[In case you missed Lesson #1, feel free to go here.]
It has always been a perplexity to me that we are not, typically, creatures who function independent of attachment and yet we live lives that generally require us to not grasp too tightly the things and the people that mean the most to us. I daresay progress requires “seasonal thinking”, and that is yet another area of life where we have to find and maintain balance between seemingly contradictory truths.
Lesson #1 is a good fallback spot when you lose your way and aren’t sure what to do next, and inevitably, I think it is healthy to periodically go back to square one and “start all over”, even though you’re starting over with all of the experience you’ve already gained. It’s like a New Game+! (If you remember Parasite Eve 1 and 2 for PS1, holla!)
But there comes a point when you have to push out of the shallows and sail into unknown waters. There are a few tools and concepts I think are helpful for moving from entry level to bigger and better things.
1.) Take ownership.
I don’t care what your background is, nobody knows you better than yourself. The Lesson of your life is not unknown to you; you’ve been living it since the day you were born. You may not have articulated it or conceptualized it, but there are recurring themes; a story is being told with or without your knowledge and / or cooperation.
I believe our lives can’t really be tracked in a straight line, but rather we live in orbit around the the nucleus of this central Story. Either we take responsibility and direct the course or we give the right away to direct our lives to someone else, then we never break atmosphere. But until you realize that you will never truly progress if you place the outcome of your life on the behavior of others, you will never truly have ownership of it and your ability to develop emotionally and spiritually will be limited.
Without taking this step, I believe moving on from entry level is pretty much impossible. You may have some success in your life but it will be incredibly myopic. A good indicator of a victim mentality is whether or not you wait for things to happen to you rather than striving to make things happen. Finding a way to live in forgiveness is the only way you can become the catalyst of change.
2.) Think seasonally.
This is concept I understood more from Buddhism than I did Christianity, even though a lot of the related concepts are Biblical.
I find a lot of rifts occur over unspoken expectations. Perhaps we make initiatives and expect those closest to us to support us, and they fail to come through quite the way we want. Progress can never be contingent on who is onboard and who is not, even if their role would seemingly obligate them to do so. Even the best people with the best of intentions can’t always come through on those unspoken expectations.
For example, I am making the blog a priority right now, for a season. I’m putting a lot of my creative efforts (both brainstorming out and about and while I have hand to keyboard) into this; it’s important to me that it succeed, even if the point is to improve my craft and emphasize quality over quantity. A lot of the people I would “expect” to dig in and be an active part of what I am doing hardly pay attention to it; in fact, a lot of the ones who have invested the most time reading and giving feedback are more on the acquaintance side of the spectrum.
At different seasons of life, we’ll resonate with others in different ways based on where they are with their own lives and their own growth. I’m staying focused on staying passionate about my writing and believing that I will connect with the people that I need to. As we stay committed to what we’re passionate about, those closest to us will get on board in due time.
My point is: let things occur organically in the right time. Don’t get too caught up on how things “should” be or you’ll just discourage yourself and alienate the people you want in your life. Learn from the season and enjoy the fruits of your labor… even share with those who may not have met expectations. It matures you a bit, and it gives the other person the opportunity to do the same. Part of taking ownership is letting others also be free and not letting the conceptual attachments hinder us. (I am not advocating not voicing your feelings, but don’t obligate others to respond a specific way or attach yourself to an outcome.) In fact, in general, if you find people just aren’t responding the way you’d hope to whatever you’re working on, try things a different way. Maybe the disconnect is your end.
Another way we need to think seasonally is to consider every endeavor as temporary. You plant seeds in spring, water in summer, harvest in fall and rest during the winter. The blog is fine for now, my job is fine for now, the place I live is fine for now, but I am always aware that, after this season, another will immediately follow and it may not involve doing the same things or being in the same place or even being around the same people I am now.
3.) Plot a course.
So in an effort to take ownership and thinking seasonally, where is the middle ground? How do we make progress while not exerting control?
You will never control the sea, and you can’t change the direction of the wind. But you are the captain of the boat. You set the course, and you decide when to drop anchor, stop at a port, set sail, etc.
I’m a fan of mission statements, though I know that is something a lot of folks just don’t feel comfortable with. I think of it like this: the Enterprise had a mission statement to explore the unknown, “seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Now, without that motto to keep them on track, I have a suspicion they wouldn’t have made it very far.
Picard: “So this is a planet of good looking naked people that like to have sex at the drop of a hat? I suppose I could build a cabin here.”
Riker: “I’m pitching a tent!” (See, that’s funny because jumpsuits leave nothing to the imagination. What’s even funnier is that I am pretty sure that was the premise of one of the early episodes.)
It doesn’t have to be specific, but know where you want to go and more importantly, how you want to get there. You’ll have to make all sorts of course corrections based on your best judgement. Maybe you’ll end up in America instead of India and they’ll create a holiday based on your “discovery”. But when your course is laid out, you have a bearing to aim for; otherwise the gravity of your past could just pull you right back into what is safe and familiar and you’ll fall right back into a rut.
I have this on my wall; I make it a point to read at least a portion of it daily to remind myself of where I am headed:
It is perhaps a little corny, maybe even cliche… but it keeps my head in the right place. (I bought it from Walmart, of all places.)
I’ll go more into mission statements (and a few variations of the concept) in another blog, as I’ve gone a bit over my 1000 word target. Catch me tomorrow for the Midweek Geek Out!