On Sunday I celebrated 29 years of being married to my beautiful man Steve. (Yes, thank you!).
We decided to go out to dinner and on the drive down we chatted about the deeper purpose of our meal. Yes, it was to celebrate this milestone, but taking a leaf from Priya Parker’s awesome book The Art of Gathering, we wanted to create a deeper reason for dinner. We talked about that on the drive, and what lit us up was to creatively imagine the next 10 years. What would our marriage and life be like at the 39 year mark? What we want it to reflect?
It was a powerful and moving conversation over great food and champagne. We first looked back at 9/10 year increments (December 1989 – December 1998, then December 2008, then 2018). We reflected on what our lives were like at the beginning of each block, and again at the end. We appreciated and named the changes traversed. This helped to expand our mindset too – people are notorious for overestimating what they accomplish in a week and underestimate what they do in a year. We didn’t want envisioning the next ten years to be based solely on where we are now and what we would like or think was feasible. Reflecting the changes in the ten year intervals showed how surprising and unexpected the twists and turns were – career changes, new homes, and living in different parts of the country. It had seen the birth of children and the death of both our dad’s.
We then imagined having dinner together in 2028 and looking back over the previous ten years. What would our lives be like? This whole process (looking back and forward) also bought to mind the inevitable passing of friends and possibly family members. It bought our love for our people poignantly closer.
This was a beautiful conversation to have. In a relationship, how often do we take stock of who we’ve become, and look together at where we’re headed?
So, as the end of 2018 is almost here, I thought a similar process might be useful to adapt for finishing up your year lovingly, and thinking ahead for 2019 (or 2029!). You might do this solo if you’re reflecting on your personal dreams, with your partner for a relationship check, or even with your work colleagues.
A process that might be helpful is this:
1. Think about what the purpose is for your reflection. What do you want to discover? Dig a little deeper than you might think.
2. Choose a time jump that’s meaningful – for someone quite young, two years might be enough. For others, consider five or ten years. Say you choose five years, reflect on your life in 2013: what were you doing? Who were you with? Where were you living? The attitude to have is one of marvel and gratitude. Time has passed. You are not the same. It – relationship, work, personal goals – is not the same.
3. Come to the present: December 2018. Reflect on where you are now. Has life had an expected flow, or has there been some big changes since December 2013? Just notice – nothing to do about it.
4. Finally imagine the next time period into the future. If it’s five years – think of yourself in December 2023. Creatively imagine the intervening years. Stand in that future and look back: what did you do that bought you joy? How are you living? What engages you? In an ideal future, what does your life look like? What adventures did you have? What new loves? What are the overwhelming feelings you want from the next five years? Keep exploring, especially if the next five years is initially showing up like a copy of the last five. Break out a bit from your thinking.
For me and Steve, standing in December 2028 and looking back, we realise we want to have had more adventures together. After 20+ years of me travelling a lot and solo, we want to do more things together. We want to live and work in different parts of the world. We want to be in amazing health. Will we be grandparents? Doing the same work? We shared about the contributions we wanted to make. What new friends will we have? How will we deepen our existing relationships?
We sat there and imagined and chatted about this, in a beautiful environment and in a no-pressure way. The purpose wasn’t to design a life plan. It was about being present to the passing of time, what a gift our life is, our love for each other, and that absolutely everything is possible.
So have a go, and if you do let me know how it was. We live so much of our life in the drift. The end of the year is the perfect time to pull over off the river of life we are drifting down, and take stock of where we’ve gone and where we’d like to go.