Future Dreams Brainstorming

Sep 17 2018

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly Stoppit

It's that time of year again, the time when I quietly haul up and reflect on my past year and dream about my year to come. As someone who needs to be constantly learning, challenged, stretched and inspired, my career has taken many unusual twists and turns. Many of which have been intentional! 

I have a regular reflection practice which I'd like to share with you below. I've refined it a bit since I last described it here. Today's version is more centred around manifesting creative projects, whereas the last version included other areas of life.

This process always shows me where my heart wants to go next. Generally the seeds of my next era can be found in the life I'm already living. I get clear about what I've been enjoying, what I've been learning, what I want more of and what is missing, before I enter into dreamtime to fantasise about possible projects I could manifest. The next stage is naming the nitty gritty, getting clear about what's stopping me and what actions I could take to start the ball rolling and then it's just a matter of determination, self-belief, asking for and accepting support and a bit of good old fashioned mystery and voila, a new life has begun.

One of my favourite examples of the power of this process was when I was offered the opportunity to create and teach a degree module in Comedy for Bath Spa Uni...

A few projects had come to an end and I was hanging out in my dad's garden in France. I'd surrounded myself with paper and pens and cups of tea for several days and through the process of reflection, it became obvious that I wanted to focus on holding space for artists' development and I wanted a regular gig that would anchor me to the southwest of England and give me clear time off for socialising and dating. 

Days later my dream job appeared- part time creative producer for Theatre Bristol! I was so excited to see this post advertised, that I started my application “So, I see you're advertising my job!” Needless to say, I didn't get an interview. But through the process of applying I got even clearer about what my heart longed for.

A few days later I received an email out of the blue; Bath Spa University wondered whether I might be interested in a part-time job as comedy lecturer, a job that would allow me to hold space for budding artists, use my skills in a different context and anchor me to the southwest. Plus, I got to find out how to write a degree module and be a teacher in a university! 

Four years later and I'm out the other side of that dream and into the next. (I loved it and I learned what I needed to learn, plus the space for dating paid off- I fell in love!) If my brainstorm is anything to go by, my next era looks like finishing my book, running clown / fool retreats in the countryside, accepting guest lecturing / conference gigs and beginning to set up a full-time training course in my own building (which doesn't exist yet).

How about you?

To map out your next era, you will need:

  • some big pieces of paper, or several little pieces of paper stuck together

  • many different colour felt tip pens

  • a carpet to sit on

  • lovely music

  • delicious tea

  • a couple of hours of uninterrupted time

1.) Set up your space, clear the floor so that you can cover the whole carpet with pieces of paper. Put on your favourite music, make lovely tea, tell your loved ones that you’ll see them later. Close the door.

2.) In the centre of a huge piece of paper, write; “What's in the next era of my life?” in a circle. 

3.) Draw a line from that circle out to the top left of the page and draw a new circle with “What have I been up to in the last year?” in it. Go through your diary and list all the projects you've undertaken in little bubbles surrounding this circle. This can include voluntary / just for fun projects.

4.) What did you enjoy about each of those projects? With a different colour pen, reflect back through what you enjoyed about each project. Include things like the skills you enjoyed using or acquiring, challenges you overcame, support you received, personality traits of people you worked with, ease of communication, how your services were received by others, environmental factors, time and budget. Be as detailed as you can.

5.) With a different colour pen, brainstorm around the same projects - what would you differently if you had the chance to do this again?

6.) With a different colour pen, look back through the things you enjoyed and the improvements you would make and circle all the factors you'd like to see again / develop further in your next era.

7.) Transfer the factors you just circled into a clear list entitled “Possible Ingredients for my next era” underneath the “what have I been up to?” brainstorm. Read the list back and feel into other ingredients you'd like to add to the list that aren't already there. What is missing from the list?

8.)Take a little breather- have a stretch or a dance or shake or a glass of water.

9.) Now, looking back through the list you just made, allow yourself to dream. Surround the list with every type of project you can think of that may give you opportunities to experience some or all of those ingredients at play. Put each one in it's own bubble. They don't have to be realistic and they don't have to involve all the things on your list. Pick a few ingredients and dream big - go for quantity above quality- some of your bizarre ideas may lead to something unexpected, just churn them out.

10.) Now flesh out your dream projects. One-at-a-time, surround each job with as much detail as you can – include things like location, money, time, qualities of collaborators, how the job will work etc. Don't be realistic, go large! You can edit in the next stage.

11.) Have another breather, have a stretch or a dance or shake or a glass of water.

12.) Take a different colour pen and look back at your dream projects. Circle any that you're excited about perhaps appearing in your next era. 

13.) On the right side of the page, make three columns, title them as:

  • column one “project title,” 
  • column two “what's stopping you from doing this right now?” 
  • column three “actions.”

14.) Fill in the boxes for each project, one at a time. When answering the question; “what's stopping you from doing this right now?” be honest and go into as much detail as you can. The “actions” will come out of whatever you wrote in the “what's stopping you?” box. Your actions need to be small steps that will get you closer to your goal. They need to be realistic and achievable.

15.) Have another breather, have a stretch or a dance or shake or a glass of water.

Come back to your brainstorm and sense into whether it feels like you've done enough today. You could leave it here and take a few days / weeks to let that all settle into place. If you've chosen to do this, give yourself a pat on the back and maybe even a treat. The work is done, you're heart has more information with which to search out what it really needs.

Alternatively, if you're feeling fired up and like you want to get on with creating a plan, carry on!

16.) Looking back at the boxes you've just filled in, which projects give you a sense of excitement? Which ones feel like a grind? Choose the ones that that feel exciting, even if they also feel scary. Choose the ones you're willing to undertake. Put a star next to these projects. Be realistic about how many projects you're prepared to take on in the next year, you can always come back to some next year.

17.) If you feel ready to invite one or more of your projects into reality. Make a time-line. You can do this on a spread sheet or on a new piece of paper. Draw a line across the top of the page. Above the line, along the width of the page, put the months of the coming year, starting in the month you're in. Leave a gap to the left hand side for the project titles.

18.) The next bit is about plotting the actions that will lead to your chosen projects becoming reality. In the left hand column, write the project title. Then work your way through the year to those projects becoming reality. Decide when you'd like this project to go live and work your way back, plotting in the actions that will need to take place to get you there. Be realistic about your time and make sure you're plotting in time off!

In my experience, as someone who’s successfully changed life-course many times, manifesting change takes action, it doesn’t just magically happen. Well, it does, but you need to meet it half way. Now you’re clear about what you want. Your actions will help you move towards the life you long for, but you’ll need to actually do some of the actions you've set for yourself. This way the universe can get an idea of what you’re after and it’ll give you a hand to get there. Keep your heart open and your eyes peeled, you may find what you're looking for and not where you expected to find it. Good luck. 

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