To Goal Set or Not to Goal Set – Try a Vision Board Instead

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

With the New Year rolling around in a week or so, goal setting seems to be an activity for many . . . personal and business goals – targets to achieve in the year ahead. Or new behaviours to enhance whatever is lacking in your life. This can be a great activity to assess what worked in the year past and to set the stage for the year ahead.
 
However; what does goal setting mean to you now – after cancer? Did this activity, if you happened to participate, change?
 
There are many who don’t write goals deeming them a set up for failure if goals are not achieved. I can see that. However, as a list maker, I know the value of writing things down to ensure that the task actually gets accomplished and doesn’t get lost somewhere in the ramblings of my now chemo enhanced brain. So, I can take that thought with me into goal setting – ticklers/reminders. This allows flexibility for change.
 
In my first year after cancer, my goal simply was to be alive and well for the second year – and then, the third, fourth and fifth year. The rest didn’t mean much in the face of cancer and the loss of innocence around immortality.
 
However, after 23 years post cancer, I am back to goal setting on a different level. One of those goals is to ensure I walk my talk – keep balance in my life so that I stay healthy and not fall back into old patterns that didn’t serve me well before. It’s hard. But my body tells me when I’ve gone too far outside my healing path. Then I reassess and get back to basics. So my goals are centered on maintaining balance between staying healthy and pursuing my purpose/mission in life.
 
Where are you on your cancer journey?
Are you newly diagnosed? Are you in treatment? Are you just a year or so past treatment? Did you have cancer many years ago? Has your cancer come back?
 
At each phase, your perspective will be different as it was for me.
 
Life evolved as I moved way past my cancer treatment. The lesson was learning to be present in every moment. Do I achieve this all the time? No!! But I strive to live in the moment, taking joy from simple pleasures, planning ahead only to give me guidance and clarity for tasks at hand, to be a checkpoint along my healing path and to help me appreciate what I have, not what I don’t have.
 
One of the ways I have done this is not by sitting down and fashioning out a big list of goals and then prioritizing them into A, B, and C status, but to have fun. This method brings out the true soul and intention of what your inner self is actually thinking about or wanting.
 
THE VISION BOARD
I was exposed to this method by a business coach a many years ago. She gathered like minded souls together for an afternoon of fun. We all milled around and searched through old magazines, brochures, flyers, for images of what spoke to us. In between, we chatted, nibbled on finger food, had drinks, but mostly, we were all focused inward waiting to see what would ‘show up’ in our searching.
 
Once we had our selection of bits and pieces of pictures, words, icons, whatever – we abandoned ourselves with scissors and glue sticks, to the task of picking through our choices, arranging them on a large poster board and creating a collage of what turned out to be important happenings in our lives – of what we felt was being shown to us – what we would spend time on in the coming year.
 
I recall the first year doing this. I posted the collage on my office door and would look at it in passing as I entered my office each day. I didn’t really make a conscious effort of looking at the collage – I just saw it every day.
 
The next year rolled around. The same group didn’t reconvene, so I decided to put a group together myself. We again sat around over coffee and muffins, lots of conversations, scissors, glue, pens, and went through the process. Same process as the year before, different group of friends, totally different scenario!
 
As in the year before, we all had an opportunity to share what showed up in our collage. Our comments were heard and others had a chance to share what they saw. Totally amazing! Sometimes our subconscious reveals more than we realize – it’s what others see who have no agenda, no relationship – just raw, true seeing. It still blows my mind when I am in the midst of such insight.
 
That first year’s collage revealed much about what I needed to do in my life, as well as pointed me in a direction that I hadn’t thought about before. At the end of that year, when I looked back on my collage, 90% of what I put in that collage came true.
 
Same has been happening for the second collage and third and fourth. This year I’ll do another one and put it on my office door.
 
What was important!
However, the most important thing I found was not about having, but about growing. With cancer comes a new perspective about life – how fragile and short it can be. Stuff doesn’t matter. In fact, in our society, generally we have too much stuff. It’s about quality of life. What gives you meaning? What would you like to leave behind – i.e. how will people remember you? Did you leave any gifts behind – talents you were given but didn’t pursue because others felt you needed to do something else with your life?
 
These vision boards reveal much about what is lurking in the shadows of your being. They bring out those inner desires, talents, voices – however you want to describe that process. You don’t have to be an artist to do these vision boards. That’s not the point. It’s just the doing.
 
It’s also a time to be alone – just you. Yes, I’ve done mine with a group, but this year, I feel the need to spend time by myself. So, I will go solo with my vision board this year. An afternoon of simply whiling away a few hours with my magazines, pictures, glue, pens and some great music, while my dog hopefully will lie quietly without bugging me for a walk or to go out. If I’m lucky, I might even have the house to myself for those few precious hours.
 
What might show up for you?
Can you find a couple of hours to listen to your inner self? If nothing else, it’s fun. If you have children, maybe they could join you and make this a family project during the holidays. Who knows what they will envision? You may be surprised.
 
As Christmas comes each year, I am grateful that I am still present. That I have lived long enough after my cancer to see my son get married and give me two wonderful grandchildren, not to mention a very special daughter-in-law. Gifts beyond compare when I didn’t think I’d see my 50th birthday.
 
As I’ve mentioned before, the rest is just stuff. Health, family and relationships are at the heart of a full life. When your heart is full, you really need very little. Stuff does not fill empty places in your heart.
 
How do you fill your heart?
I hope as you move into 2014, that you move past ‘shoulds’ into new possibilities. Take action – try something new – reach out to someone – fill someone else’s heart – take up a long lost or new hobby – start an exercise program that will help you feel well – start a gratitude journal. Just suggestions! When you listen to yourself, you will know what’s important and what’s not. Believe in yourself. Be true to yourself.
 
From me to you, great health and well-being for 2014 and so many more,

Barbara

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