Creating Your Vision

I’ve spoken about vision in earlier blog articles, but as I look upon life as a laboratory and as myself as a scientist in this laboratory, I want to look at vision from two different perspectives. There is the vision of our outer world, which may involve the plans we hold for our future, and the vision of our inner world, which pertains to our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Although it may not be immediately obvious that these two kinds of vision can work together, I’m going to look at the possibility that they can.

Before any type of plan can be created do you not have to form a conception of it in your mind? And without seeing yourself clearly, what sort of plans will you create? If you see yourself as a loving, kind, caring, and giving individual but, in reality, you are self-centered, insensitive, and critical, how can you possibly design a plan for your life that will ever be achievable? The opportunities that you will expect to find will never come your way and any romantic relationship that you pursue will never be successfully sustained. Even friendships may dissolve almost as quickly as they began. Of course, if you are living with an inaccurate self-concept, you will find yourself asking in bewilderment, “Why don’t I ever seem to have any luck?”

Without self-honesty, there can be no genuine success or fulfillment because even if the rest of the world holds you in high esteem, you’ll never be happy with yourself. And how can any amount of public approbation replace self-respect? The problem is, that no amount of my encouraging you to look within yourself and acknowledge your true self will ever do any good until you are so dissatisfied with how your life is going that you are willing to do so on your own. How are you going to reach that point? This is something that only you can answer.  I suppose it may depend upon whether you want to continue to live in a world of half-truths or whether you wish to experience a genuine awakening.

When I mentioned enlightenment in a previous article, it was assumed by a few people that I was speaking of the type of “enlightenment” that comes from religion. Unfortunately, our society encourages us to attach labels to things as quickly as possible. Thus, rather than taking the time to consider the various ways in which a word, term, or phrase can be meant, we immediately label it in some way.

Perhaps, labels give us a sense of security.  After all, don’t we oftentimes find ourselves reaching for the name-brand products at the grocery store? Why is this? Because being able to attach a brand name to something gives us a sense of reassurance. Similarly, attaching labels and names to people and ideas enables us to move on without having to spend a lot of time in reflective thinking. Once we decide someone is “neurotic” or “dysfunctional” or “hot-tempered”, we’re able to save ourselves the effort that would be involved in trying to understand them.

I think that intuition has its place, but I also think that most of us don’t engage in nearly enough thinking. And, when we do think, we are usually so quick about it that we reach conclusions that are only partially valid, at best. No wonder so few of us have been successful in creating an outer vision that empowers us. We take no time to create an inner vision that is clear, accurate, and empowering.

Society encourages us to judge things by appearances and on a scanty amount of valid evidence. And we allow ourselves to be swept into the mindlessness and insanity that this generates. The beliefs and opinions that we claim are our own are as original as clothes bought at a secondhand clothing store. Yet, we opt for the security of our limited ideas and views because the amount of risk-taking that would be involved in throwing them away fills us with fear.

Fear . . . Vision. Do you see how strange it sounds to put these two words together? The two words and the concepts beneath them are incongruous. In order to create a vision for yourself and for your life that empowers you, you have to let go of fear completely. Lord Byron is, by all accounts, one of the most popular and widely read poets in the history of poetry. I have always enjoyed reading his work, but it wasn’t until I read his masterpiece, Don Juan, that I found myself falling under his spell.

What’s ironic about this is that Don Juan was a departure from Lord Byron’s other work. It is witty, satirical, and utterly engaging in a way that astonishes me. It has been speculated that this side of Lord Byron was there all along but that he felt he needed to repress it to make sure that his poetry was popular. However, most critics agree that Don Juan is Byron’s most impressive and innovative work. So, what would have happened if Lord Byron had been more fearless and cared less for public approval at an earlier time of his life? None of us will ever know though I, for one, will always wonder.

Vision, both inner and outer, is something not only that you need to find the courage to create but also that you must hold on to no matter who or what attempts to thwart  you. I have always been struck by the cutting perspicacity in playwright George Bernard Shaw’s thoughts. He may be known for his wit, but the wisdom beneath the wit is what makes it work so effectively. Shaw once said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

How can you expect to be fulfilled unless you allow yourself to take your own personal journey? You can’t follow the rest of the world and be uniquely you at the same time. You must make a choice. And depending on what you choose, you’ll have to sacrifice certain things. To choose conformity you sacrifice individuality and to decide upon individuality you may have to give up popularity. It’s like being in a restaurant and choosing dishes off a menu. Choosing one entrée means you don’t choose something else. 

Many things in life come down to what is most important to you. That’s why achieving both outer and inner vision is a crucial aspect to designing a life that brings you fulfillment. The famous Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, said, “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart.”  As painful a process as self-examination can be, there will come a time when you will either choose or be forced into engaging in this process.

Life sometimes has a way of bringing circumstances into our world that force us to take a long, hard look at who we are. We can run from everyone, including ourselves. But what we will never be able to do is hide our true nature from both ourselves and the world indefinitely. From a chance word or a thoughtless action, we give ourselves away more times than we could ever imagine. But only when we find ourselves faced with the consequences of our words or actions do we regret not having faced the truth about ourselves before.

Every day I engage in the process of self-examination and analyze my motives behind my actions. I make plenty of mistakes, but analyzing them helps me come to terms with them and also helps prevent me from making them again. I’m committed to living in an awakened state—a state that will enable me to sustain both inner and outer vision. Vision is more than merely a spiritual or inspirational term that is supposed to define a “game plan” for your future. It is actually another form of seeing. It is a type of eyesight that incorporates the art of observation and reflection.

A new pair of glasses or a pair of contact lenses can improve how well a person sees. But he/she still only sees what is readily visible unless he/she engages in reflection and observation. The difference in seeing and observing is similar to the difference in hearing and listening. You can hear many sounds every day, but you only listen to the ones that capture your attention.

In Kate Chopin’s novella, The Awakening, the heroine, Edna Pontellier, has a sexual awakening. But she also has an awakening of the spirit. She struggles to release herself from the confines of the society that she lives in. Her spirit is suffocated by the repressive atmosphere of her world. Yet her attempts to pursue her own desires cause her to be rejected by those around her. There are some of us who let ourselves remain almost as much a prisoner of society and of other people’s expectations of us as Chopin’s legendary heroine.

We feel obligated to find a boyfriend/girlfriend or wife/husband because society tells us that being single isn’t as desirable as being in a committed relationship. We have children not because we’ve chosen to but, rather, because society tells us that having a family is more acceptable than choosing not to. Dreams such as writing a great novel or creating a brilliant work of art or starting our own business are discouraged in favor of jobs that give us financial security. Rather than individuals, we become just another member of an essentially meaningless society where everyone is so much like everyone else that even though we talk about out-of-the-box thinking we rarely, if ever, engage in it.

Have I gone too far yet? Have I pushed things over the edge and thrown out ideas that are forcing you to step outside your comfort zone? Would you prefer me to tell you that pursuing the dreams that other people have for you is perfectly all right? I can’t do that because if I did I would be compromising my personal integrity. Instead, I’m encouraging you to let go of every dream that doesn’t belong exclusively to you that you’re holding in your mind and heart now. If you’re in a job or relationship that you know doesn’t match up with your outer or inner vision, either walk away from it now or begin creating a plan to do so in the near future.

Until recently, I was addicted to the approval of other people. In fact, for most of my life,  I was constantly feeling as if I had to behave a certain way or do certain things so that others would love and accept me. Then, one day,  I realized two things that I should have been clear to me years ago. First of all, no matter how hard you try, you will never gain everyone’s love or approval. Secondly, when you come to the end of your life, if you have allowed yourself to be influenced by other people’s opinions and have followed their dreams for you instead of your dreams for yourself, the regrets you have will be enormous. For, in not taking control of your own destiny, you’ll have put it in the hands of other people and outside forces. So, you’ll never  know what you might have accomplished because you’ll have let others make your choices for you. How appealing does that sound?

I’m not going to ask you to write down goals or plans. Why? Well, I’m a very spontaneous person, and the moment that someone tells me to start writing down things, I usually cringe. I prefer to think things through and toss ideas around in my mind as opposed to writing down structured plans. This may change for me, in time. I am an experimental thinker, which means that I am always willing to shake things up when they aren’t working.

Thankfully, I don’t believe there’s any  need to write down anything to tune into your inner vision or to create your outer vision. However, you can simplify things by asking yourself a few key questions. What are the things about my life that I want to change? How do my personal goals, dreams, and wishes differ from what other people are telling me that I should do? And perhaps most importantly: are the choices I’m making on a daily basis moving me further or closer away from my long-term goals?

Capturing your outer vision may be crucial to accomplishing what you want to achieve. But tuning into your inner vision is a necessary step in creating your outer vision. Whether you’re ready to decide what you want out or your life or not, to remove the veil that’s shielding your gaze from your true self will guide you towards the path that will eventually take you where you want to go. And, unless you’re content exactly where you are, I hope that you’ll let my words enter your soul and persuade you into letting go of everything in your life that’s preventing you from being honest with yourself. My mentor Denis Waitley has said, “Life is the movie  you see through your own eyes.”  Let us all work on developing the eyesight that will give us clear vision.

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(I dedicate this article to my close friend, the extraordinary Laurie Elle, who constantly inspires me to continue creating my vision)

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva. All Rights Reserved.

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The Magic of Imagination

Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” But, if this is so, why are so many of us frantically seeking knowledge and giving so little time to using our imaginations? If it seems ironic that a writer who calls herself a “critical thinker” and says that she is on a quest for wisdom and truth would be emphasizing the importance of using one’s imagination, all I can say is that I am not the least bit predictable. I do think that critical and particularly reflective thinking is an essential part of creating a life of personal fulfillment, but I also think that if you don’t use your imagination, you will end up stifling a crucial part of yourself.

How far back do your first memories go? Do you remember a point where the world was filled with wonder and every new bird or flower made you feel exhilarated, at least temporarily? What do you think brought an end to this state of mind in which the world and all that inhabits it overwhelmed you with awe? When did you stop asking so many questions? When did you become afraid that the thoughts or feelings you had were outrageous or strange or “outside the norm?”

If you are like many people, you probably found that a lot of your imaginative ideas were discouraged by teachers, parents, and other authority figures in your environment. When I was a child of five, I was a very creative artist and drew the letters of the alphabet in a way that nobody else did. I added animals to each letter, such as giraffes, birds, and kangaroos. I was unaware that what I was doing was odd until many years later, when my mother confessed to me that my teacher had taken her aside and told her that the way I drew my letters was “unacceptable.” Now, over two decades have passed since then, and I have recently discovered that Picasso created his letters the same way that I created mine.  I may not ever have possessed Picasso’s artistic talent,  but what he and I do share is a vivid imagination.

Of course, I think most of us do have wonderful imaginations. It’s simply that society doesn’t encourage us to make adequate use of them. When you hear the phrase, “experimental thinking,” what comes to mind? Does the term bring positive or negative thoughts to your mind? Since I have an ever developing interest in science, experimental thinking is a concept that I naturally embrace. If you don’t, that’s okay. What I do hope you’ll at least do is consider the concept. It’s really just another way to define out-of-the-box thinking. And, who wants to live inside a box?

For me, every day is an experiment, which means that I am engaging in experimental thinking on a full-time basis. My blog posts are part of my experimenting with ideas, thoughts, and concepts. Nothing I say is written in stone. I am constantly examining and re-examining my own thoughts, and I hope that’s what you’ll start doing, too. When we look at the world, we oftentimes think that it’s changing, when we are the ones who are in the process of change. Remember my last blog article, The Process of Becoming? Did you read it? If not, I urge you to do so. It is my intention to challenge the way that you are thinking now. I want to persuade you into examining your thoughts more carefully. Life must be lived boldly and intensely or not at all. You must be willing to take risks, and that includes engaging in risky thinking.

Have you ever known anyone who thought that he/she had all the answers? Have you conversed with someone who seemed to be under the delusion that whatever their opinions and beliefs were, they were always right? I’ve known a few of these people myself, and what I am becoming more and more aware of is how vastly they are limiting themselves. Naturally, they are oftentimes the first people to call themselves “open-minded”. They will do their best to convince you that their beliefs and views are the result of critical thinking and personal reflection. But, what is the truth? People are fully capable of telling us anything, particularly when it comes to defining themselves. The question is, can any of us really be sure that more than a handful of our beliefs and opinions are valid?

Okay, I know you think I’ve gone too far this time. You probably think I’m trying to question all of your convictions. Well, I’m not. I just want you to become aware of  how limited your thought patterns might be. Are you really thinking outside the box or do you just think you are? How many of your personal beliefs and opinions would you be willing to stake your life on? One or two? Three or four? A half-dozen? You know you don’t have to tell me the answer to this question nor do you have to be honest with anyone, including  yourself. But why not be honest with yourself? What will you gain by remaining in a state of self-deception?

If you hope to make any positive changes in your life, you’re going to have to be willing to rip the veil off of some of the ideas you’re subscribing to now. And, if you engage your imagination, I think you’ll discover that the life you want doesn’t match up with the life you’re living now. Or, am I wrong? I would love to think that everything is perfect in your world. Yet, I have a sense that some aspect of your life isn’t quite the way you want it to be. If my perceptions are correct, then take a few minutes to listen to my ideas instead of just tossing them aside.

You are the creator of your destiny. That’s right, you. Although you may want to blame someone or something else for your mistakes, you’re the one who made them. But, you’re also the one who can change your life because you are in control of all of your choices. Even the choice you make now is one that you alone have power over. If you’re reading this article, you are the one who decided to read it. And you are also the one who decides whether you’ll let my words enter into your mind and soul and become part of your being. I think I’ve already made it clear that I don’t care who agrees with me anymore. Ridicule or criticize me if you like–it’s all the same to me. I simply don’t care, for part of gaining wisdom and enlightenment (and no, I’m not talking about anything religious) is the cutting away of that which is not essential and/or significant. Those who demean my work are not significant to me. And my focusing on their denigrating words is not essential to my life.

There is much to be said about letting go of everything that is not essential. If you were to look upon your life as a house that you were moving out of and you could only pack up the things you really needed to move to a new and smaller place, what choices would you make? How many friendships would you keep pursuing or maintaining? How many books would you give away? Which pieces of furniture would you sell? Are you starting to follow my line of thinking? In a way, it’s like asking yourself, “How would I live if I only had six months left on this earth?” If you like, you can substitute that concept instead. Whatever works for you works for me, too. We each have our own “comfort zone” when it comes to thinking, and some of us are slower to move out of that comfort zone than others.

But, just to re-iterate point about the importance of “experimental” (i.e., outside-the-box) thinking, let’s turn to the words of John Dewey. “Taken merely as a doubt, an idea would paralyze inquiry. Taken merely as a certainty, it would arrest inquiry. Taken as a doubtful possibility, it affords a standpoint, a platform, a method of inquiry.” What Dewey is encouraging us to do is to make sure that we do not become too certain of the ideas we subscribe to. Yet,  instead of doubting our ideas, he suggests that we consider them as possibilities. So, we can imagine that an idea is correct, while simultaneously holding the thought in our mind that the idea might not be true.

In a way, we can become the scientists of our worlds. We can look upon our lives as a laboratory and conduct various experiments every day. Has anything great every be achieved by those who played it safe? What novel or innovative concept has anyone come up with who refused to re-examine his or her thoughts and ideas? Unfortunately, society tends to foster the spirit of certainty. We are supposed to be die-hard fans of someone or something–we are urged to have vehement political and religious views. If we don’t, we have accusations hurled at us about lacking conviction.

Well, conviction is very important. But, you have to make sure that your convictions are the result of reflective, critical, and experimental thinking. John Dewey in his book, How We Think, speaks in some detail about what he refers to as “empirical thinking” or “empiricism.” This type of thinking brings about a lack of flexibility that can lead to dogmatism and an attitude in which a person engages in heated debates and not productive discussions. As you may have already surmised,  empirical thinking leaves little room for the imagination to be nourished. It’s antithetical to the type of thinking that children engage in. Awe and wonderment become replaced with cynicism and skepticism, and new ideas are usually discarded before they have the chance to take root. Imagine how few scientific experiments would have ever been performed if each scientist was certain beforehand that nothing would turn out the way he/she wanted it to. I suspect Einstein would never have discovered his theory of relativity, and none of us would ever have heard Marie Curie’s name.

I’ve brought you this far. I know this because you’re still reading. Now I’m going to ask you to go one step further. Ask yourself this question: what experiments am I wanting to try in my life now that I haven’t dared to attempt? Is there a job opportunity you want to go after but believe you would never be chosen for? Or do you have an idea for a wonderful novel but can’t get yourself to sit down and start writing it because you’re already sure that it won’t be published? Do you want to find the man or woman of your dreams but find yourself looking upon any kind of committed relationship with skepticism and/or apprehension?

Once you decide what you’re afraid of, you’ll probably know what experiment you need to try. If there is anything in your life that seems to be holding you back, it’s only your fear of change. The “status quo” has become a habit. You want things to be different, but part of you has gotten comfortable with the way things are now. Am I talking about you? Maybe, maybe not. Everything I say is colored by what I’ve read, absorbed, and experienced. But, this is the case when it comes to anyone. That’s why I am so adamant about stating that I don’t have all the answers. That’s why I emphasize the fact that I cannot “fix” anyone’s problems. If I were to say anything other than that, I would be taking away your power. I would be suggesting that you needed a Savior. I would be saying, “You need me to create your destiny.” You and I both know that you don’t need me or anyone else besides yourself. Even if you feel incomplete or inadequate, you’re not. You only think you are.  In many ways, you have probably been conditioned to think the way that you do. This means that you may have to unlearn things that you think you know. For, in order to acquire true knowledge we must empty our minds of all that is false.

I know that you may read this article today and forget most of it tomorrow. So, I’m going to end with a thought I want you to hold onto: Live today as if there will be no tomorrow. 

Until soon,
Alexis, your SuccessDiva

~”The Magic of Imagination” is dedicated to Kate Anderson, with much love always

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This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. (C) Copyright 2010 by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva. All Rights Reserved