A treasure map is a tool to help you visualize your goals more clearly. The better able you are to see your goals, the easier it is to bring them to reality.
Why does it work? There are plenty of opinions on the matter. Some say it just helps you feel more accepting of that particular vision of success, better able to recognize opportunities when they arise and more confident that it’s an appropriate reality for you. Others call it a way to channel the right energy, to magnetize your higher good, to shift your thinking so that your thoughts attract what you desire. Plenty of people might find it a little weird, but if it works, it works.
I’ve seen it work in my own life. The first time I ever tried it was back in the early ’80s when I’d first read Shakti Gawain‘s classic book, “Creative Visualization.” I was a recent college grad with no clue how to get a job, procrastinating in my job search by crashing my parents’ summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.
After reading Shakti’s chapter on treasure maps, I tried making one myself. I remember it included plenty of pictures of newspaper offices and writers hard at work (on typewriters — this was way before computers). But it also had a picture of a young woman who looked a little like me wearing a navy blue pullover sweater. She looked confident and happy, interviewing someone and scribbling notes on a pad of paper she was holding. She looked the way I imagined I would feel, if I could only land the job of my dreams as a reporter.
It took me several months to get the job, but I found the sweater the next day. I walked into one of the Vineyard’s finest thrift shops and there was my sweater. For 25 cents. Wore it all the way home, which is where I finally noticed it was black and not navy blue. But it was not bad, for a first try.
Years later, I’d gotten a little better at the whole visualizing thing. When my husband and I first met and were moving back to Atlanta from our stint in Florida, we created a giant treasure map together on a large piece of black foam core. That treasure map depicted everything we desired in our new life together — from our ad agency dream jobs, to the sort of home we wanted, to the music and books and art we hoped to surround ourselves with.
There also were some very specific items on our map that were important to us. We included visuals of me having the time and space to write fiction, Steve having a large space for playing music and recording it, and of Steve’s three-year-old son spending time in our home, which had been geographically and logistically impossible. Mostly we found the pictures in magazines, but we also cut up recent photos so we could glue ourselves right into the scene. We even added fake business cards we’d made for the jobs we wanted.
Suddenly everything fell into place very quickly for us. In one week, we each landed ideal jobs in great agencies, found a perfect little condo with a writing loft for me and a basement rehearsal/recording space for Steve — and a sunny bedroom for my stepson, who began a long tradition of spending every other weekend with us. One of my few regrets in life is that we tossed that old treasure map years later when we were cleaning out the basement. We’d love to look back at it now, 20 years later.
Here’s how to make your own treasure map: Grab all the old magazines you can find and start cutting out pictures that feel good to you, whether they’re a literal portrayal of your goals or symbolic. You also can search online if you have specific visuals in mind, using Google Images or even Pinterest. As you begin to achieve critical mass, start arranging your visuals on a large piece of poster board or other stiff backing. Once you find an arrangement that feels right, glue them down with Elmer’s liquid or a glue stick.
Then put your treasure map somewhere you’ll see it. Spend a few minutes looking at it every day or so, and try to feel the same emotions you would feel if your map were reality. If you can possibly stand to show it to someone else without being embarrassed, do it. There’s something powerful about someone else seeing your dream and believing in it too.