Vision Boards: Six Steps to Making One and Three Reasons Why You Should

The start of a new year (well, ish, now we’re seven days in!) felt like a good time to create a new vision board and with a couple of hours free, that’s just what I did!  Here’s the how and why you should create one too…

First the how…

1)     
Get some magazines or similar – anything that
you like that has images in it.  You don’t
need lots and lots of sources; too much can make it a bit overwhelming!  The board I’ve just made was sourced from two
monthly magazines and the promotional booklet that happened to be inside one of
them – and I still ended up not using everything I thought I would.

2)     
Find glue, scissors and a large sheet of paper
(or join several smaller sheets together; mine is eight A4 arranged two by four).  You may also want to have pens, stickers,
washi tape etc. but these aren’t essential.
Depending on your tolerance of mess, having a recycling bin for paper to
hand might be useful too!  

3)     
Go through your sources looking for anything
that appeals, words as well as pictures, and tear it out.  You don’t have to cut neatly at this stage;
your goal is simply to gather together items for your board.  Don’t rush but don’t deliberate about it too
much either; if I find myself debating whether to use something or not then I
tend not to cut it out.  Try to let your
instinct guide you to images and text that stand out, for whatever reason.  And remember that you can keep your board as
private as you like, so there’s no need to censor yourself with concerns about
what others might say or think.  As you
go along, you may see themes beginning to emerge.

4)     
Once you have as much material as you’d like, start
playing with arranging it on the paper.
I find it helpful to sort through images first, then add words on like a
second layer.  If you’ve already noticed patterns
in your selection then these may shape how you position things.  It may be that links jump out once you look
at the images and words a second time.
Then again, perhaps there aren’t any connections – and that is
absolutely fine too.  There is no right
and wrong!  As with picking the material,
let this be a heart-led process, not a mind-dominated one.  Be as open with the structure and look of
your board as you were with the content.
The results are for you, not an art exam.

5)     
When you are satisfied with the arrangement of
material, then trim and paste the items into position.  You can add extra adornments if you
wish.  

6)     
Stand back and take in what you have made.  There’s your vision board!

Now the why…

1)     
It’s a simple, fun creative activity.  If you’re in any doubt as to the value of
that in itself, read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big
Magic
.

2)     
Whilst I can’t *guarantee* that you’ll get some
insight from the process, I’m pretty confident that you will.  It’s this insight that gives vision boards
their power.  I don’t believe that
sticking some pictures to paper somehow manifests your heart’s desire, but I do
believe that creating a board allows you to see more clearly what your heart’s
desire actually is.  Sometimes we can
feel uncertain about what lies ahead or like we’re trying to reconcile
competing demands – creating a vision board is like deciphering a cryptic
message from ourselves about which direction to move in.

3)     
It sparks positivity.  Thinking about the future can feel daunting
terrifying. A vision board provides a gentle reminder of the good things that
we hanker after.  Our brains are clever
machines that upon seeing our creation will start to whir away, dreaming and
scheming about how to make these images real for us.  And if we are very lucky, we see that we
already have whatever it is that we envision for ourselves 🙂 

I’d love to see your vision board if you feel motivated now to make one!  You can share your thoughts or an image of the board on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  There
is also email (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

The more I treat myself like a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

‘I eat my
lunch early, around noon’, a colleague wrote in an email earlier this week,
before half-apologetically adding ‘like a child’. Her admission made me smile
because over the course of this year, I’ve been learning a lot about self-care (as
I’ve written about previously)
and much of that comes down to thinking about myself as if I were a young
child. Whenever I can feel my mood start to shift downwards or I find myself
losing concentration, I ask the same questions posed by parents the world over:
hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Too hot? Too cold? Need the toilet? Uncomfortable?
Needs playtime? Needs downtime?

It’s
amazing how addressing one of those issues restores equilibrium and allows me to
continue going about my day. Very occasionally it might be something else,
something more cerebral or adult-like, such as needing to send a difficult
email that’s been playing on my mind. More often than not, though, it’s a basic
physical or mental need that is most pressing. As I’ve also previously
observed
, basic doesn’t always mean easy. Knowing that we need to eat
regularly doesn’t guarantee that we act upon our awareness. At the weekend I
found myself on the verge of a full on tantrum in the Marks and Spencer food
hall because my partner was lingering longer than I thought necessary in the
meat aisle and the effects of not eating lunch were taking their toll on my
sense of balance and perspective.  

Oftentimes
we slip into the trap of thinking that we are too busy and important to look
after these kinds of essentials. We kid ourselves (fitting double-meaning!)
that we are too sophisticated to eat dinner early even if we’re getting hungry
when we finish work. We somehow imagine that we can simply override the need to
get a decent amount of sleep because it is not convenient; it would interfere
with our social life or desire to watch box-sets late into the night. Setting a
bedtime for ourselves seems so, well, childish.

Yet there’s
a paradox at the heart of all this. All the best insights seem to involve some
kind of oxymoron or apparent contradiction, and when this one came to me it
didn’t disappoint. The paradox of self-care is that the more I treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.  

The more I
treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

I’m sure
this doesn’t just apply to me.  Repeat it
to yourself and see if it resonates with your experience as well.

What this
means is that the more I not only accept but also consistently implement the
self-care basics as I would if I were caring for a toddler, the better able I
am to act in a mature way.

If I’d had
lunch, or even a decent snack like a banana, I wouldn’t have begun to meltdown
in the food hall. Maybe after a decent night’s sleep the critical feedback from
your boss doesn’t sting as much. Perhaps getting lost driving to a friend’s new
house doesn’t feel so stressful if you stopped for a loo break when you first needed
to rather than convincing yourself to ‘hang on’.  

When the
basic needs are met, we are freed up to be who we want to be in the world. We
have a solid base to build upon, our foundations are strong. It’s easier to
stay composed. Our moods don’t crash. Problems that arise don’t feel quite so
much like a crisis.

Our lives become
diffused with equanimity in a way that seems out of reach when we’re careening
round with too few hours of sleep, too little food and not even allowing ourselves
to sit on the toilet for long enough.

The more I
treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

Think about
parenting yourself as you would if you were two years old. What is it that you
most need? Is it time to say ‘I think someone needs an early night!’ as your
mum may have done? Or make a rule that there’s no screen time between getting
in home and dinner? Need some shoes that fit properly?

Think
particularly about your pinch points and what self-parental provisions you need
to make for in or around those situations: good music for a long journey, play
dates with friends, some kind of metaphorical equivalent of baby wipes in your
handbag (or perhaps actual baby wipes would help)?

Try
something and notice the effects. Does accepting that we function in the same
way as small children allow you to maintain a more adult like demeanour?

Let me and
other readers know how you get on! Get in touch by commenting below or via
social media: there’s Instagram,
Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  And of course you can
also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

Do you need the toilet? Part II – more lessons in self-care

When I
wrote last week’s blog post on self-care, I hadn’t planned for it to be a two
part piece.

Inevitably,
however, pride comes before a fall and in the days since I learnt another
important lesson about looking after oneself.
I want to share that with you too.

Let’s go
back to last Friday.  I got up and drove
for two hours to teach some visiting undergraduates that I’m working with this
summer.  On route I was feeling pretty
pleased about the blog post I’d written on self-care the day before and my new
insights on the topic.  I lectured the
students then inexplicably decided that I could run straight into their
individual tutorials without even taking a comfort break, let alone anything
more substantial.  Self-Care Mistake #1.

The
tutorials proceeded well enough.  We looked
over their assignments and I gave feedback and suggestions.  I had a very interesting discussion with one
of them about the differing healthcare systems here in Britain compared to the
U.S., with us both coming away more informed.
Yet rather than feeling invigorated by the interactions, I felt
completely drained.  Despite eulogising
about self-care only the previous day, I ignored what I knew.  I’d pushed on, giving and giving without
taking time to nourish myself even in the most basic ways (Do you need the
toilet?  Yes I do, but I’m going to wait over
an hour before going for no reason whatsoever).

It’s
perhaps unsurprising that Self-Care Mistake #2 followed quickly after.  By the time the session was finished, I was
past the point of being able to make the kinds of healthy decisions that follow
much more easily when you’re in a good place already.  Even though I could hear the internal voices
screaming ‘No! Don’t do it!  Get your
lunch first!’, I chose to drive straight home rather than getting something to
eat, thereby compounding Mistake #1.

It was
downward spiral for the rest of the afternoon.
I picked up a second Diet Coke even though I knew I’d feel better if I
drank water instead (Mistake #3).  I
convinced myself that I could survive on half a tub of Rocky Road in lieu of
actual proper food for lunch (Mistake #4).
In short, I did exactly the opposite of everything I’d talked about in
Thursday’s blog.  I even thought that
somehow I could offset this damage by having a bath when the working day was
done rather than making a decent meal (Mistake #5).  

None of
this would have been an issue had it not affected my state of mind and my body,
but these poor choices quickly took their toll.
By mid-afternoon I was physically sluggish, growing ever more mentally
befuddled and increasingly forlorn too (no doubt berating myself for failing to
act upon advice that I’d publicly shared didn’t help on that front).

Then, just
as easily as I slipped into the first mistake, I made a simple choice that
changed my direction.  Rather than
finishing the tub of Rocky Road as a substitute for dinner, I cooked a stir
fry.  As I sat at the table after eating
it, I could feel the internal shift.  My
body felt energised.  My mind
cleared.  My mood picked up.  Overall I felt cared for.

When faced
with cake or cooking, I knew that one decision would make a big
difference.  Stirring the food in the
pan, I realised that it’s the same with all our self-care choices.  Every single one, however small and seemingly
insignificant, has a big impact.  Every
single one has the potential to send us into a downward spiral – or can help to
keep us moving in the right direction.

At the same
time, we have to keep on making those self-care choices.  These are not a one-time only decisions.  We may take water with us on the school run
today but what about tomorrow?  We have
to do it again.  We may adjust our desk chair
so it’s the right height but give it a month or two and it’ll sink.  We have to do it again.  We may go to bed earlier tonight but what
about tomorrow night?

Recognising
that I can’t just do self-care choices once but have to repeatedly make those
decisions feels like a useful insight (albeit probably a self-evidently obvious
one for some people).  It’s added a further
level of awareness and given those small everyday moments a wider context.  Picking up a bar of chocolate rather than a
banana doesn’t seem to necessarily make a difference in itself, but what about
the bigger picture?  

What about
your bigger picture?  Are you aware of
particular choices that are consistently detrimental to your self-care (the
extra glass of wine, anyone?!)?  Do you
have a specific pinch point where you can feel things begin to unravel?  For example, do you end up getting fast food
with a colleague because you want to spend lunch with them – even though you’ve
already bought in something to eat from home?
Does your partner suggest a film at night and your desire to spend time
with them overrides your commitment to getting to bed earlier?  Does reacting to the needs of small children
prevent you from sitting down to eat a decent meal in the middle of the day?

These
questions echo those from last week but I’d encourage you to think broadly
about them rather than just focusing on what is happening right now today.  How can you help yourself to make a good
self-care choice time and time again?

You may
come up with a novel idea or a new system to help (for the stay-at-home mum
with small children, perhaps you could make a lunch the night before to stick
in the fridge?).  Or it may just be that
awareness of needing to make a decision again, then again, then again, is enough.  You see it in your day today, then laugh when
you’re confronted with it at the same time tomorrow.  Maybe we can even learn to greet these
choices as old friends rather than enemies.

Let me know
how you get on.  What choice do you
consistently struggle with?  What
solutions can you come up with?  Get in
touch by commenting below or via social media: there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page.
And of course you can also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).
If you feel stumped and frustrated with a particular aspect of
self-care, it may be that coaching could help you; again get in touch to find
out more.

Do you need the toilet? My basic approach to self-care

The Gellert Spa, June 2014 (left), and the Szechenyi Baths, June 2015 (right)

I was lucky
enough to go to Budapest on a work trip last weekend.  This is pretty much an annual event and as
well as meeting with colleagues, I get a fair amount of freedom to explore the
city as I choose.  The combination of
regularity and time to myself means the trip often gives rise to reflection
about life in the present compared to how things were when I last visited.   On this occasion, many of my thoughts
focused around the topic of self-care.

You may be
expecting me to now write that my approach to self-care has become more
sophisticated, more developed, more in line with the kinds of advice that we
read in the well-being sections of Sunday supplements: ‘I begin the day with
thirty minutes of meditation followed by a green smoothie made from ingredients
I grow myself.  All organic, of course,
and harvested in sync with the lunar cycle’.

Only it
isn’t like that.  As I looked back to my previous trip in June 2014 and all the ones before, beginning in May 2007 (around six months before my ‘A Life Of One’s Own’
journey had even begun), I realised that the reverse is true.  My attitude to self-care has become less
sophisticated over the years, particularly so in the last twelve to eighteen
months.

I used to
take the major intervention approach.  I
focused on tactics that were costly, time-consuming and often beyond my
means.  Spa days and massages were high
up on those lists.  Budapest was a
god-send in this respect as spa days and massages are cheap and easily available
in the City of Baths.  I would engineer
my trip to maximise access to both, firm in my belief that if only I could have
more of this stuff then I would feel better all the time.  

Sure, a day
relaxing in the sunshine and getting an awesome pummelling did make me feel
better – and it still does.  But setting
aside money and a chunk of time does not amount to adequate self-care.  One day taking it easy didn’t offset a
chronic lack of sleep.  Getting the knot
in my shoulder blades manipulated didn’t compensate for my sedentary
lifestyle.  And the
cold-beer-and-ice-cream-whilst-lying-on-a-sun-lounger diet barely registered as
a treat when I failed to nourish my body adequately the rest of the time
anyway.

I showed up
for the spa days, and all the other self-care tactics I tried, believing that
they offered a magic solution.  They were
the rescue remedies to undo and reverse the lack of self-care that
characterised the rest of my life.
Clearly they didn’t.

I’m sure
I’m not alone in taking this approach.
We’re all drawn to magic solutions that seem easier than taking
responsibility for making changes ourselves.
Hell, I think I’d still choose colonic irrigation over a decent diet if
I thought the results were the same!

I can’t
pinpoint why or when exactly that my attitude began to change.  What I do know is that this trip highlighted
how much has changed.  Rather than taking
a sophisticated approach (or trying to), my idea of self-care has gone in the
other direction.  It is becoming ever
more basic.  Yes massages and spa days
still have their place (as the picture shows, I still went to a baths) but they
are about indulgence and pleasure, two different goals entirely.  

Self-care
is more low-level.  Care is about making
sure I have a decent lunch before travelling rather than kidding myself that I
can survive on a bag of nuts and pint of beer from the airport bar.  Care is about planning ahead for how much
water I really will need to drink en route to stay comfortable – and then
actually buying enough fluids.  Care is
about arriving at the hotel and having a shower (rather than a mini-bar beer –
is there a theme here?!) because I want to feel cool, clean and refreshed.  Looking after myself.  Anticipating what I will need and trying to
meet that, as we would if we were caring for a small child.  

This kind
of self-care generally clusters around a small number of areas: hunger, thirst,
sleep, movement, the bathroom, temperature, noise levels.  It isn’t glamorous.  It isn’t exciting.  Sometimes it means saying no: thanks but I
don’t want any alcohol until I’ve eaten; I’ve had a great evening but I’m tired
and going to bed now.  Oftentimes it
means listening to our bodies: I’ve discovered that the little tingling sensation
I get when sitting in the sun means put more suncream on.  Who knew?!

What can
you do to take better care of yourself?
Right now, right in this moment whilst you are reading this, is there
something that will help – grabbing a glass of water, nipping to the toilet,
putting on a jumper?  

Thinking
about your day more generally, what simple thing could you do to look after
yourself more?  Bin off the to-do list and
head to bed an hour earlier?  Take a
bottle of water with you on the school run?
Adjust the height of your chair at work so it is finally in the right
position?  

More
broadly still, is there one simple task that you can do to improve your
self-care?  Do you need to buy a reusable
water bottle?  An extra pillow?  More fruit?
See if you can remove the hurdle in your way.  

This stuff
isn’t rocket science but because it is so basic, so straightforward, it is easy
to ignore.  We forget what a huge
difference it makes until we reap its benefits again.  I certainly noticed it, coming back from a
work trip without the feeling that I needed another break to recover from
it.  How have you got on?  Let me know – get in touch by commenting
below or through social media.  There’s
Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page.  Share your self-care stories and experiments,
or ask a question.  I’d love to hear from
you!

Journaling with lists: exploring the things that make you happy

As part of my commitment to blogging regularly again in
order to share my work and my ideas, I’ve been thinking back over everything
that I have found useful since beginning my A Life Of One’s Own journey (there’s
more about that journey over here).  I
figure that if it helped me to move away from mass produced ideals of happiness
and meaning towards a life that feels more authentically my own then it could
also be of use to other people!  

Number one on that list of ‘stuff that helped’ was journaling (or journalling, depending on how you want to spell it!).  Journaling underpins it all.  It was one of the first things I started
doing and it remains my go-to as a place to think, explore, imagine and dream.  Whilst I primarily use journaling in a
personal context, it features in my work life as well as I keep a reflective
journal to aide my development as a coach.

‘The practice of journal keeping is being explored as a
way of becoming more aware of the patterns of our inner life, of growing in
self-knowledge and discovering our own gifts and possibilities…Keeping a
journal is just one way…of beginning to re-create your life.  At its most basic it is a decision that your
life has value and meaning and deserves the effort of recollection and
reflection.  It is also a decision that
what you are living and learning is worth recording.’

Jo Farrow, quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice

I’m now quite particular and stick to lined, hardback
Moleskines but in the past I’ve used any paper I could lay my hands on, including
loose sheets of A4.  It doesn’t really
matter; what is important is getting thoughts out of your head and down on
paper.  There is something special about actually writing rather than simply thinking particular thoughts or
ideas.  Sometimes it simply brings
relief, like an exorcism from the mind; sometimes a new insight or fresh
perspective emerges.  It can also be pleasurable
in and of itself.  Part of my love of
Moleskines is the delightful feel of my pen on the page.  Journaling can be a creative act, or a prompt
to further creativity.  The inspiration
for this very post came whilst scribbling away in my pad first thing this
morning.

There are lots of journaling techniques – it isn’t all
about writing reams and reams of prose.
One tool that I’ve long used is list making.  I’ll simply pick a topic, often wording it as
a question, and then make a list in response.
This can be pure fun but it can bring great clarity and awareness
too.  For example, one of the earliest
journaling lists I made was ‘Places I’d like to visit’.  Fifteen minutes of happy daydreaming that
also highlighted some clear preferences that I hadn’t been aware of before (Japan
over China, for example).  Places to
visit might seem a flippant example but this kind of self-awareness around any
subject can be useful.  You can begin to proactively
shape your life around positive desires rather than feeling pulled in all
directions by myriad possibilities.
Opportunity for a day trip?  I’ll
pick Harrogate, thank you, as I now recognise how much I would like to go there
– thus visiting this place over somewhere else will bring an added level of
contentment by satisfying my own idiosyncratic predilections.  

List making is a discernment process that puts the spotlight
on what you individually are drawn to.
It also has the advantage of being super simple!  If you feel a bit overwhelmed or intimidated
by journaling, it is a great way in.  And
even if you have no desire to journal in a more traditional sense, I’d recommend
giving list making a go to see what it does for you.

Here’s a brief ‘how to’ and a prompt to try:

Using list making as journaling technique

A single word or short phrases, jotted down quickly, in
response to a prompt (e.g. a question or a phrase)

It can be used to explore or reflect on a topic, get
your creative juices going or record something that’s happened (like word
association)

 Don’t think too much about your responses

Don’t worry if you feel repetitive – keep going!

It can be worthwhile to set a target, e.g. five
minutes, fifty words, fill a page

Try out either five minutes, fifty words or fill a page
on: things that make me happy.  

Let me know how you get on! You can comment below or
get in touch via Twitter or the Facebook page.
There’s Instagram too – share a picture of your efforts or comment on
mine.

Interested in journaling?  Want a chance to learn more about yourself?  I’m running a short ‘Introduction to Journaling’ course in Bulkington, north Warwickshire, on Saturday 24th April and Saturday 2nd May (10am to 2.30pm on both days).  It includes lots of opportunities to try out different journaling tools and techniques in a safe and supportive environment.  Suitable for beginners and more experienced journallers alike.  All the information is avaiable here.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Last week, I issued a book amnesty, whereby I declared that I had stopped reading any of the books I was currently part way through. It was such a relief from the self-imposed guilt of a half finished pile! With a clean slate in place, I had the joy of beginning to re-read Joanne Field’s “A Life of One’s Own”, from which this blog is named, over the weekend. Also over the weekend , I had a conversation about favourite books. Always hard to pick one, or even a handful, but I straightaway cited Brene Brown as an author who has really influenced me. Barely a day goes by when I don’t think of something she writes about in “Daring Greatly” or “The Gifts of Imperfection”. It’s no exaggeration to say that they’ve been life-changing reads (I guess this is a sign that I should read her other book, “I thought it was just me”, soon too!).

One of the things I like most about Brown’s writing is that she takes seemingly nebulous concepts and gives very precise definitions that she’s worked up from her research into shame and vulnerability. In particular, I like her statement about love, which has helped me to explore what it means to me. How can we ever know what love is? Are we “in love”? Are we loved? Big, challenging, scary questions, but her short definition has provided a guidepost when searching for answers.

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.

Love is not something that we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivates between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows.
Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”

Brene Brown, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, p26