Anyone who knows a thing or two about setting and achieving goals can tell you that the vision is arguably the most important part. The vision is your dream — it’s how you want your life to be in the future; a snapshot of you at some point down the road, living the good life. They say that the more specific you can get about it, the better your chances are of achieving it.
Last week, I attended a four day coaching training with Wellcoaches. There was a lot of roleplaying and also practicing with our own goals and visions. At one point, I came across a challenge:
I didn’t know if my vision should take into account my chronic pain.
I have to admit that there is always a part of me that believes that maybe one day I’ll figure out how to make my pain go away (I think this is largely due to the pervasive idea that our bodies are our “faults” which I’m still working on undoing in my psyche) and I wanted to let my dream be big. I began to imagine myself traversing the earth on foot, climbing rocks, wading through branches and streams, and reaching breathtaking peaks.
But I couldn’t hold this vision for long before the sadness crept in. Would it ever really be possible for me in the way I was imagining it? If I could believe in the vision strongly enough, might it help my chances of leaving my pain behind? At the same time, if I chose to ignore the reality of my pain, was I just delaying my process of acceptance, inevitably leading to more suffering? It felt complicated and difficult, laden with feelings of shame and guilt, subtle remnants of internalized fatphobia, hope, despair, and deep self-love — and I felt stuck.
So I sat down with the instructor, and what she did was so genius.
She made me dream bigger.
She guided me to move beyond a vision for my body, and into a vision for my life. This, I was able to do without any resistance. It was exciting, exhilarating even, and after a certain point, she said, “Do you see your pain getting in the way of this vision?” The answer was no. (I realize that this is a privilege not everyone enjoys. I see you, my friends with chronic illness).
…my purpose on this planet is not to make my body perform for me or anyone else like a monkey.
And I realized that even though I’ve spent the last 4+ years deeply enmeshed in a body positive lifestyle with incredible mentors and community, regular practice, therapy, etc, with the aim of learning how to improve my relationship with my body so that I could focus on what really matters in my life, I had gotten caught up in my body and in the details again.
It’s so easy to do. Especially when you’re dealing with pain and you’re in a fat body, because people are always there to tell you that your body is a problem to be solved. I want to treat my body well and to increase my strength and endurance but I want to do those things so that I can live my life and pursue connection with others and a feeling of accomplishment and to make a difference. Yes, I want to explore, I want to be in nature, I want to see beauty. I want to live a life of adventure, and to test my strength and abilities. Those are all things I can do. It may not be in exactly the way I used to imagine it, and yeah, there’s some pain and sadness in that, but why does it have to be all or nothing?
I came away from the experience with a really important reminder: when I get sad about my body and I’m focused on what it can’t do, I’m gonna use it as a mindfulness bell to remember that I need to look at the bigger picture. I need to remember that my purpose on this planet is not to make my body perform for me or anyone else like a monkey. My purpose is so much bigger than that. And there are worlds of pleasure and achievement waiting for me — for us — that we’ve never even tasted. I’m committed to fixing my sights on that. And I’m committed to helping you do the same.