Every year millions of people spend a good amount of time generating their “What I want for Christmas or Hanukah” list and I have to admit to having a bit of this nasty little habit myself. This year, I’d like to shift the focus from material acquisition—what we want—to genius acquisition—who we want to be—by thinking about what I hope to learn and how I hope to grow this holiday season and in 2012.
The best way to do this is first to redefine the word “gift” as it relates to yourself and to others. Experience is one of the most important learning factors for every Practical Genius, so this year what you want to receive and what you want to give others is not a thing, it’s an experience. The secret ingredient to a transformative experience is, of course, the environment in which it takes place. So now to create a Genius Wish List that will take us to the places that will move and expand us, stretch our muscles and shed new light in our lives. Here’s how:
First, find a quiet, comfortable, “alone” place and at least 30 minutes in your busy schedule for this valuable exercise.
Second, close your eyes and visualize the specific environments where the most profound and illuminating experiences you have had have taken place. Use your journal or photo albums to remind you of these pivotal moments. These environments might include outdoor spaces, a particular building in a certain city, a museum or gallery, public spaces, a garden, a studio, cafes or restaurants, or, of course, a church, temple, mosque or other spiritual center. Try to remember these environments in as much detail as possible—the colors, the sounds and smells, the light, the textures that helped to shape the experience and deeply impress it upon you.
Third, with these environments in mind, make a list of five places that are new to you that you will visit this year, at least one of these visits taking place with family or friends during the holiday season. This will require a fun bit of research, rooting through your files of “someday” activities, Googling around online, and brainstorming with the people in your life. This isn’t a climb-Mount-Everest bucket list; it’s a very specific, very purposeful and doable list of experiences waiting to happen. You don’t have to travel far or spend a bunch of money to fulfill your Genius Wish List. Just take the time and pleasure in planning for reflective, multi-sensory experiences like others you have had before; whatever it is you choose to do, you want to feel “full,” leaving you with much to sustain and inspire you well into the future. You might even map out your List by creating a visual collage of the environments and experiences you plan to enjoy throughout the year; this will help you integrate these plans into the way you view your day-to-day life, rather than relegate them to the “when-I-have-some-free time” closet. It will also stimulate your sense memories in a highly motivating way.
Think also about ways to create a Wish List experience yourself. For example, having some of the most important growth moments of my life take place over an extraordinary meal and having also become very interested in the science of food in the last few years, my Genius Wish List for 2012 includes hosting a “molecular gastronomy” dinner party, inviting a chef, of course, but also an artist or two, a musician, a technologist, and maybe an educator—all to foster the spontaneous combustion of creativity and precision, art and science, craft and conversation.
Whatever’s on your list, though, plan for it. Get out your calendar and begin to work out the timing and logistics for each experience. If you don’t make the commitment and the necessary plans, we both know it won’t happen. The best gift you can give yourself is a year full of original, genius-feeding experiences. So make your Wish List, map it out, and share it with the people who matter to you so they know where you’re headed in the coming year. Better yet, invite them along! Genius loves company.
Making a point of having one of your Wish List experiences during the holiday season serves two purposes: First, it’s a powerful reminder that what we do is more important than what we have, that joy comes from the living of our lives, not from packages under a tree. Second, it will set the bar for the new year in a way that will make you impatient for your next Wish List experience. Yup, it’s the kind of food for your genius that never satiates, but rather fuels your hunger further. In this case, I promise, this is a good thing.
I guarantee that tossing out your Christmas list in exchange for a Genius Wish List will change the way the holidays and the whole year play out for you. Please let me know of your own extraordinary Wish List experiences as they happen this year so we can all share in the transformation they inspired. You can be sure you’ll hear about mine!