thoughts

Follow Your Dreams

Growing up, most of us imagined ourselves in a bunch of different roles and careers. We fantasized of being astronauts, explorers, actors, law enforcement officials, doctors, lawyers, and everything in between. We played with toys and dolls and reinacted scenarios where we achieved great feats, got the bad guy, explored other planets, and made it onto Broadway. The options were only as limited as our imaginations.

What happened? Why did we ever stop dreaming?

We got a little older and were told to grow up. We were informed we could never rise to such lofty expectations that we had as children. Good luck with that kid, why don't you go to school and get a real job! Be like your father, and go to work at the factory. This assimilation of thoughts seems proposterous, but it is the reality of the generation before us. Perhaps, career choices were not limited to specific trades or manual labor, but it was modern day practice to secure yourself a career position, start a family, own a piece of property, and work to pay it off and then die, occasionally taking a vacation break a couple weeks a year.

As with everything in life, moderation is key; like a pendulum, imbalance will manifest when weight is distributed unevenly on either side. To daydream and imagine a fantasy world is all well and good; however, simply wishing and hoping is useless and a waste of time.

YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO

Yes, and no. An indomitable spirit is an essential characteristic to posess when plowing through life and conquering your goals; that much is undeniable. An intense work ethic compliments the first asset marvelously; and lastly, consistency and perseverance combine to create a trifecta of success. Or do they?

The truth is, we could be the hardest-working, smartest people in the room. Day after day, we bust our assess- remaining patient, yet eagerly awaiting results. But they don't come

We always tinker with the formula, discovering ways to improve efficiency and productivity. Sometimes we literally do everything in our power to move forward. Exhausting our resources, we become more frustrated, digging ourselves deeper and deeper into a hole.

... OR CAN YOU?

Maybe you have a passion for painting. You eat, breathe, and sleep painting and the thoughts about it consume your mind. It is your happy place. When you paint, time evaporates as you stroke the bristle against the paper, creating art with your very fingers. You dream of being a blossoming artist, with your illustrations displayed at exhibits and conferences worldwide.

The only catch is.. you suck at painting.

No matter how hard you try, your drawings look like a child scribbled with a crayon. Nobody would pay a dime to put that junk in their living room.

Some people are born with talents- others, not so much. In a previous post we explore the concept of improving the things you're already good at, and becoming great at them, versus improving your skills from bad to mediocre.

So, if you suck at painting, yet have aspirations of becoming the next Van Gogh, what are you to do?

Realistically, if you are 100% honest with yourself, you may never make a penny painting on your canvas. This isn't to say that you cannot still pursue your passions- but as for the phrase "make your passion your paycheck"- that's just not in the cards for some. It almost sounds superfluous to say that such a circumstance could potentially be your reality, but it is absolutely true for some people. What is more true than that, however, is...

LIFE ISN'T FAIR

Luck is an interesting thing. It is viewed superstitiously like black cats in alleys and walking underneath ladders. A lot of people refuse to accept luck as a thing. I don't believe in luck, mutter those individuals. I create my own destiny.

While you personally have an enormous role in dictating your own progress, you cannot escape the fact that luck does exist. Some people just end up at the right place at the right time. The equation that some would use is:

Preparation + opportunity = success

So many people work hundreds of hours, with little to no return on investment. They grind away, crafting their skills as their peers proceed to go to social outings and various entertainment venues. A tedious, montonous, and repetitive routine is set in stone, as they chip away at transforming their vision into reality. Maybe- just maybe- they will be graced with a brief second of opportunity.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

Again, the cold hard truth is this: some people just get lucky. They receive opportunities that others dont. Take into consideration the people born in the United States. We live in a country with limitless opportunities to further our career and build our empires. The majority of us have access to modern accommodations, job opportunities, and the ability to fail and restart an endless amount of times. Those born and raised in third-world countries, not so much. We often don't recognize this as an opportunity because we are so accustomed to it- but at the end of the day, that's exactly what it is.

YOUR CIRUMSTANCES DICTATE YOUR OUTCOME

For in-depth, real world examples of this, look no further than Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: 

It's not what you know- but who you know.

Surrounding yourself with influential, ambitious individuals gives you a foot in the door, per-se. Your network determines your net worth. You are the sum of the 5 closest people you surround yourself with. Insert a bunch of other inspiring quotes here; they all mean the same exact thing.

Your friends, your environment, the time and date you were born, the state of current affairs- all of these circumstances dictate your ability to "make it" in the world. Like it or not, that's just the way it is.

AND THAT'S THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLES

We cannot all be astronauts, celebrities, rockstars, or congressmen and women. But that's not an invitation to allow others' disbelief to permeate our consciousness. We have the right to dream; it is our responsibility to be slightly realistic, though. If we can't sing, play an instrument, or put on a performance.. we're not going to be rockstars. Plain and simple. It all recycles back to the beginning- find the couple things you're pretty good at, and master them. This allows us to express our individuality and give our unique gift to the world in an infinite abundance.

 

The Mindful Family Unit

For those interested in the pursuit of a more mindful, enriching experience for this short lifespan we are awarded on this planet, it is inevitable you will face scrutiny and ridicule by those who do not want to witness you reap such enjoyment. Sometimes, people withhold insecurities like extra baggage and feel compelled to lash them upon you. This is unjust and cruel, but we cannot blame those individuals; we must rise to a higher level and lead by example. Perhaps you could show those in such circumstances that via an iron will and unbreakable character, they too can blossom if only they put their best foot forward.

All of us are at different stages in our lives- maybe we recently graduated high school, or finished college; we could be a decade in at our corporate job, or approaching middle-age. Either way, it's never too late to begin the journey toward self-betterment. As the saying goes, "the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today."

This post will delve into maintaining a healthy relationship with those who try to bring you down; specifically, your family unit.

First and foremost, we never asked to be born. Your parents decided to reproduce offspring. In some situations, they were forced to, with little or no warning. For those of us fortunate enough to be in good health, we truly won the ultimate lottery ticket. There's a 1 in 40 million chance of us being human beings on this planet, and somehow we drew the lucky straw. This simple fact alone should inspire all of us to make an impact!

We have this perception of a family, and how it should be maintained and operated. In an ideal world, everyone in the family would be loving, happy, and supportive. Realistically, this is not the case; all families deal with their fair share of drama, dysfunctional habits, and unhealthy tendencies. Such is life. Again, you don't necessarily pick and choose your family, so at one point it is certain your ideals and viewpoints will clash. It is about learning how to stand your ground even when your loved ones try to bring you down. Just because they're your family, doesn't mean these individuals are exempt from supporting you. They've known you your entire life, and are comfortable with you staying put and not risking everything. You must firmly, but respectfully, stand your ground- like any situation in life, really. It goes without saying, the degree of your resistance is 100% individual and unique to your upbringing. If, after you state your purpose, and affirm you are to uphold yourself to loftier standards, and still encounter opposition, there are a few options.

Use Doubt As Fuel

This is fitting for those still living in their parents' residence. They might be too young or unable to move out just yet, so this is the most appropriate coping practice.

Hate and love are the 2 strongest emotions we have. If you're not getting the love and support you require, it is crucial to use those powerful emotions that fester below the surface, and transform them into good, productive habits. This is easier said than done, as a lot of people turn to self-destructive and self-defeating habits. The mind is a powerful tool and you can make it work for or against you. Again, if you are pissed off for greatness, this might prove to be advantageous. Put the hatred and anger into the fire of passion.

Create A Culture of Change

Why not invite those nearest and dearest to you to accompany you on the journey toward a more fruitful life? If they are willing to learn and grow, it is sensible to support one another along the way. They say if it ain't broke don't fix it- and while your family may not be broken, per se, it is a solid idea to announce your concerns and ideas before they become real issues. We are creatures of habit. Your parents run the family the best they know how; however, this doesn't exactly mean the most efficient way to do so. Sometimes we pick up bad habits, and these habits rub off on the people we associate with most. Our idiosyncrasies blend and fuse together, compounding into a culture of bad habits and unhealthy tendencies, if we don't monitor them regularly. Our mind is like a garden. Bad thoughts and habits are like weeds, and positive affirmations and a healthy lifestyle are beautiful flowers. We are the gardeners, and we must continually pick the weeds and monitor the garden if we hope to see one of vibrant, luscious variety. 

Agree to Disagree

Your family might disagree with your lifestyle change, but this doesn't mean all hope is lost and you abandon them entirely. As long as they don't strive to bring you down, and the feeling is neutral, you can make amends and agree to disagree. Stay in your own lane, and focus on your goals. Clear up the confusion if necessary, but don't conform to other's ideologies when pressured. You are old enough to cultivate your own opinions and take responsibility for your actions, so don't let someone else decide how you're to live your life.

Cut the Dead Weight

This might be a hard pill to swallow for some. If after countless times trying to resolve issues and you are still receiving ridicule and no support, it's time to cut the dead weight. Yes, your family loves and cares for you, and we feel obligated to have a blossoming relationship with our parents and siblings. But this is your one and only life. If you're not satisfied, cut the dead weight. This is a last resort option, but for some it might come to this. No reason to keep forcing something that isn't meant to be. Bid your adieus, tip your hat and carry on smartly. 

Yin and Yang

Life. The consistent ebb and flow of the world in and around us. Twisting and turning, our reality transforms and contorts to comform with our vision every day. Through minor subtleties, change is enacted ever so minutely; occasionally, we are met with tumultuous pitfalls and enormous feats- the loss of a loved one, or the acquisition of a long sought-after opportunity we experience, for example. When such powerful occurrences happen, life as we know it is warped before our very eyes. 

If you're old enough to read these words, chances are you've experienced some of the above scenarios. Some days, it seems the world is against us and we are moving against the grain in our actions, sparing all our energy and effort to accomplish the simplest of tasks. Other days, our synchronization with the universe is unbelievable; we flow through our daily practices with ease like a leaf in the wind.

It is expected in life that we are to have our fair share of good and bad days. Both are absolutely essential, and one does not reign supreme over the other; they coexist to educate us in their own unique ways. It is a fair assumption that for every "good" day we have, a "bad" one is right around the corner. This is not a pessimistic outlook; rather, a realistic one. You can only be at the top for so long until you visit the bottom again. Awareness of this strengthens our humility. Likewise, if you are at the bottom, you will not be there forever. This simple fact reinstills hope on our gloomy days.

Understanding that you cannot have light without darkness or sunshine without rain is crucial into our journey toward mindfulness. When you recognize the ebb and flow of the universe, you can't help but feel lighthearted and giggle, for this unpredictable series of switchbacks is that which defines our very presence on this planet.

Gratitude

How much is enough?

A straightforward question that dictates the circumstances which we navigate through the maze of our very existence, from our location on this planet, to our career choices, and our daily habits and rituals. Our proposition of an ideal life is conceived in our imagination, which dictates our motives. If we can answer the above question honestly, then we can move forward in determining the route to live to our fullest.

For a lack of more genuine phraseology, the world truly is your oyster. When you recognize that you can literally accomplish whatever task you put your mind to, the options are endless and stretched far beyond the horizon. It's common to fantasize of a life with an abundance of material pleasures, an enormous bank account, great respect and admiration from your friends and followers, and the typical lifestyles of the rich and famous. All of the glamour and luxury portrayed by these icons is not necessary to live a jubilant, effervescent life.

That's where the simple concept of gratitude comes into play. Not wanting what we don't have, but wanting everything we do have. Being appreciative for everything in your life, whether good or bad, and taking ownership of it. For our struggles, misfortunes, and inner turmoil is that which strengthens us, and our pleasure, enjoyment, and satisfaction is that which purifies us.

All of the wonderful splendors we are able to witness throughout this lifetime are often overlooked- not for everyone, of course; but for a great deal of people. How is it that we could pass by nonchalantly, not pausing to admire the simple beauties and intricacies of everyday living? Perhaps we've become so focused on the pursuit of our goals that we neglect to appreciate our immediate surroundings. While it is essential to remain vigilant during our enterprise, it is imperative we hone in to our surroundings for ultimate long-lived satisfaction.

Creating an attitude of gratitude can benefit us in a plethora of ways. Taking a moment to ourselves to note everything we have to be appreciative of, whether that be via prayer, a simple journal entry, or even a thought, is an essential habit in our mindfulness journey. With this thought in mind, we can then begin- or continue- to acknowledge the pleasures we have all around us, and allow ourselves every once in a while to stop and smell the roses.