I've always believed that if you thoughtfully envision something, it's more likely to happen in the way you desire.
More than a decade ago I envisioned — and wrote in a notebook I keep in a drawer in my bedside table — my intentions related to getting older. I thought carefully about what I wanted my later-in-life circumstances to look like. At the time we were living in a large city, and I was working 10 hours each day in a highly stressful job. I was cranky on a regular basis (there are witnesses...).
It was not the life I wanted. So I was very precise. I envisioned bucolic country living in a home that resembles the one we live in today. I envisioned having more time to write and be wildly creative. More time with friends and family. I conjured up Jacksonville — or "nirvana" as we refer to it in our household — even though I had not, at that time, ever traveled in Southern Oregon.
My mother, at age 85, envisioned a "good death," and seven years later, it was exactly like that. Pain free, or nearly, with all her children around her — and lots of family stories and laughter.
My younger brother, despite a complicated health situation, has long-envisioned hiking in Bhutan, and at age 62, with his portable solar charger already packed, he has a plane ticket and leaves in a few weeks.
I recently decided to re-contemplate and more vividly imagine what might come next for me because I wanted additional clarity on "the future of aging," and because I have friends, young and old, whom I hope to encourage to use the envisioning process for their own purposes.
Clarity is very important, I have learned. You want to be as clear as possible about what you want to happen. Then, ask yourself things such as, "What can I do today to make that vision a reality?"
"Nurturing" the vision is also critical. This applies to all ages but is especially important for youth and young adults. Check out www.envisionyourfuture.org. There you will find specific results involving "tweens" ages 10-12. The sampled population all had "big dreams for a bright future," but unless those dreams were nurtured by the adults in their lives, they "lost hope for architecting and fulfilling an exciting life."
I came across a white paper presented at a Dartmouth conference on ecological economics. It began like this: "Vision is the most vital step. ... It is not only missing almost entirely in public policy discussions, it is missing in the whole culture. We talk about our fears, frustrations and doubts endlessly but only rarely and with embarrassment about our dreams.
The conference proceedings put forward early use of the word "sustainability" and the importance of knowing "where we are and where we have been in order to get to a better place." The year was 1994. This envisioning business takes a while to root itself. Be patient.
Whether this approach appeals is, of course, up to you. You may not need it. You may instead find the words of Albert Einstein just as useful. "There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or Sharon@hmj.com.