Columnist Jen Patterson is sharing simple prompts to help you set a vision for the story you are writing. Read on for ways to call into consciousness what can and will serve you, and how to shed what doesn't. Here's to looking forward...
I wrote a whole other thing for this month. But it’s a complicated piece—a big idea about how we as women call in money. Looking at the calendar, I tried to divine the right time for it to go up, but the middle of Mercury Retrograde (the heart of communication confusion) didn’t feel like a good idea. Instead, I decided to lean into something more retrograde-friendly: thoughts on setting a vision.
A lot of us get overwhelmed by setting vision—it feels big and formal. Like there has to be work done. Or it has to be new and profound. But I am a fan of bite-sized visioning: a week’s worth of scribbled notes jumbled together in a happy Post-It collage on my desk.
If you feel called to leave the retrograde’s outer chaos and lean into something more cozy and introspective, here are a few simple prompts. (And know these are meant to be used in fits and starts.) For each topic, start with a simple meditation—closing your eyes, focusing on your breath for a minute or two. Exhaling. Then, read the prompt and go about your day. Don’t try to figure it out, just see what falls in. Jot down any thoughts. Learn. Allow for surprise. See your vision bloom.
Prompt 1: Self-Talk
I went on an Eckhart Tolle binge a few summers ago and was inspired to get really conscious about my own self-talk. Whoa, was it terrifying. I think of myself as a reasonably happy, positive person. But when I started to listen—and separate— from my inner voice it was clear how much I was in my own way.
I started to course-correct every time I heard my inner voice say something that wasn’t positive. When my inner voice said, You’re not enough I would catch it and counter, I am enough. I became a jiujitsu master of positive self-talk.
So, over the course of today, listen for your inner running commentary. What sort of hurtful things is it saying to you? How are you your own critic, detractor, even abuser?
How would you prefer to be in relation to this voice?
Prompt 2: Well-Being
How many great days did you have last week? Days where you felt centered and happy in your body and mind? Days where you felt connected to the flow of the universe? Great days take prep, and most of us don’t do the prep work required to be in that energy.
I had a series of less than great days recently when I hurt my knee. My toddler was an unsympathetic companion who would on a daily basis attempt body slamming me while I hobbled around the house on my crutches. I mourned my lost mobility, especially my morning walks. Then I had a shift. I realized this moment wasn’t actually about a hurt knee. It was about opening up more broadly to help. When I wrapped myself in this concept, my well-being was returned to me. I started to go outside into my yard and stand on the grass barefoot, or to put my hand on the gnarled bark and mossy pillow of the plum tree in our backyard, borrowing its strength and solidity. I was still hobbling. But my great days were back.
What do you need now to feel well and whole, regardless of your context?
Prompt 3: Creativity
I have a friend who always personifies the things we are talking about. As in, OK, little teacup, what type of tea are you wanting today? Creativity is not a skill or an output. It’s an energy. It’s a perspective. It’s being able to invite the teacup to have an opinion about Darjeeling or Oolong. Fundamentally, being creative is about being willing to loosen the boundaries that are held—by culture, by our families, by the laws of the universe—and ask, what could be?
Aran Goyoaga on Cultivating Love in the Kitchen + Meringue Cake with Roasted Apples From Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple
"Set a humble table and eat beautiful simple food. Nothing has to be fancy. When you make yourself comfortable, your guests will feel comfortable."
Connection to our creative selves is one of the key tenets of happiness. There are many more inwardly creative people than there are outwardly creative professions. So finding ways to hold and nurture our creativity is important—it doesn't matter if you are unclogging drains or delivering pizza for a living. What matters is how you show up.
Ask yourself, have I claimed my creativity? How would I like to see my creativity grow? What’s on my list of things to learn more about? Where am I curious?
Prompt 4: Work
One of my favorite interview questions is to ask people if they could do anything (if they didn’t need to worry about the skills needed or making money), what would they do? In one round of interviews for a senior position, a candidate had us all crying. He would be the high school football coach. Not for the wins, but to make a place where everyone on the team could feel included.
So yes, you have skills, but your real work has only a little to do with them. What I’m interested in is how to call in your work—purposeful work—to your job. Making a place where everyone could feel included is real work.
What would you do, if skill was not a requirement and money were no object? And how can you call more of that into what you do today?
Prompt 5: Social Justice
It’s so good and necessary that you’re making donations to BLM and EJI, but this is slightly different. Listen for where you feel personally touched by injustice. What is the article you’ve read or conversation you’ve had that is just stuck on repeat in your head? Ask yourself what is an action that is called for you to truly align this value set? Not a donation (though donations are amazing), but an integration. When we find true consciousness, there are things we may need to give up. We may need to get uncomfortable. Give yourself space for that possibility, and know that what initially seems like a sacrifice will actually clarify your energy and power.
Prompt 6: Finances
We’ve all have a number and it’s time to write yours down. In our culture we are trained to be coy about money and to keep it private. But that only serves the people in power. The structures of corporations, patriarchy, racism, sexism have an investment of us not calling in more for ourselves because they see a zero-sum game. Our gain is their loss. But the universe believes only in abundance. It’s just looking for the wink from us that we’re interested. So put that number on your Post-It. Then add to it until you start to doubt or cringe. It’s OK, we all have a ceiling. That’s just telling us where we are today, not where we’ll forever be.
Prompt 7: Love
I once asked someone I was dating if he wanted children. He answered, Well, it hasn’t happened yet. Red flag, said my coach. He’s not taking ownership for himself.
We are all taught that good relationships are about compromise but I don’t actually subscribe to that. Instead, I think it’s about knowing what is truly important and letting everything else go. This takes showing up to answer some hard questions. My most important relationship—even as a mother, even as a partner—is with myself. If I can’t be truthful with the mirror, how can I be it with anyone else?
What big question can you ask yourself that hasn’t yet had a clear answer? Where are you hiding from the mirror?
For more inspiration and meditations in this series, see my coaching IG @guideformyfutureself.