Did you know that you were "born to become yourself by creating the experiences that you live"? In other words, you were meant to be the person you are right now… by doing the sorts of things only you would do! Doesn't that feel good and kind of automatic, like you can just exist without doing anything and you've come into yourself like some kind of evolved higher specimen of human?
Not so fast, Siddhartha. There's actually steps you'll need to take to create the roadmap to your ultimate life. Seven little steps, in fact. All you have to do is make an ideal island, then an island of experience, then map your island of enhancement (this could take months!), create your islands of enlightenment, go island-hopping for provisions and information, incorporate new information into your island of experience and your ideal island, REPEAT, and then sit back and claim your ideal island, you salty dawg, you. Sound easy? Now let's get started!
First, let's just say that nobody does adventures like Odysseus, and nobody does life porn better than Oprah, bestower of light orbs of hope, sponsor of these here steps to a better life. Combining those two things is like shooting light orbs of hope into a barrel. I got not beef with that. Where I do get beefy is with the extent to which this life porn merely pimps out both the illusion of control — that your best self, your better life, your Goopiest existence is all but a few choices/diets/cleanses/overseas trips away/pinboards away — and that potentially the whole point of existence in some ways is the search for this more perfect union. If that were about giving more and consuming less or any other arguably better ways of living for the greater good, it'd be one thing. But it is so often linked inextricably to the upper-middle class cult of the prettiest/skinniest/most indulged self, the sort of people who actually have the free time to wonder what to do with a half-eaten jar of non-organic strawberry jam.
But no matter, we've got some islands to hop!
Tools you'll need to "create a map of your own epic tomorrows — a magically morphing guide that will get more detailed and accurate as you travel":
Computer and printer
Photos from your private collection
A roll of butcher paper or a clean stretch of wall
And it goes without saying that you'll need money, loads of free time, physical space, and an education that has provided you with an understanding of the Odysseus metaphor. Hint: You are Odysseus, only one better, because you're you! And you are great!
Step 1: Make an ideal island. Get out those magazines and pictures and create a vision-collage of your "perfect life" — look for "appealing images" and images that are "viscerally appealing" that make you go "Oooh" "Aaah" and "Mmmm." So, Gwyneth Paltrow and brownies? Keep in mind, "The vision of your ideal life doesn't have to look possible, just delicious." YES BROWNIES!! Note: Most people give up here, or what I like to refer to as, "use Pinterest instead." But not us. We will forge ahead to our perfect life!
Step 2: Make an Island of Experience. Now make a collage of your life as it is now:
"What do you do from dawn to dusk? How does your body look and feel? What are your relationships like? Find images or words that illustrate each."
Wah-wah. This is the not-so-fun part where we have to be honest about
OUR BODIES two things we know we are all guilty of, amirite, the chocolate addiction and the clutter. AMEN. I know what you're thinking: My "before" picture: Brownies: My "after" picture: Brownies. Not a problem. Odysseus!
Step 3: Map your Islands of Enhancement: Hey, Odysseus got into some shit, and so will you. But you're going to map your shit, k?
For every image on your Ideal Island that isn't on your Island of Experience, you'll create an Island of Enhancement. For example, if your Ideal Island includes visiting Peru but you've never left Kentucky, label a blank sheet "Travel to Peru". Stick this page between the Island of Experience and Ideal Island. Then fill it with images of your adventure: people chewing coca leaves, exploring Machu Picchu, adopting a wild macaw.
So this is where I get all National Geographic/Eat Pray Love about my shit. (Are articles like this targeted to men?) This is travel-oriented, because you're a white, middle-class woman with a computer, a printer, magazines, photos from your private collection, a roll of butcher paper or a clean stretch of wall, paper, scissors, markers, tape, money, loads of free time, physical space, and an education that has provided you with an understanding of the Odysseus metaphor, remember? Keep in mind this part could take forever, because it doesn't make any sense.
Step 4: Create your Islands of Enlightenment: I bet you do stuff that you don't want to do: smoke, feel anxious and hate your Aunt Gladys. Here's where you label all that stuff. Just make sure Aunt Gladys doesn't see it? And then find pictures of "people defeating such monsters" - someone getting that therapy that's so easy to come by and for so cheap, people chewing nicotine gum and of course, images of people setting boundaries with aunts. Hello, Getty Images!
Continue this process until you have an island for everything in your current life you hope to leave behind. Now you can hoist anchor and set sail.
Chips Ahoy Cookies!
Step 5: Go island-hopping for provisions and information. Here's where it gets really good, or what I like to think of as going all Towanda on your island of — wait, which island is the one you want your life to be? Ugh. Confusing. Anyway, here's where you start doing crazy things that make people think you're crazy, but really you're living out your best self and stuff.
If your Travel to Peru collage includes the rainforest, Machu Picchu, and macaws, live those pictures, or something like them. Eat guava and mangoes. Train for hikes on a stair machine. Wear parrot feathers in your hair.
Macaw! Macaw! Then stop doing all the bad stuff, too, 'member?
Then begin living the experiences on your Islands of Enlightenment: Find a therapist, join a tobacco recovery group, get assertiveness or martial arts training to deal with Aunt Gladys.
Ok, so…in order to be my best self, I need to stop doing stuff I don't like, and start doing stuff I DO like?!? I get it, I think I actually get it!?
What you're doing here is normalizing the feel of your Ideal Island. This is key to reaching your goal, because people have a way of almost ineluctably creating situations that feel normal. Traveling the archipelago also opens you to helpful information and relationships. The more you explore, the more accessible you make the experiences on Ideal Island.
Nope, confused again. Is this whole thing like a LOST reference? Because I never saw that show.
Step 6: Incorporate new information into the island of experience and your ideal Island
Remember, I said this was a magical morphing map. Each time you visit an island in your archipelago, go back to your Island of Experience and your Ideal Island and update them:
Add an image of whatever you just did to your Island of Experience. If you found something unexpectedly unpleasant - for instance, it turns out you're allergic to macaws - remove the corresponding image(s) from your Ideal Island and replace them with something you've discovered you like more (you might drop Peru and add a trip to Kalamazoo). As you discover the details of each experience, put additional images on your Ideal Island. For example, if you hear about a great hotel in Lima, you can add an image of the place to your Ideal collage.
So if you're not dead from the macaws, you should definitely add an image of that great hotel you heard about in Lima. Ha! Lima. My best self is in Lima, y'all. Lima let you finish! Lima alone!
Step 7: Repeat
Zzzzzzzzzzz. Oh sorry.
Continue exploring as long as there are any differences between the Island of Experience and Ideal Island. Each time something delights you, add it to your experiences.
Each time something disappoints or harms you, find the way to beat it, and put up images that represent your approach. Subtract from your Ideal Island anything that proves unworthy, and add images that feel more like you. I can't promise that using your map this way will take you directly to your best life - but I can promise it'll take you there indirectly, and that's as good as it gets.
Wait a second - you mean it only gets me my second-best life? Or to the island NEXT to my best life? Not cool, lady. Not cool.
Not step 8, but step 8: Claiming your kingdom
So, um, newsflash: Odysseus did all that stuff just to try to get back home. It's all about the journey. I just did all that stuff to get back to me on the couch with the Gwyneth picture and the brownies? Macawwwrrrrr.
Image by Jim Cooke.