September 5th, 2010

Plans & Expectations

“Anticipation”

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

–Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)

So life didn’t turn out as planned. I can think of so few people for whom it does.

I think of life as having 3 pistons: Love, Work and Family. If all three pistons are firing, it feels like a smooth running engine. If all three balls are successfully in the air, it’s more than likely I feel completely fulfilled and elated (and rare). I’ve always said that even if only two of the three are working well, happiness and contentment abound. When it’s just one, it’s more of a challenge, but happiness is still always a choice. When none of these areas are working properly, it’s time to figure out why.

Love

I had a marriage, but it wasn’t a marriage anyone would define as such. Beyond that, love hasn’t always been kind but when it was (and even when it wasn’t) the endeavor of loving others has provided great insight and emotional growth. Sometimes I let circumstances or others discourage me. I wish I’d have allowed less of that. I wish I would have taken healthy emotional breaks, recharged, and quickly got back in the stream of life with new insight to apply.

Keep going. Or as Nike says “Just do it.” In one of the most brilliant advertising slogans ever, the idea is present to maintain in spite of the hurdles, to ignore obstacles, to get past hinderances. If we tell ourselves to keep going or “just do it” standing in front of an obstacle, we’d get further.

Work

Career was both more and less successful than I thought it would be. I spent many years doing things I’m passionate about. I create and generate ideas, both professionally and personally. I mentor. When I wrote in a 2nd grade paper that I wanted to be an artist and a teacher when I grew up, I was right. I am greatly fulfilled by both of those endeavors. Career fell into my lap by some assessments, but it was also something I saw in the future, wanted and achieved. So was it a plan? Not if plans required the confidence that you’d one day achieve them. I limited my ambitions in so many ways, I wonder where I might have ended up if I had envisioned more for myself. Career didn’t stay on a path of continuous path to greater and greater success. There are things to learn from that, both in humility and persistence.

Family

I didn’t get to raise my own family like I hoped I would. Conversely, some people end up with family they didn’t plan for. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a mom unless I adopt or foster parent (likely as a single parent). That’s still an option.

The bonds and benefits from immediate family (siblings, nephews, parents, grandparents) surpassed and continues to exceed what is meted out to most others. Even though none of us is perfect, we work together with a kind of realistic perfection, with support and generosity that is rare to find.

The journey is the destination

The advice I’d like to send is not “how to get here.” It’s “how to arrive wherever you will arrive, and do it with all the growth and learning that you can possibly gather from every situation you find yourself in.” I want you, my former self, to come to peace faster, to complete as much emotional growth as possible as early as possible, to navigate through a world that can be hostile or full of joy with less discouragement and greater ability to build upon the positive.

Yes, that’s it: less discouragement, more building. That’s the goal.

Have you ever noticed those people that don’t even seem to hear negative feedback? They keep moving ahead as if no one has ever criticized or discouraged them. I don’t want to completely ignore feedback, but I want it to have less meaning. Absorb the input, use the bits of it that can assess any necessary change in direction but keep moving.

Now, you.

What were your plans and expectations and how did it turn out?

Persevere