I thought I knew it, but I’m learning this lesson over and over again.
It’s important to know, to be crystal clear about what you really want.
But that’s not to say that you want to be specific with what you want to make happen in your life. Saying “I want a big house with five bedrooms and a sport car” is a dangerous approach, because it puts the focus on one specific way to achieve the real goal you really are after, which may be “I want to experience a safe and abundant life.” After buying a big house and a nice car, you may not feel safe nor abundant. You may live in fear of someone breaking into your house and stealing or damaging your car. You may have to spend a fortune in the upkeep of a larger-than-needed residence, not feeling abundant at all.
By focusing on the experience of your desire, being specific about it but not about how it comes about, you maximize your chances of achieving it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s OK to have ideas about how the experience you desire will be realized — if you want to live an abundant life, liking where you live is certainly an important component, and knowing what makes you feel abundant in your residence definitely helps. The best practice, however, is to avoid getting attached to specifics of how but stay clear of what. And since life is a series of experiences, what we’re after ultimately are experiences.
Even when you identify the what, though, it’s very easy to get confused and distracted from it. I’m currently reading a book called Crucial Conversations and it tells a familiar story — of children fighting over who gets to go potty first. I’ve seen something like it happen with my kids, too. The original goal was to do something as soon as possible but once you get into an argument the focus moves away from the original one to that of winning, proving and punishing. If they’d stayed focused on the original goal, they’d see that arguing is less productive than being willing to let the other one have their way first.
I must admit that I was confused about this for a long, long time and spent years chasing one wrong goal after another. In my early pursuits my music was all about proving. Proving that I could become a full-time musician, because that was my goal. So I’d try my hand at different ways to be a full-time musician, from teaching guitar to scoring jingles to film scoring. What I was really after was the experience of creating something I believed in, but I got distracted when my early bands didn’t work out and switched my goal to just going full-time. I really wanted the identity, to be able to say “hey, I’m a full-time musician.”
Never mind that I really didn’t enjoy what I was doing with music, nor did I really believe in it. It was just a like a job, a means to achieve an end. The whole attempt to score jingles was particularly a fiasco. I’d gone through the trouble of putting together demoes and sending packets out and following up with cold phone calls, hating the experience the whole time, and when that went nowhere I got discouraged and quit.
I have not given up on being a full-time musician but now I realize that what I really wanted was the experience of creating something I believe in. I realized that that was something I could do, I didn’t have to have the identity of “full-time” musician, I didn’t have to have clients or fans, I didn’t have to make money with my music. I work on my music regularly and I have the time of my life doing it. I am after the experience of sharing what I create and being received, and that’s starting to happen, too. (thank you for reading this. 🙂 )
Life is made up of experiences, so figure out what you want to experience, then stay focused on that. That’s the best practice I’ve learned about life, and I’m sticking to it.