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.

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