomings, and our simple lack of confidence keep us from going for what we really want. But now I think, “Why not? Why not me?” I don’t have any answer to those questions except that maybe I’d fail. And really, at this point in my life, who cares? It's not too late to put my dreams on paper and start walking toward them with confidence. As I see it, there's absolutely no reason not to.