It’s harder than you think.
A couple of weeks ago, I had library books to return. I was going through them, unfolding corners and taking out whatever papers I’d shoved in them to mark pages. One of those pieces of paper was a 3 x 5 index card. Along the top, I’d written, “100 Things to Ask For.”
On the front, I had 22 items. Ninety percent of them had little check marks beside them. I asked for them, and I’d received them. For instance, “Full-time gig at current school” was listed. I had “Grant for Pittsburgh conference” written down – and I’d received it. I was a little flabbergasted. Ask and receive. Maybe it is that easy.
I flipped the card over and read through the remaining 8 items. A few of them haven’t been asked for yet. A few of them I don’t want anymore. But, what struck me most is this: I stopped at 30.
I couldn’t think of any more things to ask for. I couldn’t think of more than 30.
It wasn’t just the size of the index card that stopped me. I stopped before reaching the end of side two. It was my imagination that stopped me.
For the last few months, I’ve been reading Laura Vanderkam’s books on time management. In What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, she mentions an exercise that she often assigns to clients. She has them list 100 dreams. She says that most people start with “See the pyramids in Egypt,” but by the time they get to 50, they list things like, “Hike in the metro park with the kids one weekend.” The dreams get smaller – or more doable – as the list goes on.
I had written out my little list on my index card a year before I read about her exercise. I read about a similar exercise on Wise Bread years ago. But Vanderkam’s mention of it made me want to try it again. I sat down with a legal pad, wrote “100 Dreams” across the top, and made a list…
…of 30 dreams.
I did it again. I could not think of more than 30 – and that includes little things like day trips to museums around the state.
The dreams, or things to ask for, from the index card didn’t make it onto the last couple of lists. Those dreams have been secured. But I am still concerned that I can’t cross the 30 mark. It could be my attention span. I suspect it’s part attention span, part the limits of my imagination. The idea of the exercise, though, is to get you to stretch your imagination. And, maybe there’s a little fear about writing it down. If I write it down, I might just get it. Therefore, I better be sure I want it. I know I want these 30 things. If I write something down just to write it down, I better be prepared to have it – whether I really want it or not.
Because I’m starting to see it. I’m starting to learn. YOU GET WHAT YOU ASK FOR.
In one way, writing down your dreams is a soft ask. You’re signaling the universe. You’re at least allowing yourself to admit what you want, even if it goes no further than the page for a while.
Have you tried this exercise? How many items can you list? Where do you stop? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about your lists, your dreams, and the length of your imaginations:)