Picture: Jonathan Borba via Unsplash | Words: Alejandra Abouhamad
Grab your bags, we’re going inner exploring.
I should probably get a disclaimer sometime soon that reads: I’m not a professional. I’m not a therapist, nor do I have an advanced degree in brain-related sciences. I only come equipped with the first hand-knowledge after years of trial and error.
This idea came to be after I took Elle Luna’s Choose Must: 10 Hands-On Exercises to Find and Pursue Your Passion from whom I learned the importance of taking things out of the brain realm and into pen and paper - or, preferably, a wall, your floor, a window, the ceiling - if you’re feeling extra fancy, get checked Peter Parker - or literally any other large flat surface where you can unleash your innermost self.
This project shouldn’t take a lot of time, maybe a bit more if you’re the Indiana Jones of uncovering secrets in you, but for sure it’ll be gone from your surface of choice as soon as you’ve finished and snapped a picture of it, so renters, fret not, you too can unleash your innermost self without getting in trouble. Bonus: it’s virtually free if, like me, you hoard post-it notes and pencils/sharpies/pens like there’s no tomorrow.
Personally, I have a giant floor-to-ceiling window right next to my work corner, so armed with a stack of post-its from my college days, some tape because post-its are decidedly not meant to stick for long, and a random marker, I began what would undoubtedly be the biggest treasure hunt of my life, in the search of my life.
Phase One: Work, Play, Love, Live
In the center of your surface of choice, you place four post-its, one for Wo(RK), another for (P)l(A)y, another for LI(fe) and another for (LO)ves. I named it Park Lilo because it was easier to remember than RKPLLILO but feel free to re-acronym it however you best prefer.
Then, as you might imagine, under each category put a post it for everything that your brain can conjure under that category. Things you can see yourself working in, your hobbies for the play category, the things that make you feel alive for the life category, and the things / people / places / anything that you love with all your entire heart. This is how I filled mine:
Creative Direction (1)
learning languages (2)
learning Things (2)
Making things (2)
Gaming + Streaming (5)
making videos (5)
personal Growth (1)
helping others (2)
I took a minute of silence to reflect on each of these items and realistically rate them from 1 to 5 on a scale of priority. What was more important to me? Being a teacher or a designer? Livestreaming video games on twitch or creating stuff with my own two hands? Feel free to do this on pencil first because as you progress you might go back and say “well, this is more a two than a three”. You don’t have anyone to impress here and there also aren’t any expectations to fulfill other than bringing your inner-self to the outer realm, so be honest and let your second brain, your heart, choose.
Phase TWo: Goal Setting
First phase of the board done, let’s move to the second phase: Goal-Setting.
What are your goals in life? Your ambitions? Where do you see yourself living? Write all that down on different post its and again, place them on your canvas of choice. I personally put the first phase in the center and did the rest of the phases of the exercise as if they were rays of sun emanating from that circle. Again, some examples of my goals for this phase were:
To have a curated life.
To have a family OF My Own.
To cultivate better relationships.
To live in the Present Moment.
To become location-independent.
To earn 250.000€ per Year doing what i love.
To be a philanthropist / TO make an impact.
To leave this world better than I found it.
Dream big, dream wildly, and dream from within. If you do this exercise from the viewpoint of logic then it won’t work. Logic is useful from time to time, but not when it comes to dreaming. Logic is the grim reaper of dreaming, because it ties you to reality, and prevents you from dreaming big and wildly.
So what if not even the richest person in your country earns what you want to earn? So what if the average goals, dreams and aspirations of people your age are decidedly different from your own? So what if you’re too young? Or too old? Dreaming is free and it only requires that you lock logic in the basement of your mind and show up, there are no other rules.
Once you’re finished sticking up post-its, take a step back and see if there are any contradictory goals. For example, maybe you want to be a digital nomad and also raise horses. I don’t wanna say the word can’t because who am I to stop you, but I find it kind of tricky to simultaneously not be home and be home to raise horses, you see what I’m getting at?
So, take a look at your goals, make some sort of legend to tie matching goals that support each other - travelling and digital-freelancing, for example - and sift through them to find which ones you truly must accomplish in this lifetime, right in the now, and which ones are nice but won’t kill you if you can’t do them. Again, think with your heart - and your gut if you require a second opinion.
I know this is getting a bit long and for some, emotionally draining, but stick with me. You won’t have to go through this again for a long long time, maybe even never again, so gift yourself the time and patience to get through this. If you want to, feel free to do this over a couple of days, I personally felt like once I’d opened the introspection door it was kind of hard to shut it again, so I couldn’t stop until I finished in one go, but I also cried a lot with every new post-it and realization, so don’t feel like you’re not meant to do this or aren’t strong enough to go through the self-discovery journey because you have to take some time off.
Phase Three: Mentorship
Once you are ready though, it’s showtime.
The third phase of the Park Lilo System is the Mentorship Phase, though I can’t take full credit for it since it came after I watched another one of Elle Luna’s Skillshare classes, particularly her Choose Must: Learning from the Paths of Others which I thought was just absolutely brilliant - truly, every class of hers is brilliant and I wholeheartedly believe they would be a nice learning material to add to your queue of things to learn for real reals - you know, the list that actually gets tackled, not the other one that is folded in a dark pocket collecting dust. Sidenote: Elle Luna, I love you, you brilliant woman.
We’re not meant to go at it alone, you don’t see soldiers going into a battlefield alone or unarmed unless they’re on some sort of heroic and/or suicidal mission. Is your life and the act of bringing your innermost self to the outer realm a thing of heroicism or a suicide mission? I’d like to think not. So don’t go at it alone.
Think of all the people in your life - the closest, the not so closest, the idols you wish were close to but aren’t - think of the people that come to mind when you review the items in the first phase of the exercise.
If you’re a designer, what designers do you admire? What designers do you look up? If you’re a poet, which poets - dead or alive - do you wish you could have in your arsenal of mentors? You don’t have to be friends with them, they don’t even have to know about you including them as your mentors - though Luna does suggest that you could reach out to them, because who knows? They just might say yes!
In my arsenal of mentors/people I admire, I have my friend Linda Pappa, who is a brilliant and insanely talented artist and designer living in Crete with her equally creative genius husband, David. I have Jasmine Dowling, who I believe is hands-down one of the best designers of these times. I have Corina Nika from Cocorrina whom I love and admire because truly, everything she sets forth to create is a god-blessed masterpiece.
I have YouTubers Amy Lee and Aileen Xu from Lavendaire whose videos about personal development and self growth give me life; and Caroline Joy, the blogger behind Un-fancy, from whom I learned about curating my closet - which is such an integral part of having a curated life. I have Heikala who is one of my favorite traditional illustrator of all times and Laura Brouwers aka Cyarine whom I got to meet a few years ago at an expo in Madrid.
I love all of these people dearly, and I admire them equally so. I just haven’t reached out to them to inform them that I have mentally hired them as my mentors because I haven’t felt the need to do so. If you feel like you want to/must/should, feel free, but the magic works regardless of you telling them or not.
Please do note that the name here is Mentor and not friend. All your friends have the potential to become your mentors, but not all your mentors are your friends. This is for you, so don’t feel compelled to include the name of that cousin just because you’re really good friends.e.
Phase Four: The Job bank
Having your mentors at hand, specially the more varied they are, will help you on the next phase of this treasure hunt: The Job Bank.
All the Job Bank asks of you is that you come up with as many different streams of income as you possibly can - related of course to the things you’ve listed out in the very first phase.
If you’re a writer, maybe you can publish a book, become an active writer on Medium or sell copywriting services. If you’re an illustrator maybe you can open up an online store where you sell prints, or maybe you do commissions; maybe you can work as a concept artist for a video game company or publish illustrated books like Oliver Jeffers. The possibilities are limitless once you really sit down to think, and it is an exceptionally great way to solve that age old question of “but can I make money out of it?”.
When I was doing this phase, I discovered for the very first time that I was into clay, or rather, making stuff up with my own two hands without interacting with a screen. Clay just seemed so fascinating and I decided then that even though I hadn’t picked up a block of clay in eighteen years, I wanted to make space for the possibility of opening up my own home goods store and selling my stuff.
I’m not too sure when or if it will happen because, like I talked about in phase two, you can have two goals that contradict each other, and the contradicting goal, location independence, happens to be a bigger priority in my life, but it was fun to imagine myself having a little shop and making my own stuff. Who knows, maybe when I’m older I’ll settle down for a bit and make it into a reality, and that’s ultimately the beauty of life: knowing that nothing is truly permanent.e.
Phase Five: spit It Back Out In Order
I realize that I’m not the best at coming up with witty names for things, but let’s just roll with it.
You’ve dug, you’ve uncovered, you did the whole blood, sweat and tears thing and now you’re about to cut my head off if I make you do just one more exercise, but have some faith in me because this is the good one.
Phase five is the drawing conclusions of the first four phases and coming up with a solid plan and a line of action that’ll propel your inner self outwards. Because truly, that line is just a path back to you.
Maybe the way you connect the dots from the first phase is by becoming a writer (work) because you’ve already been writing for years as a hobby (play) and you think it’s time to turn it into a full-time work. Maybe you want to become a writer because you have a lot to say, because it makes you feel alive when you can help someone (live) and it would be incredible if you could do that helping through the thing that you love the most, which is the written word (love).
In my case, I want to be a creative director because I love creating and the act of bringing thoughts and ideas to life, I want to be a creative director because it an act of self expression and love. I want to be a creative director because it’s Christmas every day when I get to help others and I happen to believe that creating is the best way in which I know how to help others - no matter the format I create with.
How do the four areas of your life connect? And then, how do they connect with your goals and ambitions, with your dreams?
One of my goals is to be location independent, because I love - phase one - travelling and learning languages, and being a digital freelancer compliments these goals nicely. I don’t have to choose between one or the other. Find the coherence as you tie the work/play/love/live areas of your life with your dreams.
Then, look up to the people you admire, that have done this before you, and find your role models amongst your mentors, the people that you not only want to learn from, but also be like, and thinking from this space conjure what could be the best, most plausible way for you to materialize this into the world and make a living of it.
You literally have a puzzle in your hands right now, and the only thing left for you to do is to find the way to tie those pieces together. Make different paths if you must, and then narrow it down to the one that your soul feels called to the most. Believe me, when the time comes for your soul and your innermost self to speak, you will hear it loud and clear.
I know that this is a long exercise, but the reason why I’m starting with this is because I truly think it’s important to get our inner-selves out of the brain closet as soon as possible. You don’t want to start one path only to find that it truly isn’t what your inner-self is and wants to do.
If you do end up making this exercise I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, or, if you find it too intimate of a thing to share in public, feel free to share your thoughts and even pictures - please take pictures of your finished post-it masterpiece before taking it all down!!! - with me through my instagram: @sieleth, or the blog’s instagram: @thecuratedwoman.co. I would love and feel incredibly honored to see others doing this exercise which helped me so much when I started on this journey.
Also, of course, if you have any questions feel free to drop them below and I’ll get to them as soon as possible. Much love <3