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Posts Tagged ‘vision’

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates

When you want something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done. – W S Bloom

I have been thinking about my future. Not next week, not a few months from now, not even next year. I’ve been trying to think about my longer term future, and what I would like to see, and what concrete steps I can take to work towards that vision.

I haven’t been thinking much about my future the last few years. I’ve been thinking about now, and I’ve been thinking about a few months from now, and I haven’t been seeing more than a year out from where I am at any given time. It’s been good to practice flexibility, and it’s been good to take the time to figure out what I want. Not based on convention or what anyone else I know is doing or what other people think I should do or be, but based on actual me. What I want and what I think is important.

I find having a vision to really help with my focus. Having spent the last few months honing my vision, I’ve begun to see that many of the details are extraneous. They don’t matter. It feels like they matter; it feels, in fact, like they are huge life-altering decisions. But sometimes all the big flashy external stuff is merely a blind for what’s going on inside. And being able to focus on the inside stuff brings a lot of clarity along with it.

It’s not always the specifics of a vision that matter. You have the vision, and then you figure out some specifics to get you there. But you could figure out a whole different set of specifics that may very well get you to the same place. What’s important, then, is figuring out where you’re generally trying to go. In order to pick specifics, in order to confidently make changes, it helps to know what you want.

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Details are a bridge, but you can always build another bridge further down.

I feel like this is easier for some people to achieve than others. I ask a lot of questions, and that can mean it’s more complicated to figure out what I want. I kind of tried to follow a common middle-class American life road map, but I was never completely on board with it, and then it turned out to not be what I wanted at all.

And then there’s the blindness that can come with experience. You don’t have something in your vision not because it’s necessarily not possible, but because it’s outside what has happened to you personally. Sometimes our expectations for what is possible can end up being set too low, and it doesn’t even occur to us to shoot for something more. And sometimes we don’t add something to our vision because it doesn’t occur to us that it is even an option.

I have discovered that Socrates was a wise guy (not that this should be news!) I have spent a lot of time in my life fighting the old. I have this weird idea that if I simply try hard enough, I can fix anything. I say it’s weird because it is patently false.

But when I focus on building something new instead of fixing or trying to prop something up, that’s when I tend to make actual progress. That’s when my vision begins to clear, and I think, “Oh yeah. I do know what I want. Huh. How about that.”

And that’s when things really begin to change.  

 

(P.S. I’m going to be traveling, so there’s going to be a short break in our regularly scheduled programming. See you in a bit!)

 

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This summer I went to a workshop about dealing with fear, and I left it feeling disappointed. The teachers didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t already known. They kept using examples that either weren’t really about fear or that were about being afraid of public speaking. So it wasn’t a talk geared for me.

Apparently fear of public speaking is the second most common fear in the United States. But to me, it just doesn’t seem like a big deal. I get nervous ahead of time, and I over-prepare, and I don’t always do a good job with it. But it’s so much better than having to sing operatic arias in a foreign language I don’t actually speak that contain high notes I can’t actually hit from memory and then have my performance critiqued in front of a group of fellow singers. That’s what I spent my college years doing. Which was still better than actual auditions.

So one way to manage fear is to do something a lot harder, and then easier things might not seem so bad. Another way is to do whatever you’re afraid to do A LOT. So basically you’re practicing your way out of fear.

But really I was disappointed in the talk because there is no easy answer. Whether you’re afraid of speaking in public or dying, uncertainty or being treated poorly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And I wish there was. Fear is such an uncomfortable emotion. It can both hold us back and make things a lot more miserable even as we trudge forward. It can warp the nature of reality itself, making things that might be true seem like they are actually true. And it can make us physically ill in a variety of ways.

I have spent a lot of time being afraid. And ultimately it’s always the same thing that pushes me through.

Belief.

I remember once as a student, I was walking towards the music building where I had an audition. I think I was sick (I was almost always sick), and I already knew I wasn’t going to get the part. I thought to myself, Why are you even bothering? Why don’t you just go home? Why are you doing this to yourself?

But the answer was clear. I had decided to do this. I believed this was what I should be doing, even though I felt awful and I was really nervous and I knew I wouldn’t get the part. I had a vision of what I wanted my life to be, and this crappy audition experience was a part of that. So I went, and I did the audition, and I didn’t get the part, and I moved on.

Belief is still what gets me through fear. I fix my eyes on my idea of the future, and I clench my jaw, and I do what needs to be done to give myself a chance of getting there. The fear is still there, making things harder, making me pause and ask myself why I am putting myself through such difficulty. But I believe in my vision, and I hold onto that belief as if my life depends on it.

So I guess if I were to give a workshop on overcoming fear, I’d explore how to create a vision strong enough to withstand whatever fear can throw at us. I’d look for some exercises to promote self esteem, because in order to believe in a vision, I think we also have to believe in ourselves. And I’d talk about how to take care of ourselves and handle rejection and disappointment and failure and other obstacles in a resilient way that allows us to keep moving forward.

How do you overcome fear?

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I’ve been going through a bunch of my boxes of old memorabilia, trying to consolidate and store stuff in boxes that aren’t collapsing from age. It has proven to be a fascinating experience–albeit an allergy-inducing one–punctuated by shrieks whenever I come across an unexpected bug. Good times, good times.

In the excavation process, I found something I thought was lost in the mists of time forever: my first book. Written when I was seven years old, it is called “The Princess and the Cave” and reflects my undying love for fairy tales, and also probably for The Princess and the Goblin, which I believe I’d read shortly before writing my own story. Here is the cover:

The Princess and the Cave

 And here is a taste of the artwork inside:

Amy's cave drawing

We can see two things from these photos: first, that I was fascinated with the idea of caves, and second, that it’s not surprising I didn’t go on to have a career in the visual arts.

I loved writing “The Princess and the Cave” so much that I promptly sat down and wrote a second book:

Too Much CandyI find these books to be noteworthy because it was when I was writing them for a classroom assignment that I understood that the books I loved to read were actually, really truly written by other people. And I decided that when I grew up, I wanted to be an author.

I never changed my mind. I decided I wanted to be a musician too, and I devoted many years of my life to primarily focusing on music. But even then, I was writing bad poetry or memoirs or short stories or lyrics or the book of a musical. And I always held onto the idea in the back of the mind that one thing I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime was to write a novel. I thought I might not do it until I was fifty (I’m glad I was wrong about that), but it was always a part of my vision for my life.

Having a vision for our lives can be so powerful, whether the vision was formed when we were seven or it’s brand new. A vision can give us purpose and direction, something to aim towards as we make the decisions that shape our lives. And in times of change, it’s the powerful vision of what we’re striving for that carries us through. I’m not talking so much about visualizing what we want, which some research shows actually makes us less effective at carrying out our plans. Rather, I’m talking about knowing what we want (or learning what we want if we don’t already know) and believing it could become a reality.

We can become so limited by what we believe to be impossible. Obviously we aren’t capable of every thing under the sun, and sometimes we don’t want to set the corresponding priorities or make the sacrifices necessary to make something possible, and that’s fine. That’s different than experiencing a failure of imagination, imagination being the capacity that perhaps allows us to have vision in the first place. We get to choose our vision, after all. But we can become stifled by a narrow view, or by exhaustion, or by fear.  We can forget that so many amazing dreams are worthwhile not so much because of the end result (although that can be quite nice, of course) but because of the journey we take to follow them.

Do you have a vision for your life?

 

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