In this issue ~~
All of us want to succeed; that goes without saying. But what is success? According to the media, success means a busy and lucrative career, good relationship and family life, a great house, exciting vacations, lots of friends and, last but not least, plenty of money and material things.
But is this what feeds your soul? Your answer may be "yes," to some if not all of the above, but for many of us, the American Dream is a far cry from what we want deep in our hearts. You may be successful in the eyes of the world and have all the trappings that go with it, but if your path doesn't come from the heart, no matter how successful you are, you will always feel that something is missing. You need to stop and consider what success means specifically for you. What is it that, if you don't do it, will fill you with regret when you look back on your life?
Very early in life, we're sidetracked from our own dreams. Our parents and teachers see where our greatest skills lie and start steering us in that direction. They mold us in their own image, so to speak, and 'for our own good'. You may have an activity that brings you joy and fulfillment, but if you don't excel at it, you soon become discouraged and let it go. Or you may limit your choices based on what's "appropriate" for your gender or economic status. Dreams are soon relegated to the stuff of fantasy.
But dreams are real. Each of us is here to fulfill a unique purpose, and we usually find our way to it via our passions, the things we love to be and do. Living in an achievement-oriented world, though, by the time we're adults, our earliest dreams have been so covered by layers and layers of being told what we *should* want that we can hardly see them anymore, if at all. But dreams have a way of nagging at us until we pay attention.
Living someone else's dream for you simply doesn't work. You may have gone to law school or business school to appease your parents or make a lot of money, but if you hate your work and the accompanying lifestyle, you need to make some changes. You need to discover -- or rediscover -- your own dreams. This may lead to a major life change or a compromise, like practicing law in an arena that you love, such as arts law, or starting a business teaching artists how to set up their own companies and doing the paperwork for them.
One way of rediscovering your dreams is to recall what you loved as a small child. It may take a little digging, and your parents and other relatives can help by recounting their memories about you. Some of those childhood dreams may no longer be valid -- your longing to be an astronaut may now be relegated to watching Star Trek -- but some of them may still be seeking expression. Your youthful dream of being a painter or working with animals or children can easily be resurrected. The form it takes may be different at this stage of your life, but it's the function that matters.
If you have a well-paying job that you enjoy and that serves you, you can make time for your dream activity during evenings and weekends or on your vacations. Having to make a living at something can take away from the pure joy you feel when doing it just for fun, so doing it avocationally may prove the better choice for you. If you choose to go for it 100%, turning your dream into a new career, be sure that you're prepared emotionally and financially for the change. Create a plan that gives you adequate time to make the adjustments. You may even consider doing your dream job part-time and taking a lucrative second job to supplement the income.
Be open to different formats. If you're attracted to the healing arts but don't want to go through the many years it takes to become a doctor, you may choose instead to become a licensed masseuse or acupuncturist. If you want to contribute to children but don't want to go for a master's degree, you might sign on as a Big Brother or Sister. Or you may choose to apply your administrative skills at the animal hospital rather than the bank.
Look at the big picture of your life. Take into consideration what you love, what you need, your family, your finances, your age, etc. Even if you've been doing what you love, reevaluate periodically to make sure it's still serving you and perhaps redirect it a bit.
There's no better time to make a change than the present, whatever your age or circumstances. While you may have more freedom to change direction when you're younger, you may feel more driven to finally "do it" as you reach middle age and older. If you're in the middle of inescapable circumstances or commitments, then start with whatever steps you can take now and plan for the long term. Success is what's meaningful to you, not to your family or society. So turn off the TV, disconnect the phone, and allow yourself to dream and plan.
Sooner or later in our creative life, we encounter the dreaded creative block. You're faced with an empty screen, a blank canvas, a lump of clay, and don't have a single idea about what to do with it. Your mind itself is a blank.
Everything in life has its ebbs and flows, and like life, the path of creation also waxes and wanes. There are times when the work flows -- we're in sync with the universe, and it's fun and easy. And there are times when we feel like a dry well; our cup is not just half empty, but completely.
Take comfort from knowing that blockages are part of the process, rather than a deviation from it. Instead of turning it into a monolith and trying to knock it down or navigate around it, we can find ways of embracing and working through the block and learn something about ourselves in the process.
When you find yourself blocked...
Art, like any other endeavor, requires discipline. By pushing against a weight, we build a muscle. By actively working with our obstacle, we build our creative muscle. Treat your blockage as part of your process -- as a person as well as an artist -- and you'll find new creative depth and discover new layers of yourself in the bargain.
Having trouble coming up with ideas? Try getting quiet. Turn off the radio, TV, stereo. Close the door. Sit still. Allow yourself to go within and find the quiet space there. If you meditate, you're already familiar with this place. If you're new at this, give it time; it can sometimes take 20 minutes to still mind and body. Allow the ideas to emerge from the void. If it doesn't work the first time, try again later or tomorrow. Like "Field of Dreams," if you continue to provide the space, the ideas will come.
"From a higher point of view, success is creating something when you need it, making a contribution to others, and loving and respecting yourself and others."
"The director and the producers had me write a lot of dialogue both before I came to Toronto ... and especially after.... (Interesting to me was the fact that I had no writer's block, not even for one second; I often was asked, at two or three a.m., to produce something by the next day -- and I did it with no trouble whatever. It seems as if I'm not blocked when I can't afford to be.)"
(click on the book or tape graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)
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