Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What are you waiting for?


What are you waiting for? I ask myself that question sometimes. It seems that we are programmed at an early age to “ask permission” and “be patient.” I speak with people who have ideas for businesses or work passions they wish to pursue and when I ask them “what are you waiting for?” the responses are typically the same. “I need to have money” or “It’s just not the right time” or “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.” I even hear it when talking with people about their personal lives. I hear things like “I’ll propose when I get a better job” or “We want to have kids but we have to buy a house first.”

Guess what? Life is too short to be putting off what you really want. You could be walking to your car tomorrow and get hit by a meteor. I know this is a crazy example but it emphasizes the point that you never know what life will bring to you. Life may happen and you may never get the chance if you wait. Or even worse, you may spend your entire life waiting for the right time, and at the end you may realize that there never was a right time and you should have just acted.

I’m not advocating a “do what feels good” overindulging lifestyle. Dave Ramsey says “It’s a sign of maturity when you delay pleasure today so that you can ensure a better tomorrow.” I truly believe that Dave is right. What I am advocating is taking action in your life to strive for fulfillment. Too many people believe they have to suffer and become martyrs in order to seem responsible. To me, self induced suffering and martyrdom is irresponsible. Why can’t you be responsible AND love your life?

What is stopping you? You can begin to go for what you want even if it is in the form of baby steps. Sometimes there are sound reasons for not stopping what you are doing at this very moment and changing course. But, you can start making small improvements to head where it is you want to go.

Let’s use a work example: If you are in a job that you don’t care for and you really want to be an author, keep your full time job and block off some time on evenings and weekends and begin writing. Even if you only spend 15 to 20 minutes a day writing, you are making progress. Six months from now you could have your first book complete and start to market it! Isn’t that better than not doing anything until you win the lottery (like that will happen) or you save enough money to go off on your own? Isn’t embracing fulfilling work six months from now much better than twenty years from now?

Let’s use a relationship example: You are in a committed and loving relationship and you want to “pop the question.” You are sure you are both meant for each other but you want to wait until you have secured a promotion. If you are truly certain, why delay? Starting your journey together now will be infinitely more rewarding and fulfilling than any promotion.

What are you putting off? What kind of life have you been afraid to create? What pleasure are you stifling? What is fulfilling to you? Ask yourself these questions right now.

Mark Twain put it best:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Every day we are given 24 hours to use. It is our choice alone to decide where to invest these 24 hours. We choose how we live these moments. At the end of the day what is important are the lives we have touched, the experiences we have had, and how we related to them. Don’t wait. Live life to the fullest now!

What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Possibility Thinking

Every day we find ourselves filled with thoughts that we “know” are true. These thoughts, or “truisms”, have the power to change our lives and even the lives of those around us. We assess the occurrences of our lives and view them in a way we think is the truth. But, is what we see and what we think of those occurrences really the truth or just how we have programmed ourselves to believe to be true? Are there other possibilities to consider?

English mathematician and philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead said: “There are no whole truths: all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that play the devil.” Why does he say that all truths are half truths?

When we are children we learn from parents, friends, teachers, and other community influences how to view the world. We are taught to see things in certain way. We learn and categorize things the way our parents or teachers taught us. You see something and you access your brain and ask yourself “In which category does this situation fit?” and you view it in a specific framework of your mind. If it fits somewhere, then why question otherwise?

Our viewpoints are shaped by culture, environment, family, friends, educational system, religion, etc. Over time we develop a rigid framework by which we view the world. By the time we are adults we have a strong framework. It is an orderly system to us, it withstands challenge and frankly it works.

Allow me to describe a situation where the framework of ones culture and environment is challenged and OUR understanding of the situation will also be challenged:

In a famous experiment, a tribe in Ethiopia was given a number of photographs with images of people and animals. This was the first time they were ever given pictures. They could not see the images on the glossy paper. They felt it and tore it and even nibbled on it, but they could not see the images. You and I would immediately look at a picture of an elephant and relate what we see as representing a real elephant. They saw nothing but shiny paper. We see an elephant because our culture and society teach us to see the image and know what it represents. [1]

By teaching ourselves to view the world in different ways and to consider other possibilities, we can dramatically affect our lives and maybe countless other lives. This type of thinking can produce endless possibilities. I challenge you to open your minds to “possibility thinking” and consider the many different ways we can view situations. When faced with a challenging situation with two apparent choices, stop and look for a third, fourth AND fifth option. Don’t just assume there are two choices.

Try to see the world in possibilities. Remember the life you create is the life that YOU create. YOU control what you experience. Situations may not be how they initially appear and may have many different ways to interpret them. We choose the possibilities, so we might as well choose those possibilities that make the greatest life that we can.

Be a “Possibility Thinker”.

[1] Deregowski J B, Muldrow E S, Muldrow W F, 1972, "Pictorial recognition in a remote Ethiopian population" Perception 1(4) 417 – 425