Write out your ideal scene (Exercise #8)

April 30, 2006

This is step one in Marc Allen's The Millionaire Course, a book which I'm currently reading for the first time due to reading some interesting interviews and book reviews on Steve Pavlina's blog.  Writing out your own personal ideal scene for the future (for the next 5 years or so) seems like great advice, and advice that I for one am surprised is so difficult.

Most people would assume that they've got some kind of concrete vision for their lives.  One might say things like "I want to have that job, be madly in love, move to a tropical island, and have a million bucks."  Or, "I want to have my own restaurant, and drive a fancy car, and have a mansion full of hot love slaves."  I think there are a few things that get confused with an "ideal scene" as described by Marc Allen.


A fantasy is something that you daydream about, but who your inner critic doesn't actually think is for you.  These are the things that come out when you ask people what they would want in life if they could have anything.  Ask yourself.  And then, as soon as you utter your greatest dream for life, wait for that second voice to pop up (it can never stay quiet).  It'll say something like "Yeah, all I need to do is win the lottery." or, "That would've been nice 10 years ago, before X."  A fantasy that you believe is impossible is a dangerous thing to have because it feels like you have an ideal scene for your life when really it's just a fake placeholder that you would never actually try to make manifest.

"Practical" Scenes

These are scenarios that your inner critic comes up with.  Rather than a tropical island and a world famous rock band, you come up with "get promoted to assistant to the assistant manager within the next two years."  Or, "retile the bathroom sometime in the next year or so."  Sure, you've got crazy unrealistic fantasy above, but what's more immediate and makes more sense is a baby step scene that takes the smallest possible step of self-improvement that still qualifies as not standing completely still.

So, if these things aren't ideal scenes, then what is?

The Ideal Ideal Scene

Think on a five year time period.  This is a useful trick that helps you avoid generating false fantasies and scenes that are too limiting or practical.  Five years is a period of time that's long enough to be able to imagine great change in yourself, but also a period of time where you can imagine yourself looking similar, having the same personality, and general keep you from trying to wait for time travel and flying cars in order to acheive your goal.  If you want big change to happen in five years, it might help to start working on it now.

Be as creative as you can be.  The biggest limit to our own lives is our imagination.  For example, take your fantasies and your practical scenes.  How many other people would give the exact same answer to those questions as you do.  Yes, everyone would like to win the lottery even though studies have been made that lottery winners are rarely happier after 5, 10, and 20 years than they were before… in fact, Timothy Wilson in Strangers To Ourselves gives some interesting evidence that lottery winners are less happy after winning than they were before.  Try coming up with an ideal scene that fits your personality more than it fits anyone else's.  Something custom-tailored to your passions, dreams, and view of the world.  Let it get as wild as you wish… the imagination likes to be stretched.

Write it down.  Draw a picture.  Even if you can see everything perfectly in your mind for the ideal scene, write it down and keep it somewhere safe so that you can come back and read it in the future.  This ideal scene should eventually become the dominant vision for your life.  Stronger and more familiar than your doubts about it, more obvious as an eventual reality than as a forgotten daydream.  Do everything you can to make this ideal scene feel real, tangible, and certain.  Add to it over time, draw more pictures, fill in the details, and think about it often.  Marc Allen claims that as soon as this ideal scene is burned into your consciousness, you can begin making concrete steps towards it.  For now, just make the scene and see what comes out.

Some questions from the book to ask yourself that might help flesh out the ideal scene:

  1. What kind of work and career do you have?
  2. What is a typical day for you?
  3. What are you doing to contribute to a better world?
  4. Where do you live?
  5. What are your most intimate relationships like?
  6. What is your family life like?
  7. How would someone close to you describe you?

10 Responses to “Write out your ideal scene (Exercise #8)”

  1. Marc Shiman Says:

    I’ve always been more interested in the path that gets you to your 5th year than the end result (the journey vs. the destination). I’ve come up with an approach that satisfies this interest and captures the best of the visualization.

    Recently I’ve been playing with storyboarding to visualize either your upcoming day, week, or, in this case, the next 5 years.

    Take a blank sheet of paper (11×18 if you can find one) and draw lines dividing into 20 (5×4) boxes or so. The exact number isn’t important. You can either structure your time slots (1st quarter 1st year, 3rd quarter 2nd year, etc) or set the time based on events that you see occuring (9 months from now promotion, 1.5 years son starts nursery school, etc)

    I’ve found that using yellow sticky notes, rather than drawing straight on the paper allows you to move events around as you need them.

    If done over time (visit, revisit, update, change, etc) for visualizing the futre.

  2. Mylse Says:

    very good post!

    Do you recommend the book of Marc Allen?

  3. Alec Pinto Says:

    This is a short term version of something thats put forth in 7 habits- Stephen Covey. As part of “Begin with the end in Mind” an exercise asks you to imagine your own funeral and have friends, family, colleagues and community come up and speak about you. What you would like them to say, points to achievements in various roles in your life. I found it an immensely fruitful exercise. It helps you identify your key roles in life and also answers the question- “What do I want to be/do?”
    Interestingly, things I wrote on that list as important 3 years ago are not so important today. Discovering myself is turning into a journey.

  4. susanjane Says:

    Fantastic idea. I don’t think you ever too old to think about this. I am 58 y.o. and eager to plan out the next 5 years because I am proceeding to the next level in my career as a nurse. In 2 days, I take my boards for Advance Practice Nursing. It requires a Master’s Degree in Nursing. My graduate work was from 1983, so I had to take post-graduate courses to get up to date. Thanks for your posting. susanjane

  5. […] Establish goals – visualize yourself in five years “Five years is a period of time that’s long enough to be able to imagine great change in yourself, but also a period of time where you can imagine yourself looking similar.” Featuring 7 questions to flesh out that ideal scene. […]

  6. A good idea and quite informative…I liked the bit about the lottery winners – always a suspicion of mine, but of course, I’d love to try to prove the stats wrong!
    Being on the cusp of what feels like some life changing events, I will try at least a little of the exercise, then see if I have the fortitude to give the fantasy to myself……

  7. Thank you for this. I often kick around these thoughts in my head, it will be good to have them down on paper and make them more solid.

  8. Sean O'Neil Says:

    My whole life I’ve been guided by my parents and anyone else who has been older then me, or had my best intrests in mind but now I’m to the point where I have different ideas for my life then, pretty much, everyone around me has. My parents have said that I would make a good lawyer or politition but the isolation that comes with both those professions would be very detrimental to my personhood. One of the first professions I ruled out since I was young was a schoolteacher. My mother taught and I saw the long hours, small paycheck, and high stress level but never really figured out why she did it. But now that I have defined my views, and truely seen what I’m passionate about I realize that with no other profession could I change the world, help people, and teach children that when you find something that intrests you learning can actually be fun. I hope I never become what my mother was, but I do see the virtue in enstilling truth in young peoples hearts and hope to someday do that. The specifics aren’t up to me, I have the goal in mind and will focus on hardly anything else because in five years I could be determining a lost teenager, or a confused childs future simply by sharing what little bit of knowledge I have, and nothing else is more important then that.

  9. […] Radical Mutual-Improvement » Blog Archive » Write out your ideal scene (Exercise #8) (tags: lifehacks productivity life happiness motivation visualization) […]

  10. […] Radical Mutual-Improvement – Write your ideal scene […]

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