Eyes Wide Open
By Cheryl Hansen
I won a magazine-sponsored essay contest when I was in my late 20s. The prize, in many ways, was life changing. I was invited on a rafting trip down the Green River in Utah. I’d never been rafting before, but I looked forward to the adventure, which included several other women, rafting guides and a woman named Susan who called herself a Life Coach—a new term for me at the time.
One evening as we sat around a campfire, Susan asked us all to close our eyes and imagine where we lived five years ago. She told us to walk around, open the closets, peek inside the refrigerator and note the people around us. Then she sent us to our present homes to do the same. Finally, we were asked to imagine ourselves in our home five years from now. What does it look like? Are there pictures on the wall? Who else is there? What’s in the pantry? What’s in the medicine cabinet? The experience was informative, surprising and profound.
I’ve taken many friends through the same exercise since then and everyone seems to learn something. Most interesting is how we see ourselves living in the future. Few people describe extravagant homes and fancy cars—but when they open the closet or fridge—subtle dreams emerge. An old boyfriend who liked to party—a lot—saw bottles and bottles of water in his fridge. A corporate colleague didn’t see one suit in her closet—just a lot of shorts and flannels. What I realized is not only do we know deep down who we really want to be—most of it is attainable right now. That boyfriend didn’t have to wait five years to lose the booze and live healthfully. My colleague would never be happy in heels and conference rooms. I learned that I wasn’t in a huge hurry to be a mom—I hadn’t pictured babies in my future home. I also learned that I wanted to write full time and I wanted to do it from home (it’s probably no coincidence that I left my job within a year to freelance).
If I close my eyes now and look at my life five years from now, I don’t have to imagine my home or even my job—I’m pretty happy exactly where I am. But when I visualize what I’m doing each day, what’s in my closet and what’s cooking on my stove—it becomes clear that I want change. And, surprise, every bit of it is within my control right now. I’m in charge of the food put in my body. I can decide right now what I want to do with the first couple hours of each day. So instead of closing my eyes and daydreaming about what the future might hold, it is time I opened my eyes and just live it.