The City of our Dreams: Three Keys to Building a Well-Designed Future

I know I am in New York when I see the Manhattan skyline as I cross the Brooklyn Bridge, set eyes on the Hudson, catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park or stroll through the tree lined paths of Central Park. What if like a city skyline we each had our own hallmarks of identity, some universal and others very personal. As the weathered monument in the city square designates place so our decisions and ethos signal who we are. There is no London without Big Ben or Paris without an Eiffel likewise there will be no personal identity without their definitive and defining character. We are architect. We are builder. We determine the person we will be and the work we will do.

No two cities look alike and no city grows to greatness while trying to mimic another. Just as there is value in universal traits and attributes, there is also great wisdom in individual strength and style. Personal development is a careful balance between learning from others and trusting in self. Although, new ideas are built from past discovery, no one likes a mimic. It plays false and falls flat. On the other side, authentic is a hot word of this moment. Yet today even becoming authentic has its own set of instructions; thus, negating its very authenticity. I have learned that whatever I do I must be true to myself. To more fully architect personal style and purpose, I have devised a list of attributes that both learn from the past and deeply consider the individual. Each person, no matter origin or journey will benefit from these skills: intention, intuition and grit.

Intention is the the blueprint for our personal development. It is the act of initiating purpose in every choice and action. It is a steady movement toward long-term good over short term ease or benefit. It remembers values and goals in every act and decision, great or small, and understands that small lapses can lead to great deficit. In parenting, my partner and I sometimes get lost between intention and the sheer speed of day to day. We have grand hopes and plans to teach our kids to work hard and have compassion for others. However, one day moves into another filled with soccer practice, homework, work deadlines and more. We often find ourselves on the short end, no closer to our greater family design. This is where intention must meet action. Choices must reflect desired purpose or there will be an inevitable disconnect between what we want and what is. There is a fixed connection between input and output. We control input and output simply follows suit. From personal health to changing industries our daily action must equate to our desired outcome. Get a six-pack, make a strategic lateral move or become a more persuasive communicator are not achieved through haphazard choice but rather focused, consistent and thoughtful actions.

As a burgeoning architect, possibility and opportunity are essential building blocks. To effectively leverage opportunity, it is important to trust in intuition and instinct. Steve Jobs said, "Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That's had a big impact on my work." Many of Job's big decisions were made with feeling and belief. Intuition looks inward and acts outward. It is a feeling put to work. To hone our own intuition, we must practice. To do this: 1) Prioritize own thoughts above the fray of surrounding opinion and information. 2) Put words and meaning to the mental and emotional. 3) Take action. It is action that solidifies intuition from idea to reality. It moves intuition from abstract to concrete. Something I can point to. Sink my teeth in. Scream from the rooftops, "I felt this, I knew it and I did it." Regrettably, there are also times when I have that gut feeling and don't act. I know something is right and I don't follow through. This inaction violates the inner person--heart and soul. It communicates that what I think isn't valuable. Being heedless to intuition is damaging. It stagnates personal ideation. As architect it is paramount to listen for intuition and instinct. Trust it. And fight for it. Think of intuition as the artist's brush: It shapes the possibilities that are custom made just for you.

Every city has its storied past. Floods, fires or war leave their mark for good and ill. The cities that survive have overcome hardship and risen bigger and brighter. They create new and evolving meaning and identity. Cities devastated by fire rebuild from the rubble so we build and rebuild our lives and dreams. It is by will and hard work that brick by brick we architect our lives. We stand up out of the ash and discover new life and possibility. Building and rebuilding over and over again isn't easy. It takes fight. It takes effort. It takes reinvention. It takes facing fear and self-doubt. It takes walking into the unfamiliar. And all of it takes grit. Grit and tenacity are the maker or breaker of men and women alike. It is the will to do what needs to be done whether you feel like it or not. Whether you feel capable or not. Grit is the engine that moves us from inexperience to experience. From down and out to up and up. Grit moves mountains and slays dragons. It overcomes odds and redefines landscape. In rain or shine, brick after brick, grit builds the monuments of our lives.

What will your future look like? Be architect. Be builder. Brick by brick build the grand cityscape of your present and future dreams. And never give up. I have had my share of heartache and self-doubt. There have been periods of time when my eyes saw only shortcoming and self-doubt. Where everything I did appeared to unravel. I have learned that no matter how dark one day may be the sun will shine again. Whether in light or shadow, take these skills and get inspired. Pick one and begin to architect a life.

About Maran Whiting Hanley: As a writer life is my artist muse. I love to watch and apply. I believe a writer's job is to tell a story. To fit disparate and incongruent pieces into one great whole. I am an enthusiast of health and wellness. I am passionate about self-care, whole foods and movement. I am a mother. I love to travel. I am an artist. A collector. A lover of art. Above all I am human--by trial and error trying to learn how to live and love.