New Year’s Manifesto
Lest I become the cobbler with shoeless children, I am occasionally reminded to practice what I preach professionally and enact a few creative, reflective and even visionary exercises with my own family. This time of year is good for such activity; the idea of a new beginning conjures up a tabula rasa and the urge to rectify any imperfections of the previous year.
I had stellar inspiration: Four women, three of whom I don’t even know. This is the beauty of social media; if you follow a few new and fascinating people outside your circle of known friends, you’ll get a few new and fascinating ideas.
The zen-like social-media maven Gwen Bell wrote a blog post about creating a personal manifesto that I wanted to eat, it was so nourishing. Also via one of her tweets, I discovered the mixed-media artist, writer and designer Lisa Sonora Beam, who adds a special aesthetic to the activity of goal setting. Both of these women inspired me to be deliberate about documenting our goals for the coming year.
More inspiration came from writer Gretchen Rubin, who I really wanted to hate because she’s so, well, happy. Except when you make even a short visit to The Happiness Project, it’s really hard to resist getting in step with her life-is-short-why-waste-any-of-it-not-being-happy philosophy. Even my prickliest friends would agree it makes sense.
Then there’s my colleague facilitator Delphine, the Maman Creative whose blog is all about mindfully engaging her children’s creativity. From her I get ideas of things to do with my kids, not just for them.
So I put Gwen, Lisa, Gretchen and Delphine together and came up with the idea of the All-Family Personal Goal Manifesto Collage Day.
De-facto has plenty of fruitcake in him, so he was up for it. If it involves cutting and pasting, I can count on Short-pants and Buddy-roo to participate. So this is how we spent the entire afternoon on the first day of the year: I’d dug out every magazine in the house and set out glue-stick and tape and scissors so my peeps and I could create our personal manifestos for 2010.
I tried to simplify the process to three steps: 1) Imagine who you want to be in 2010, and make a collage to demonstrate it; 2) Make a list of goals that will help you become who you want to be; 3) Make a collage about those goals.
Short-pants and written her goals the night before, when I first suggested the activity. (She is not the recipient of the procrastination gene that De-facto and I both share.) She re-copied her first draft and set about bringing it to life with images. You might notice that the #1 goal on her list is “Get more independince.” She’s been walking around saying, “I declare my independence!” ever since she finished this exercise.
Buddy-roo didn’t seem particularly interested in articulating any of her goals; she was more in the mood to shop. Her collage soon became a book with six pages of pictures: women in elegant dresses, a pair of high-heeled shoes, a sterling-silver jeweled bracelet, a Dolce & Gabbana perfume flask and two designer kitchens. The visual cues were undeniable; It could have been a mood board for any luxury brand. I made a few gentle suggestions, like, “Can you add any images to represent things you’d like to do, or things you’d like to learn in the next year?” She answered my prompt by gluing in a picture of Jennifer Aniston. “Tell me about that,” I probed. “I want to grow my hair out,” she said. Then she pointed to another picture I hadn’t seen yet, “And I want a horse.”
De-facto finished his collage first, a complex composition of his aspirations for the year, which he prepared with running commentary about all the other facilitators we know who do strategic goal-setting activities. “This isn’t how Frank Prince would do it,” he said.
“Just pass the glue,” I said, in my newfound happy voice.
I was, of course, the last person finished, still searching for that perfect image to convey the rather abstract concept of “letting go” when our dinner guest arrived and I realized I had to clean up and start cooking. I thoroughly enjoyed this very tactile activity, elbow to elbow with my most loved people, the table covered in magazine scraps and sticky fingers. It was a vrai moment of being aware; I was happy, even in the midst of the simplest activity. (And that’s one of my goals.)
Gwen Bell says, about this process, “When you write your goals, the whole world opens up in front of you.” I know this to be true; when you write something down, it takes form and shape. But what happens when you wrap your goals in a picture of long, blonde Jennifer-Aniston hair?