I take a sheet of paper and usually draw an circle in the middle of it and write MY LIFE inside it. Then I start out drawing a line from the circle and at the end of the line I write one thing I feel I must have in my life or that I really want. For instance, it might be a garden, more peace, exercise, a different car, etc. And I keep going until I run out of ideas. I've learned a few things over the years about this activity and now I usually make it a two step process. One day I write down everything I can possibly think of that I would like for my life. Then a few days later I review it and cut out anything that really isn't a must for my happiness or that isn't something I feel I can accomplish realistically right now. I try to hone it down to things I really do want most and that are true necessities or very strong desires.
This helps me to focus a bit more, not overwhelm myself and to be a little more serious about what's truly vital to my life, my happiness and my needs. Then I recreate a new MY LIFE chart. I hang this up in my office and then when I am considering opportunities and how I spend my time I am able to reference this chart to see if said opportunities fit any of the categories. If they don't it's probably something I don't need to do or is not going to take me where I want to go in my life. A simple example, say for instance I wrote down that snow skiing was a must have in my life. It would make no sense to move to a tropical island.
So far this year I have created my The Sky's The Limit version of MY LIFE and now I'm in process to hone it down, eliminate excess and complete the project. It was helpful for me to review how I've done this in the past, so I wanted to share those posts with you. Here's the post from the first time I did this project.
My First Dream Life Chart
Dream Life Chart Update: This was written shortly after I experienced a life-threatening infection and lost my hearing for a few months. Challenging time!
Below I am also adding a post I wrote several years ago that was originally published in 2011 on the blog: reFind Joy. The website, that was more lifestyle at the time, is now a business site, so my post is no longer available there. I wanted to have a copy of it available and added it here.
Actualizing My Dream Life and Finding My Joy
By Kalani Cropper
I am so happy to be here talking about joy today. I love joy. In 2009 I was working long hours in a stressful industry and had given up many things I love to focus on my career. I was tired and too busy. I sat down one day, with a pretty piece of yellow cardstock and wrote My Dream Life in the center of it. I drew an oval around that then drew one line out from it and wrote down one thing I wanted for my dream life.
In a few minutes I had drawn 33 lines out from that oval. Things that ranged from the vehicle I wanted to drive, the family I wanted to have, the way I wanted to look and the work and play I wanted to do – all the things I felt I needed to have an abundance of real joy in my life. This life existed for me in another space and time and how desperately I wanted to arrive there.
I carried that yellow cardstock with me every day. I would look at it longing, from time to time, looking forward to the day. Then one day a couple months later, I decided to look at it with fresh eyes and note everything that had begun to happen. I was able to check off nine things that had either come into my life, changed in my life or were in the process of changing. I wanted a garden. Without thinking about it I planted a few vegetable and herb plants on my patio and was harvesting beautiful tomatoes and fresh thyme and basil. I wanted a life where I could ride my bike most places. I started riding my bike more places. I had begun to more conscientiously live my dream life.
I looked a few weeks later and realized that even more things had begun to change in my life. This time I marked 21 items. A few weeks later 29. At that moment I was amazed that the life of my dreams didn’t require a move to a new state, a large yard, charming little free-standing house, a quiet small town, a different body or new closet full of clothes. It did not require an all-out evacuation of my current life. It only required a more conscious living in the space where I was. It came to me that I already had all the elements of my dream life right there with a little more awareness, a few small changes and more enjoyable actions.
With this new appreciation I continued to make more changes in my life. Some were easy, some were harder. Some looked like they would be painful and weren’t. Life continued to change and I continued to enjoy more and more the life of my dreams.
On a Sunday afternoon in January of this year, I found myself being ordered by an urgent care physician to get to a hospital immediately for a CAT scan. I had expected to get a prescription for antibiotics and head back home to the couch. Twelve hours later when I left the ER to be admitted to the hospital I expected to be hospitalized overnight. The next morning when I asked the specialist who checked me out if I was going home that day he said oh no, you’re not going anywhere. Two months later, I’m feeling much better but still have lingering effects and more treatment to come. After being unable to do anything but lie down or sit and rest for four weeks, my priorities had begun to change yet again. Sitting still is not something I am good at.
But I knew this experience had happened for a reason. As I considered all I could’ve lost, all my recuperation required and the lingering health issues that might never fully repair, my perspective on all I needed in my life had quietly but intently changed. Weeks later, I decided to create a new dream life chart for 2011 and as a new start.
I started out the same…the oval…the lines shooting out from it. But this time I only came up with nine things -- nine things that really and truly mattered to my life and made me happy. I would be okay without my dream wardrobe, I would be okay without my dream work, I would be okay without my dream house, vehicle or travel. What now mattered most to me was my life, my health, my loved ones, peace, calm, laughter and basic living needs. I felt a huge burden lifted from me. I felt lighter, more agile, more settled down and more certain of what mattered to me. At that time it was impossible for me to get caught up in wants that were unnecessary. I also felt less tolerant of spending one minute doing anything I despise or to be disingenuous in anyway.
At the same time I felt more motivated than ever to have the life I dream of and make good use of my time, energy and resources. No more playing small, more Just Do It. It was a sweet time, that moment between painful illness and entering fully and completely back into regular, busy, stressful life – where I could watch my life for a moment with a clear, peaceful head.
I will never be able to think of that time without being reminded to keep life sweet and simple – and to remember that all the elements of my dream life, my joy, are here right now, today all around me.
Here's another update from 2013 that talks a little more about my process and the things I've learned along with a link to an inspiring article from Drew Barrymore.
2013 My Dream Life
If you feel inspired to try to create map of your dream life I'd love to hear about your process and inspiration. Leave a comment below if you like!