Friday, April 29, 2011

Two little beliefs that rule the world

Before creative work can begin, you must have two beliefs in place: you must believe that you can get the work done, and you must believe that it will make a difference.

Let me point out that these two areas of belief have no basis in physical reality.

In reality, the feasibility of a task is unknown until you actually do it. At best, you can make an informed estimate of whether a task is achievable by comparing it to similar tasks that you or someone else completed in the past.

But -- especially in creative work -- each task is unique and brings its own circumstances and surprises. A task that seems impossible may prove to be possible thanks to unexpected help from the universe. A task that seems easy and routine may bring unexpected pitfalls.

The truth is, you don't know whether you will succeed until you actually try. Nevertheless, we hold definite beliefs about what we can and cannot do. If a creative goal falls into the "cannot" category, it's as good as failed, because you will not even get started.

But consider this: You have the power to change your beliefs. If you believe that you can change your beliefs, then anything can be put into the "possible" category. (Wrap your brain around that!)

You can choose to change your beliefs -- but usually the simpler course is to change your goal. Pick a goal that you already believe you can reach, and then you won't have to venture into these mental gymnastics.

(You don't have to repudiate your bigger goal when you switch to another, more believable goal. Just set that bigger goal aside and say that it's not ripe for action today.)

Just as there is no reality beneath "I can," there is no reality behind "makes a difference." It's a judgment based on your own values and perceptions.

Every action has an impact on the physical world. And every action impacts the mental world too! There's no objective measurement to say which of these impacts counts as "makes a different" and which of them count as "it doesn't matter." It's a purely subjective judgment.

You can change what "makes a difference" by changing your perceptions. If you find yourself thinking "What's the point?" that's a sign that your attention is focused on the wrong thing. You can choose what you focus on, and you can keep your eye on the place where your creative work matters. Then you'll be unstuck and able to get started. (More about this in future posts.)

These little beliefs, ghosts of the mental realm, with no solid basis in physical reality, nonetheless rule our lives. Without "yes, I can" and "yes, it will make a difference," you won't take action. But if both of those beliefs are in place, you are free to act. And the difference between action and inaction can make empires rise and fall, can determine the direction of our lives, can change everything.

These two beliefs may have no basis in physical reality, but physical reality is based on these beliefs. Look around you. Everything you see is there because someone believed something was possible and believed that it would make a difference.

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