By Lisa Michele Fonseca
Everyone wants to live their dream life, to have their happily ever after. Yet, it sounds so “woo-woo” to believe it can really happen.
Dr. Richard Boyatzis, a distinguished professor at Case Western Reserve University, is actually taking the “woo-woo” out and using science to show it can really happen. Dr. Boyatzis has research that shows how your brain and body respond to your dreams and his Intentional Change Theory explains how using your dreams can help you create the life you really want!
Dr. Boyatzis is very clear: If you want to change; if you want to be enthusiastic, excited, open to possibilities and make changes that will be significant and sustained, dream about your future. Create, very clearly, a personal vision of where you want to be in 10 to 15 years and let this Ideal Self pull you toward your dream life.
Take some time to dream. What do you want happening in your life in 10 to 15 years? Are you married? Where are you living? Where are you working? What kind of job do you have? Are you doing volunteer work? Are you traveling? How often? To where? Thinking this far into the future is actually quite challenging. We are used to setting short and mid term goals for ourselves, like our New Years resolutions. I think of these as tactical goals.
But thinking out 10 to 15 years, this is strategic, big picture planning. 10 to 15 years in the future allows you enough time to do anything you want. Dreaming is required. Write out your dream life – it should be at least 2 – 3 pages and should reflect all areas of your life, not just work.
The next step in getting the life you want is to figure out where you are now – to know your real self. Most of us don’t really have a clear idea of who we are. We tend to either under or over estimate our abilities and talents. Using a 360 feedback process is a good way to get input from your family, friends, co-workers, bosses, and other important people in your life who know you well. You will want to think of people who can give you honest feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.
There are free programs online that you can register for. Do a Google search for “360 feedback” to get started.
Once you identify your Ideal Self through your Personal Vision and you get to know your Real Self through feedback from others. The third step is figuring out how to close the gap between the 2. In order to get the life you want, you must move yourself from your Real Self to your Ideal Self and you do this through a learning action plan.
In your learning action plan, you will identify the behaviors you want to focus on and you will develop ways in which to practice these behaviors. Most people find it difficult to act differently with people who already know them. In addition, people who know you – your family, friends & co-workers, may not want you to change; they have a vested interest in you staying just as you are. So in steps 3 and 4, you are identifying the behaviors you want to change and finding ways in which to practice the new behaviors.
For example, if in your dream life you are happily married and yet now you lack self confidence to meet new people, you must identify the behaviors you can practice to become confident and then find ways to practice the behavior until it becomes you. And, it is important to remember that any behavior can be learned and changed at any time in your life!
A good place to start to look for opportunities to practice is to consider the different roles you have in life. Do you belong to a temple or church? Are you enrolled in any classes? Do you belong to any professional organizations? Are you in any social organizations? Each of these different groups may provide you with an opportunity to act a little differently than you normally would. For example, if you want to be more relaxed when meeting new people, you could volunteer to be on the program committee of your professional organization. You would then have many opportunities to talk to new speakers at the meetings.
The key points in steps 3 and 4 are to focus on the behavior you want to change and then find a safe way to practice this new behavior. Understand that there is nothing wrong with you now – you are good enough just as you are! Your dream of the future is designed to have you s-t-r-e-t-c-h outside what is comfortable and into exciting and energizing new behaviors!
The final step in Dr. Boyatzis’ Intentional Change Theory is to have a trusted person – a coach or advisor – who is going to help you stay on track. In order to achieve the life you want, you will be implementing changes in your life and change is never easy. Having someone to work with every step of the way – someone to help you stay motivated and on track – is a critical component to your success.
It is important that this person be someone with whom you can establish a resonant relationship – someone you trust, you can talk to and who can keep you energized and moving toward your goal.
Getting the life you want will take work. But, it will be the most exciting, engaging and energizing work you will ever do for yourself!