When my daughter was little she used to say “I can’t know” instead of “I don’t know”. It was very cute, “Where’s your teddy bear?” – “I can’t know!” However, over the years I have come to realize that in many instances she was absolutely right, it’s not just that we don’t know, we really can’t know.
Last spring, my now 16 year old daughter and I went to a one day retreat. The exercise in the afternoon was to create a vision board. However, the twist on this vision board was not to choose pictures of things or experiences that we wanted to attract into our lives but to choose pictures of things that we already had in our lives and that we were grateful for.
I usually enjoy making a vision board – flipping through magazines, cutting out pictures that appeal to you and then gluing them onto a board to make a visual reminder of what you want more of in your life, or in this case, what you are grateful for in your life. There were lots of magazines and we had quite a bit of time to put our boards together – all good.
However, I started to get concerned when I had gone through about a dozen magazines and found no pictures I liked. I looked around the room to see everyone else happily cutting and gluing the mounds of pictures they had found. I was looking at my blank board and starting to think that there was no way I was going to create a vision board that day.
I finally found about six pictures that I liked the look of and a few pictures of words that were pretty cool. However, when I tried to arrange them on the board they just didn’t look good – a few random pictures with lots of black space around them. I was thinking that I didn’t have enough pictures to make a good board. There just wasn’t enough to fill up my board.
Near the end of the exercise, the facilitator mentioned that we could include anything that appealed to us including colours. I started looking at some of the waste paper lying around from cutting out the pictures. There were some background pinks and blues that I really liked. I started cutting up the pinks and blues and putting them on the black board. Those pieces of coloured paper along with the few pictures and words were enough to fill up the board in a way that was really pleasing to me. I ended up quickly finishing with everyone else and with a board that I really liked (see above for a picture of the board).
In the space of just over an hour I went from “this is hopeless” to “this is great”. I sat there at the end of the exercise looking at my board in wonder. Where did this come from? I easily could have stopped after the first dozen magazines when I had no pictures and couldn’t see any possibility that I would ever create a vision board. I could have stopped after I did manage to find a few pictures but still couldn’t see how they would ever come together to make a good board.
Life can be the same. At some points in our lives we look at what we currently have or where we currently are we can’t see how we can get to where we want to go. The lesson the vision board exercise taught me is you that can’t always know how things are going to turn out or how to get where you want. You can guess, you can predict, you can hypothesize, but you can’t know. There are just so many variables that we can’t even imagine. It reminded me to let go of trying to figure everything out beforehand. How limiting to assume that if I can’t imagine it, it’s not possible!
Hopefully I will remember this lesson in the future and know that if you just keep going in the direction you want to go, even if success seems very unlikely, you never know where you will end up. We really can’t know – and maybe that’s a good thing.