Yesterday I spent some time talking to a friend of mine who’s a real estate agent. She’s helping me get on a path to homeownership here in New York, which is not a task for the faint-hearted. After talking about my financial picture, we talked about the idea of willing dreams into existence. This last set of years have at times been extraordinarily difficult for me and greatly blessed. All in, they have led me to the place I am now: in my favorite neighborhood in my favorite city, starting what I have high hopes will be a dream job, and a book 8 years in the making about to be published in just over a month. A year ago, this scenario was unlikely. Hell, it felt flat-out impossible. Today, it’s my everyday life, and I don’t take a single moment of it for granted. It’s not perfect, but I’m extraordinarily grateful for it, even in the moments when I’m most challenged. With effort and a belief in the wisdom of what we don’t yet know or understand, life becomes exactly what we imagine it can be. Every difficulty and blessing I’ve had was needed; each one played a role in making my life today possible. Perspective is a beautiful thing.
In the pause: How fantasy writing helps us understand reality – a lesson from Dr. Seuss
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” ~Dr. Seuss
Escaping through books is a valuable exercise whether you’re a writer, a reader, or both. When we let go of the world we know and enter into another world, that distance gives us greater perspective. We breathe a little easier. Our muscles relax. A little distance, a short escape, can help us see more clearly and act with more purpose.
If you’re wrestling through a challenge right now—personal or professional—take a break. Read a book, preferably one that has absolute nothing to do with the challenge you’re trying to manage. Let the dust settle and let your mind go somewhere else for a while. You’ll be surprised by what appears.
In the pause: Learning to love my missteps
“You made a misstep, but you were walking in the right direction.” ~Frank Reagan, Blue Bloods
Sometimes the best intentions and efforts don’t get us exactly what we want or exactly where we’d like to go. Life isn’t always a linear path. (My life is never a linear path!) I used to bemoan my missteps and chastise myself for making them. On occasion, I still do. Maybe you do, too. This quote above gave me a different way of thinking about my missteps.
I’ve always put my best foot forward in everything I’ve done and because of that, I’ve started to look at my efforts over time rather than only as individual events. Over time, the missteps in the right direction added up to something larger than the sum of its parts. They added up to a life and career that has been anything but dull and something far more exciting than I ever imagined they would be. So what’s next? Who knows? But I know it’s going to be in the direction of building a better world.
In the pause: The gift of the ocean
“Dear Ocean, thank you for making us feel tiny, humble, inspired, and salty…all at once.” ~Unknown
Nature has a way of doing this to us—giving us perspective while also giving us a deep strength and resolve. We begin to see that we are part of something bigger, and that has the dual-advantage of giving of humility and confidence. I can’t think of a better way to feel better about the world and our role in it than to spend time outside. A little fresh air helps us realize that anything is possible.
In pause: You have more power than you think you do
“Enlightenment is that moment when a wave realizes it is the ocean.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
We have more options than we think we do. I had two great back-to-back conversations yesterday that helped me realize just how many possibilities are open to me and how to bring them to fruition. It was one of the most empowering and hopeful afternoons I’ve had in a long time. Those conversations didn’t change any of my circumstances; they just helped me see things in a different way. They changed my mind and my perspective; in other words, they changed everything.
In the pause: Be a possibilist
“I don’t consider myself an optimist or a pessimist, but rather a possibilist.” ~Hans Rosling, edutainer, data scientist, and inspiration
I like Hans’s outlook. It helps us make the most of good times, and keep tough times in perspective. It keeps us looking forward instead of looking back. It keeps us from getting stuck in a job, or a city, or a relationship that doesn’t work for us. It keeps hope alive, and makes us grateful for what we have while preventing us from getting bitter about what we don’t have. And that is a very good thing to be.
We lost Han Rosling a few weeks ago. His belief that our best days are ahead of us played out every day in his work and in his life. That’s a goal worth striving for.
Wonder: Turn disappointment into an opportunity for unexpected fun
Whenever something falls through and we get disappointed, it’s easy to let it ruin our day. My friend, Alex, gave me a different way of seeing disappointment. As usual, her very wise words really stuck with me and she delivered them at the exact moment I needed them. She told me that disappointment can be an opportunity to open ourselves up to unexpected fun. With the right mindset, we can turn it around. In about 30 seconds, I was feeling better. This is the power of positive thinking, and the gift of having friends like Alex to help us find our way through difficult moments.