February 10, 2017 (Friday)

by Yule Heibel on February 9, 2018

Yesterday. Lots of snow, lots and lots. Lots of wind, lots of storm. A battening down of the hatches, enforced quietude, but so much turbulence outside – and inside the mind, too. I finished listening to Tim Ferris’s interview with Debbie Millman yesterday afternoon, early, as the storm outside really picked up, and I was shaken by her description, around the 1hr30min mark, of Milton Glaser’s design / imagine-your-life exercise, an exercise she now teaches herself. For her young college-age students, she suggests a 10-years-out vision; Glaser used five years. For me, for W., it would make sense to pick five, too.

I was so shaken up by the exercise – just the description, I haven’t actually done it – that I insisted W. listen to it after we came back in from shoveling/ snow-throwing (first go-’round, another needed later today) at about 5pm. Just the 10 minutes where she describes the exercise, how to do it, and its reputed results. You imagine it’s a winter’s day (since this was recorded in winter – were it summer when you try it, you imagine a summer’s day, etc.), five years out, 2022. (Or 2027, if you’re young.) You imagine every detail of your life, from the color of your sheets, the house/ place you’re living in, etc., everything, from the perspective of what you’d be doing, what kind of life you’d be living, if you knew that what you tried would succeed. (Or not fail.) Millman puts it much better than I.

It roiled me so because it’s the antidote to “wunschloses Unglück,” that horrible thing where you find yourself having ended up somewhere you never planned to be, the kind of life that happens to you, not the kind you design for. And it roiled me because I realized it’s really, really hard for me to envision / imagine a life I would dream of. I’ve sort of given up.

Then, before bed, I hauled out two older notebooks I’d filled with …thoughts. I didn’t get to the second as I remained stuck on the first, which started as a Bullet Journal (a method I came across in 2013), and which by 2014 had morphed into an affirmation journal. But nothing went anywhere, really. And it was massively discouraging and freakish to realize this.

The Glaser-Millman exercise, on the other hand, intrigues me on two levels at least. First, it asks for a time/date stamp (five years out). My affirmations weren’t even dated, I only know it was 2014 because the Spain vacation was mentioned. Putting a date stamp (five years out) on the design probably does a better job programming your mind to get there. Second, it’s so detailed in concrete matters it has to tip over into concreteness in the aspirational matters, cementing the two. It really can make the lower or trivial goals true, and might have that effect on more professional aspirations. I’m stymied, though, on the latter, and on location (Millman insists you imagine where you are). For Millman it was always Manhattan. Not an option for me…

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