We’ve all heard the advice given around the beginning of the year: write out your resolutions, goals, aspirations, whatever you want to call them, and it’s easier to stick to them. But the problem with that is that in three to four months (which is coming up soon), you may only remember one of the items on that list. Instead, I propose a more creative way to set forth change: set your intention with a visual object.
We are visual beings. People who are visually oriented are stimulated or learn best by what they can see in front of them. That’s because we respond to and process visual data better and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. It’s been reported that the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and research shows that 65% of us are visual learners.
An object is not only visual, but it can be emotional.
When I was a young girl, my mother was in a state mental hospital. All I wanted for my birthday was to visit her. My father said it wasn’t possible, but I wouldn’t give up, so he acquiesced and arranged a visit. When I saw my mom, she put a small stone into my hand. She told me that she had looked for the perfect stone until she found this one, and she had been carrying it around with her to give to me for my birthday. Mom said whenever I felt lonely or missed her, I should hold the stone and think of her.
So, I did – from the time I was six years old until I was in college. I later learned while studying psychology that the stone for me was a transitional object, something that helps you get through difficult times. To this day, rocks are important to me. I collect them from places I visit, and they are a pervasive part in my design style in both my office and home. There’s something beautiful about the consistency and strength of a rock that I just love. They have been there before me and will be there long after I’m gone.
That stone gave me comfort in so many ways. It was simple, inexpensive, yet meaningful to a child who was growing up without a mother. Visual objects can be powerful reminders of a comfort that we need, but they can also help us reach goals we want to achieve. Think about the person trying to lose weight who puts a picture of themselves 40 pounds lighter on the refrigerator to deter late-night snacking, or the boy who buys a model of his dream car and holds onto it until he is successful enough to drive that car later in life. We see inspirational quotes on social media all of the time. Why not print one out that means something special to you, frame and display it as a reminder of what you can achieve?
I once had an executive coaching client who was a heavy smoker. We were discussing her efficiency and productivity with having to take multiple smoke breaks during the day, when I had an idea. I asked her for a picture of her young daughter (this was 10 years ago, before all of our photos lived in our phones) and she pulled a school picture out of her wallet. I took that picture and put it in the plastic wrap around her pack of cigarettes. When she came back the following week, I asked how many cigarettes she had had since our last session. She said none. She couldn’t pull one out of the pack and smoke it when she looked at her little girl. She thought about the young woman she would grow up to be and how she may one day not have a mom to watch her get married or meet her children. This client has now been smoke-free for ten years!
When you are setting your intention, whether it’s something you want to create for yourself or elimination of something that doesn’t serve you in your life, choose an object to represent it.
- If I was to choose an object that would empower me or motivate me or inspire me or contributes in some way to my goal, what would that object be?
- How can I align my mission with something tangible that is also meaningful?
- Do I already have the object or do I need to find it or buy it?
- Where will I keep the object so it’s in my plain sight as a daily reminder?
Choosing a visual object to represent the person you want to be this year is a more creative way to build intention. Ditch the standard list of resolutions you’ll soon forget (if you haven’t already), and embrace an object that visually inspires you to be your best self.
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