Monday, November 16, 2009
Goldfish supposedly grow to the capacity of their container. Or so I have read on the internet, where everything is true. Raised in captivity in an aquarium, a goldfish probably won't have a chance to grow as large as it would in a more expansive environment. It also probably won't live as long, unless it is a particularly persistent specimen. A restrictive environment actually becomes toxic to a goldfish over time. It doesn't grow as large as it might, simply because it's health is being sabotaged by what surrounds it.
When I look back at my choices over the past few years, I see a bit of incongruity between what I actually want for myself and how I have orchestrated my life. Of course, I am operating with hindsight now, but I wonder to a certain extent if the blinders were sneakily self-imposed. Instead of passionately putting every ounce of my energy into engaging life at 100% capacity, I chose an environment that made it alright for me to operate at a fraction of my capability. In fact, I arranged it so that I was being rewarded for operating at closer to 40% of my true self.
When I was making those choices, I had information about the aquarium from outside sources: Although it had a lot of wonderful and collaborative fish in it, it had a reputation for being rather rigid in how it defined itself and somewhat limited in its vision. And of course, I had heard that along with the abundant caring and friendly fish, there were a few aggressive cichlids that instinctively defended their territory and occasionally made living together challenging for the other fish. When it was alright for me to operate at 40%, these claims didn't matter to me. I could ignore them, place myself above them, even convince myself that I had the power to change them. I could be frustrated without having to take responsibility for my own choice to operate at reduced capacity.
The problem, of course, is that when it became more important to me to operate at my 100%, the environment didn't grow or shift to accommodate that fullness. Like a goldfish, I can influence things in my environment, but I don't have the power to alter an aquarium that resists change. But, unlike a goldfish, I can choose my aquarium. And I can choose to be willing to have an impact with those who are willing to be affected.