Your Treasure Map

Mapping out your life to be the way you want

On the wall of my hallway, where I pass it several times a day, is a big piece of poster board covered in photos clipped from magazines--a collage, and a rather messy one at that. Pictures of pregnant women, babies, children; gardens and gardeners; a passionate couple; pretty kitchens; the writer MFK Fisher; a woman's long, beautiful hair; women performing tai chi and yoga and exercising with their little children; art supplies. This is my treasure map.

I put the map together more than 15 years ago at the suggestion of a counselor. "I want you to put in images that remind you of everything that you want to happen in your life over the next 16 years." Why 16, I asked. She shrugged. "Seems like a reasonable number to me."

The amazing thing is, almost everything on the map has happened; my counselor was right, by making the map I did find my treasure. In the years since I made the map, I found my husband (who I seriously thought was unfindable); I've had two beautiful little girls. I have a lovely garden (that needs tending, but it's out there). I've reclaimed the writer in me as well as the artist. Among the images is a little one of a woman grinding healing herbs and hey presto, I've become a bit of an amateur diagnostician--a talent I encourage everyone to cultivate these days. I even have enough lavender plants to choke a horse, fulfilling the enormous close-up I have in the treasure map of a field of lavender blooms. And my hair is to the middle of my back.

Making your own treasure map

First, set yourself a time period for your map. It doesn't have to be 16 years. Pick a number that seems reasonable to you.

Think about what you want to bring into your life in your chosen time period. Think small, think big. In my map I included everything from wanting a deep love relationship and children to wanting long hair and lavender plants. Write your goals down, no matter how trivial they might seem or unattainable you think they are. Most of what was on my map I originally thought was unattainable, and yet it came into my life given time, work and focus.

Sit down with scissors and a big stack of magazines and catalogs. Cut out every picture that resonates with you, even if it doesn't match a written goal; maybe the picture will lead you to a goal you haven't been able to voice. AVOID WORDS. You know the saying "A picture's worth a thousand words?" It's especially true when speaking to your subconscious, and that's what this treasure map will be doing. If you can't find a picture in your magazines that fits one of your goals, get on the Internet and print one out. (As long as you're doing this for personal use, you're okay on this one as far as copyright goes.) Consider actual photos, too, if one fits your goals. Don't worry about cutting out too many. You can cull through the pictures later and pick the ones that mean the most to you.

Get as big a piece of posterboard as you care to deal with, and be sure to give yourself more than a dinky piece of 8x11 paper. If you don't have or can't afford a piece of posterboard right now, cut up a cardboard box, flatten a brown paper bag, use shelf paper--just get yourself a good "canvas" somehow. And get out a bottle of glue or a glue stick.

Now go nuts! You may want to arrange your pictures first or you may just want to go with a "stream-of-consciousness" approach to gluing them down. Don't overthink it regardless which approach you go for, but don't be afraid to rearrange, either. This is not heirloom scrapbook time, but work on it until it feels right. Remember you can revise it any time.

Once you're done, let it dry and then find a place to hang it where you can see it at least once a day. Mine has hung in my bedroom, in my bathroom (in front of the toilet) and now hangs in the hallway leading to the upstairs. I pass it at least a dozen times a day and every time I try to take even just a second to look it over.

New treasures for a new phase in life

Over the years I've updated the picture now and again, but in essence it's remained the same. Today I'm going to start a new one. It's time to set my sights on new treasures, and dust off the ones I have that are unappreciated. And to me that feels as if it needs all-new pictures. Just as you wouldn't consult a map to go around the block, I have stopped consulting my treasure map; it's grown too familiar.

I've got my scissors, I've got my glue stick, as always I have a huge pile of magazines. Time to light out for the unknown territory of the rest of my life. Care to join me?

Lynn Siprelle runs this website.