Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Believable and the Realistic

Often when people are coming up with all of the reasons why something isn't possible, doing their best to convince another person not to try to achieve something extraordinary, they claim that they are "just being realistic." I wonder how this word has become synonymous with pessimistic. Are we so convinced as a culture that failure is more likely than success that we confuse being realistic with an unwillingness to believe, hope, vision, dream? Perhaps it is an effort to avoid disappointment or pain, but I'm not sure that this interpretation of what is realistic provides joy, satisfaction, or delight. And I would suggest that it is based more on fears than on actual reality.

What is believable for me right now is far from what I used to consider realistic. From being something of a cynic at one point in time, I have now taken as a basic principle that people are capable. Even as I wrote recently about the challenges that life is presenting as I continue to step into a vision of something more for myself and the people around me, I felt a buoyant excitement and an energy. My vision is very believable, and I think it is very much worth believing in.

Is it realistic, though? Who can say? I believe that it is realistic to assume that the earth will continue in its rotation and its orbit around the sun for the rest of my lifetime. I believe that it is realistic to assume that the basic laws of physics will not change overnight. I believe that it is realistic, in other words, to accept the big picture of consistency that I have experienced from the natural world. But I'm not so sure about people. What is realistic when it comes to people?

Often, I find myself making assumptions about people based on my previous experience of them. Sometimes I will make assumptions based on my experience of other people in the same category. The truth of the matter is that people can change. Even from day to day or moment to moment, moods and attitudes are not fixed in stone. So much of our experience in life is in relationship to other people, and yet we often make sweeping generalizations about individuals or groups and think we are being realistic.

As I envision various partnerships emerging in my life, and as I actively seek them out, I am going to put aside the temptation to call my assumptions and predictions "realistic." I'll know what is realistic by being awake to reality, and I can shift and adjust my approach toward my vision as I gain new information. Rather than close doors on the basis of a pessimistic assumption, I choose to believe in possibility. I am willing to base my actions on hopefulness, and I am willing to be surprised.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Expectations vs. Reality

Say what you will about visualization, no matter how vividly or purposefully one sees something happening in the mind's eye, one can't control anything outside of oneself. When I visualize the outcome that I truly want, I do believe that I line up my intention and my awareness; I'm ready for it and I'm watching for opportunities to propel myself toward that outcome. But my expectations are still often in competition with what reality turns out to be.

In my job, I have spent a couple of years working toward a long-range vision. I have been redefining what "leadership" means for myself and for other people around me. I have encouraged other people to embrace their capability and I have become more intentional about my communication and my decisions. I want my choices to reflect that larger vision rather than be made out of fear or a desire to please people. The person I had worked most closely with in developing this vision is now gone, however. I am now reporting to someone whose purpose is to see things through a transition period, so the expressed expectations are relatively short-term in scope. Can we still have partnership with different visions.

With the new Power of Connection mentor courses I have scheduled, I expected that there would be a strong interest in a certain community. At least enough to reach the course limit of 15. My marketing for the course was based on that expectation, but the registrations have not been pouring in. I don't know the reasons, but I am recognizing that reality is not what I expected or even envisioned it to be. I am certainly learning something from the experience, but it's not what I had hoped for.

As a composer, I am exploring ways to spend more time with creative pursuits rather than spending my time sending out pieces to competitions and calls for scores in the hopes of getting performances and recognition. I envision a partnership with someone who has a complementary skill set and sees a way to benefit from truly acting on my behalf. I see a number of possibilities for this kind of partnership. It may even be several different people. But I don't know what reality will give me to work with.

When do persistence and tenacity become stubbornness and inflexibility? I don't know. My decisions for today are to hold to my larger vision and see where it carries me. It's certainly not something I believe I can create overnight, and I fully expect that it will continually fluctuate and coalesce in response to new information. My expectations are not really in competition with reality. It's just part of the dance. A partnership that constantly calls me into growth. And the fuel for the vision is a kind of hope and faith that is as boundless as I am willing for it to be.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Death of the Lone Ranger

Asking for help has not always been my practice. Perhaps I viewed it as a show of weakness or that I would be bothering someone else. Or maybe I just thought that if I wanted something done right, I'd have to do it myself. I wasn't isolationist about it. I would certainly ask people for small things. Things that didn't require too much of their time or energy. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto, right?

Now I am looking at my time and what I want to accomplish. I am recognizing the realistic limits of what I can do with the number of hours in a day, and I am seeing the shortfall. At the same time, I am in many ways content with my life. My job is no more challenging than I choose to make it, which is both a blessing and a curse. Although the schedule requires that I work when most of my friends and family actually have time to spend together, the schedule is also flexible in many ways. I am grateful that the steady pay is covering my bills at this time, and the compensation is a fair reflection of my experience and skills. And yet, I eventually want to have more time to compose and to focus on the publication and distribution of my music. I want to have more geographic flexibility and I want to be able to spend more time connecting with my wife and friends.

I know of several options. I could still try to do everything myself. In the past, that had led to me being driven and not taking care of myself. What I really want is to enjoy my life while I am stretching to the fullness of my capability. I could let go of some of my goals. This is the most tempting one many days. And yet, the intention behind that vision wells up from my truest self. I have chosen to limit myself for so long, and my recent stretching into the fullness of what I can do has been truly satisfying. And I haven't found my personal limits yet, even as I press against the practical reality of my current circumstances.

So, I am deciding to ask for help. I don't know what that assistance looks like just yet, but I know that I don't have to do everything myself. My vision has room for partnership. In fact, it is enhanced by it. I am passionate and skilled in many areas, but I really don't like the publicity side of things. I know that there are people who do, however. So, I am willing (and a bit determined) to partner with someone with a complimentary skill set rather than only do what I can accomplish by myself. And I'll see what possibilities are created.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ultimate Mystery-Thriller

Well done "suspense" movies are favorites of mine. Sophisticated horror flicks that keep shifting my expectations, mysteries that don't give away the answer until the very end, movies that engage my mind and constantly introduce new twists and turns. One reason I enjoy these films is that I love to figure things out. I feel pretty satisfied with myself when I am able to solve the puzzle or answer the riddle, but what I really get excited about are the times when I don't. I view a well-told tale that has congruency and yet stumps me until the very end as a phenomenal gift.

But I haven't often lived like that. I haven't often been very satisfied with not knowing. Only recently have I really started to revel in surprises from life. It started with a willingness to step into a goal without knowing what it would look like several years into the future. Now I find myself becoming increasingly willing to commit to what I would truly like to create or be, even when I don't know what the next day of that commitment will look like. I feel a bit scared about it actually, and I feel incredibly confident at the same time.

It is as if I am walking into a fog which gets deeper and deeper, preventing me from seeing the horizon clearly, and yet with each step I gain greater clarity about where I am in that moment. The choices that I am making are becoming less about what job I want or where I want to live and more about who I want to be, which (strangely enough) lines up with who I am when all the masks and facades are down. And it occurs to me that I could never really see the horizon clearly. All I have ever been able to do is to take a step and see what happened. And that realization changes so much about how I take that step.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eating the Elephant

I have had several occasions this year for visioning, looking ahead at what I would like to have or be in my life and taking a stand or making a commitment toward it. When I really let my mind go, I can dream pretty big (although I am still conscious of limiting my visioning with my idea of being "realistic" sometimes). The problem is, there are a lot of things about which I've been dreaming. When I start making a list of all the different goals toward which my visioning leads, it's a pretty intimidating affair.

When I believe that I have to be doing it all right now, that is. What I have been doing is forcing myself forward on ten different fronts and what my body and brain are telling me is "Too much!" I focus my time so intensely on working toward so many commitments and visions that I frequently fail to enjoy what is happening right now. I'm even aware that I have written blogs on the subject before, and yet, here I am learning the lesson all over again.

So, my act of self-care now is to do a little whittling. I'm content to let some of the commitments I have made be future unknowns. I don't have to work at moving down every path all the time. My list of ten big, important goals can become three. It might even shift week by week, or maybe even from one day to the next. I don't actually know what it will look like, but I do know that I will need to check in with myself a little more honestly if I want a different result.

I've been convinced that I have to eat the elephant(s) one bite at a time. Now I am remembering that sometimes I prefer game hen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I went to the beach for the first time in a long time today, and I was delighted to be in the presence of my four-year-old nephew. The big attraction was wave jumping, and I noticed a ton of things as I observed and participated in this simple activity.

First off, I couldn't predict much about the waves. I could see them coming in, and I could be fairly confident that more were on their way. But there was not a regular interval between them, and there was no way to predict exactly where they would break. Sometimes they would look immense as they approached, only to break far enough out that their impact was minimal. Sometimes they would crash against us one right after the other. Sometimes I was surprised, and once even knocked over, by their unexpected force. And the waves didn't impact everyone equally, even people standing fairly close together.

My nephew's reaction to them was also very educational. He was primarily concerned with how the waves would impact him, nobody else. It was utter playfulness. He would mostly jump to try to clear them. Sometimes he would hold on to someone, jumping up but staying more or less in one place as a wave passed. Sometimes he would let the wave carry him a little bit. Once or twice he even got a face full of salt water unexpectedly, after which he quickly wiped off his face, smiled at his miscalculation, and got ready for the next one.

As much for myself as for you, I'll just connect the dots here. Life will happen. I don't know what it will throw at me, and even if I notice something approaching, I don't really know that I will accurately predict how hard it will impact me. My experience will be uniquely my own, but I can hold on to others when I want to maintain my stability. I can let life carry me or I can exert my own effort, but I can't control anything beyond myself. In any case, I can be playful with life. I might get an unexpected splash, and I might even get knocked down, but I can stand back up and smile and get ready for what comes next. And there will always be something coming next. Something moving. Something calling me into motion.