Imagine taking a journey into the future and watching two films. The first movie is your life as it was, and the second film is a cinematic depiction of your life as it could have been. The gap between these two images is an excellent barometer of your satisfaction with your life. When embarking on this journey of mind, some may find that the disparity between the two films is nominal or even non-existent. In that case, I suggest skipping this column and going directly to another section of the paper! However, if you tried this mind experiment and noticed a significant difference between the two films, you may want to invest a few moments of your time and take the following simple (and dare I say it) fun steps to harmonize the two movies. Identify your starting point If you want to go on a trip, it is a good idea to know your point of departure. For example, you may want to focus on one specific aspect of your life, such as changing professions or getting along better with your spouse. Choose an element of your life that is under your control and that you can initiate and maintain. For instance, you can't necessarily make people like you, but you can certainly take steps to make yourself more likable. Once you know your starting point, you can continue on the next leg of the journey. Choose your destination The next step is deciding where you want to go. Becoming a public speaker may be your goal, or you may want to create a more peaceful environment in your home. Before starting the journey, imagine what the destination will look like ahead of time. See yourself as the director of the movie of your life. When using your imagination to envision the new film, cast bright lights onto the set and add your favorite music to the mix. Making the destination compelling is not only a lot of fun, it is almost a guaranteed strategy for success. Create a movie that you would be willing to pay money to watch and even want to invite some friends as well. Understand the barriers Maybe money or time is preventing you from reaching your goal. Calculate precisely how much money it would take you to attain your goal and then brainstorm ways of acquiring these funds. If time is the critical factor, then clarify how long it would take you to achieve your target and brush up on your time management skills. Perhaps you are standing in your own way. If you have created self-imposed limitations in the past, define exactly what they are and start moving beyond them. Choose a metaphor that best defines your internal block, such as an ice wall that you can melt by applying the correct amount of heat. Select whatever metaphor works best for you and take the appropriate action within that symbolic world to conquer these fictitious obstructions once and for all. Perhaps you have annoying internal dialogue that fills your head with an onslaught of negative messages. Instead of fighting this chatter, have fun with it. Alter the tone and tempo of these voices in your head to sound like a cartoon character. Taking these high-pitched voices seriously is next to impossible. Make your self-talk so slow that you can't understand it. Alternatively, you can teach yourself to broadcast an incredibly upbeat voice that is encouraging and proactive. Feel free to retool your brain's "factory defaults." One of the most challenging barriers is managing the 40,000 thoughts that fire through our mind every day. When a negative thought comes into your head, gently replace it with a positive one. Imagine how our lives could change for the better when the lion's share of our daily thoughts are encouraging, positive, and empowering. As motivation guru Robin Sharma is fond of saying, "the quality of our life is the quality of our thoughts." Write down your plan of action There is an old saying that a goal is a dream with a deadline. Write your plan down on paper (or on a document on your PC or MAC) and make a commitment to following it. Never underestimate the power of written goals. A recent long-term study of Stanford graduates revealed that the most successful students were those five percent of the graduating class that had taken the time to commit their goals to writing. This small percentage was more successful in terms of income and self-satisfaction than the other 95% the graduates combined. Monitor your progress Two weeks into your program, take some time to review how well you have done so far. Reward yourself for positive changes that you have made, fine- tune parts of the plan that may need adjusting, and then set the next series of benchmarks. Accept any setbacks as learning experiences. When you think of these activities as play and not as work you will be more likely to succeed. In your mind's eye, there is no difference between what is vividly imagined and actual reality. Envision your desired reality as if you are already living it, and then take the steps listed above to set the plan into action. And when you go back to the future, you will notice that you have bridged the gap between the two movies faster than you think Ben Goldfarb is a personal and corporate coach who has given seminars at Philips Medical Systems, Israel Aircraft Industry, and Marvell Semiconductor. He has offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and does telephone and e-coaching with clients in Israel, Europe and the United States. You can email Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.pdshiftcoaching.com for more information.