“Seen Them Die Just for Foolish Pride”

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 12.05.02 AMThese words were written by Jackson Browne in his song Shaky Town: “Seen folks show their blacker sides…/Seen them die just for foolish pride.”

This past few weeks brought into focus just how true his words are. Some would like to think that the young man who prayed with people in a black church, only to shoot and kill them in the end, was simply the act of a deranged, mentally ill soul who didn’t know better. And, to some degree, that is true. But to describe it as that misses the more obvious and deeper understanding of the dynamics of prejudice, bigotry, and hate. There was a climate where his hatred was born, that was ripe for triggering his appetite for violence, and, even while he said that he had second thoughts because everyone was so nice to him, ignored his own humanity to destroy the people that were so nice to him. How are we to understand this?

Of course, identity is at its roots. In his case, white identity against black identity. What underlying assumptions did he make? First, that his group’s identity was senior and more important than his sense of individual self. The most basic human instinct is to survive. Yet he was willing to give up his life to support what he thought of as his group identity. Secondly, that anything that was different and not in his group was a threat to his group’s survival. This is exactly the same conviction that all terrorists share. To create such destructive acts one needs to see their victims as an existential threat that must be destroyed before it is too late. This is more than ideology. While people might argue over various ideologies, they do not die for them. But, when, for example, ideology becomes a matter of identity, then they do. So it is foolish pride they are dying for, and not their belief systems.

The killer said that he wanted to start a race war. That’s a pretty clear statement. What happened instead was something to behold, people rejected the act, the thought behind the act, the historic divisions, the politics, embraced humanity, and joined together to show that love is, indeed, a stronger force that hate.

And about the Confederate flag that was flying over public buildings in South Carolina, at first, some described the flag as representing “Southern Pride.” Let me get this straight, you want to take pride in something you didn’t do? Like every form of identity pride, people are claiming value from something others have done. So, any form of national pride, in that sense, is counterfeit. If you personally achieved a .350 batting average in baseball, or won a Pulitzer prize for journalism, or even had no cavities in your latest dental check up, well, you can take pride in that. That is very different from group pride. If you accomplished a great batting average, should all baseball players take pride in that? Should all journalists take pride that one of them reached a high level professionally? Should we all take pride that, no matter the condition of our teeth, one of us had a good check up? Of course, the thought, itself, is absurd.

In fact, historically, that flag was placed there in 1962 at the height of the civil rights movement, the symbolism had little to do with Southern Pride, but rejection of the rights of black people. And that is why, with all the talk of pride, it wasn’t put there for that reason. These are just the facts anyone could study. I suppose, in the end, anything can sound like it has a reasonable explanation. Good for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for having it removed from public buildings.

Group pride, unlike individual pride based on true accomplishment, says that, because you are a member of a group, somehow that, in and of itself, is worthy of honor. In fact, often those who are unsure of themselves, gravitate to group pride of one sort or another to make up for their deep insecurities.
Now, I like the gay pride movement to a degree. Once a group is oppressed, there is often the desire to counter balance the negative stereotyping that attempts to compensate for the subjugate. As people who are gay are more and more accepted in general society, it will harder and harder to take pride in your sexual orientation, something you had little to do with.

How can you take pride in something you had nothing to do with? I’m proud I’m a man? I’m proud I’m a woman? What choice did you have?

Human beings suffer the quest for identity, too often to their own detriment. And, in the extreme, sometimes some very wonderful and innocent people die. This is not explained by insanity alone but because of the tragedy of foolish pride.

Freedom of the Individual

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 2.30.12 AMSo, here is Bruce Jenner who feels he is a woman, and transforms himself into herself: Caitlyn Jenner.

And done SO publicly, it challenges the notion of freedom of the individual. Are people free to live their lives as they want, or do they have some hidden obligation to conform to how others, or society as a whole, would decide for them?

This is not an unsubstantial question. Because it puts the value of freedom of the individual against the ideal of social conformity.

Now, we are not talking about sovereignty. We are not talking about “are people free to throw their garbage on my lawn?” That is not a question of freedom, but of private ownership, and the rights that go along with that ownership. People who get a little nervous about issues of freedom often slip into issues of sovereignty, which then, allows them to avoid thinking more deeply about freedom.

So, is Jenner, according to your values, rather than the type of choices you might make for yourself, free to live his/her life the way he/she sees fit?

Most people favor the value of freedom. But, too often, the issue is abstract. One can favor it in theory, but when it comes to their own parents or adult children, suddenly the issue is not so clear. We all have opinions of others, and often we think we know better about how they should live their lives than they do. Very human, indeed.

But living consistently with your values is a test for most people. And here is Jenner, unapologetic about her choices in life, against a sea of criticism, disparagement, and even worse, ridicule from people, some of whom claim to be all for freedom.

I have no idea what it must feel like to be transgender. The closest maybe that I’ve always felt like a Catholic but wasn’t raised to be a Catholic. When I finally converted to Catholicism, it was no big deal to society, or even to the people who knew me. Maybe it’s like that. A private matter.

But, you may say, Jenner made it a public matter, and for that, I am all admiration for her. Good for you, Caitlyn! Do what you want, live your life the way you want, be as public or private as you want! More power to you.

And for those who would choose for Jenner over her own wishes, you are free to have your opinion. Just never claim you are for freedom.

Equilibrium

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 12.41.08 AMIn the disciplines of structural dynamics and system dynamics, there is one force that, in many ways, is THE dynamic that causes everything to happen. It is nature’s striving for equilibrium.

The principle is this: Anytime something within the same structure contains differences, nature strives to equalize them, in other words, transform the differences into something that is the same.

From Isaiah, comes this interesting insight:
“Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley…”

When I first heard this in Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech, I didn’t quite get it. Over time, I came to realize the principle that is being described is equilibrium.

Here are a few examples of a system striving for equilibrium: when an affluent society lives juxtaposed to a poor society, a state of non-equilibrium exists. But this condition is not stable. This leads to migration flows, and the movement is in one direction only. You don’t see a lot of rich people migrating to the poor parts of town.

From a systems perspective, the goal of the system is to create a state of equilibrium so that the difference between rich and poor are resolved, establishing equilbrium. Right now, all over the world, migration flows are occurring with greater and greater volume. Of course, some of this has to do with the dangerous conditions people are evading. This is another state of non- equilibrium, unsafe/safe.

One of the more interesting experiments in social engineering, something that some politicians have made a dirty phrase in America, is from Singapore, where social engineering is well conceived and executed. They have build low-income apartment buildings next to high-income apartment buildings. The result: everyone takes care of the neighborhood. You cannot tell the pricey place from the low-cost place. They have understood the principle of equilibrium and used it to harmonize people across the income spectrum.

Equilibrium is neither good nor bad. It is simply a force in play all of the time. Structural tension, which is the prime structure we use in the creative process, is a deliberate set up of non-equilibrium. The difference between the desired state (the outcome we want to create,) and the actual state (current reality in relationship to our desired outcome,) forms a tension because of the non-equilibrium factor.

This tension is not anxiety, or stress, or pressure. It is structural. This is not about your moods, your attitude, your personality type, your opinion about yourself, or your self-esteem. It is about how, in structural dynamics, that non-equilibrium always strives to move to equilibrium. Tension always strives for resolution. This is the arrow aimed at the target with adequate tension on the bow. Without the tension, the arrow cannot reach the target. In the case of structural tension, the best resolution (or establishment of equilibrium) is accomplished by having what you want.

If structural tension were the only form we use, life would be easy. But, in fact, there is another structure that makes life much harder, and that is structural conflict.

Structural tension creates an advancing pattern in which every episode of the creative process, even the ones that don’t fully succeed, becomes the platform for future success. Structural tension creates momentum. Structural conflict creates a pattern of oscillation. In this pattern, success is always followed by a reversal. At the end of the story, you no longer have what you want, even if you had it for a while.

Here is an event: You have what you want.

In an advancing pattern, the underlying structure is equilibrium. The desired state and the actual state are the same. End of differences.

In an oscillating pattern, this same event, having what you want, is actually the point of most non- equilibrium, because there is an opposing force in play, usually your concepts which are moving toward a different resolution. In this structure, having what you want is unsustainable. The structural tendency is to move away from what you want, not because of any psychological condition, but because structure will always seek equilibrium, and that is as impersonal as gravity.

We have two types of patterns in our life: advancing and oscillating. What makes the difference is the structure you are in. But this is easier said than done.

In all of my books, in all of our workshops and seminars, in the field of structural dynamics, one of the most important changes that can be accomplished is a change of underlying structures from ones that work against us to ones that work in our factor.

This is not problem solving. Rather, it is restructuring, creating better structures, ones that are capable of supporting our own creative processes. However, it is difficult, and maybe impossible to see a structure when you are in it. First, you need to back up, to be able to change vantage points, and to understand how the parts fit together.

As is typical of the human condition, people want to change things before they understand what is causing the current situation. This leads to false starts, reactions to circumstances, and, then, back in the same situation once again.

Choices
One workshop I recommend for a true transformative change of underlying structure is Choices. Led by my wife and colleague Rosalind Fritz, this workshop will only happen once this year: June 26th to June 28th. It is here in Vermont. One of the most critical aspects of this change comes from seeing your macrostructural patterns. This is a technique in which you can see the specific set of events that reoccur in your life. There is an oscillating pattern and an advancing pattern. One thing you are able to accomplish in the workshop is to understand the structural forces in play in your life, and move to a new structure, one that has a higher chance of sustainable success.

This workshop is at the end of this month, so if you are considering taking it, please enroll now. Or if you need more information, email us. Seminars@robertfritz.com

Focus!

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 1.16.44 AMWhen I was a young composer, I had many good musicians play my music. Then I got a commission from Collage, a contemporary music group made up of Boston Symphony musicians. When I went to the first rehearsal of my piece, the one thing I noticed immediately, the one thing that separated these great Boston Symphony musicians from the other good musicians I had worked with, was their extraordinary focus. They were focused every moment of the 12-minute piece with an intensity I hadn’t seen before at any first rehearsal. And their focus was always there, throughout every performance.

Music training, as in sports, as in many other disciplines, demands a high level of focus. Most of us are not required to develop a high level of focus, so our minds can float from one thing to another, free association, not able to focus enough when it is needed.

Just what is focus? It is paying attention. It is the ABILITY to pay attention. It is like a camera lens when it reaches that place of optimal focus.

Years ago I worked with US Biathlon Team thanks to my friend an colleague John Donovan, a structural consultant and accomplished athlete. This is the sport where first, they cross-country ski, and then, they come into a target area where they have to shoot a rife aimed at a target. It’s a tough sport because skiing and target shooting requires different physical conditions. And the one thing I noticed about these great Olympic athletes was their tremendous focus.
This level of focus develops over time. It is not something one either has or doesn’t. When people say, “I can’t focus for very long. That’s just how I am,” they are only describing their current level of ability, not something they can’t develop.

So why develop focus? Two reasons: it’s easy and it helps your creative process. Your level of concentration can grow. Your ability to focus on structural tension, the desired state in relationship to the current reality, can grow. Your ability to maintain momentum while you are engaged in the action steps you take to create the outcomes you want can grow. Your ability to hold and work with structural tension over extended periods of time, weeks, months, years, can grow.

Focus, as I have said, takes practice. The more you are able to focus, the better. It is accumulative. My focus now is so much better than when I was in my 20s and 30s.

When I began to write year ago, I needed silence in the house. Now I can write in taxicabs and in noisy airports. My ability to focus developed over time and practice. So can yours.As Steve Jobs said, “That’s been one of my mantras, focus and simplicity.”

With all of the stimulus in our world, it is easy to get distracted and lose focus. There are problem types of distractions: there are competing desires distractions: there are running out of steam types of distractions. So here is a principle: focus your creative process based on aspirations and values, while tracking overall shapes and patterns, and that is the best focus to have. This will lead to generating strength, insight, processes, strategies, and, most importantly, the energy needed to take the critical actions that can lead to the successful accomplishment of your creations.

And of course, how do you focus when you’ve got a lot of things you are doing? To show how this is done, sometimes when I’m doing talks, I’ll get 4 or 5 people up on stage, and put them in a row, shoulder to shoulder. Each person represents a project that I might be creating. I push one person forward for a moment. And then I push another one forward. And then another. What I tell the audience is this: When I am focused on one project, I am there 100%. I move the project forward. Then I focus on another project I’m creating. I give that one 100% focus. When I move from project to project, it’s like switching the channel. While I am working on that project, I’m not thinking about the others.

This is how busy and effective people do it. They can handle many things by being able to be 100% focused on each one at a time. And then, they know how to change the channel when the time comes to switch focus.

Dimensions of Choice

choices_pThe most direct access into your life is through the choices you make. We could divide these choices into two major types. There are the big, life changing choices – to get married, move to a new city, change careers, have a baby, go to school – and then there are the small choices – to eat the cookie, to exercise, to call your mom, to watch the football game. The big choices are fairly obvious as an important dimension in your life.

The smaller choices are not so visible, and yet, in many ways, they are as critical to your life as the big ones.

Notice how you make choices. For many people, it is their short-term appetites and impulses that guide their decisions. Because they are in that frame, they cannot see nor understand the longer-term consequences of these choices. To have a Big Mac once in a great while does not harm you, as my friend and colleague Dr. Wayne Andersen tells us. However, it is rare that people who indulge in Big Macs can only stop at 1. Instead, not unlike an addict, they have them 3 or 4 times a week. If you’ve ever seen the award-winning documentary Super Size Me, you know the ravages of such a diet. A healthy young man decides to film himself eating every meal at McDonald’s. He has a physical before the test. Within a few short months, he has high blood pressure, has gain a significant amount of weight, has bouts with depression, and is less able to think or function. The doctors were amazed at his decline.

For the advertising agencies that support McDonald’s, they understand the ways people make choices. In one ad, there is a picture of a Big Mac, fries, and a sugary soft drink. The caption is, “You can’t resist.” In another ad, the announcer says that a McDonald’s meal triggers your “pleasure center.” No doubt that it does, same as cocaine and heroin.

Your pleasure centers, caused by the secretion of endorphins which leads to feelings of euphoria, are additive. Psychiatrist William Glasser, who developed Reality Therapy, studied the impact of endorphins on human behavior, and concluded that people could actually get addicted to themselves. In his ground breaking book Positive Addiction he saw that when one moved from a negative addiction – alcohol and drugs – to what he called a positive addiction – running, meditating – the same endorphins were released. The addiction part came from similar symptoms when the person stopped running or meditating. A kind of cold turkey withdrawal with all the pain and cravings one might have when they are trying to give up drugs.

So, short-term appetites and impulses often are more than just wanting a Big Mac on occasion.

There is a force in play that is driving the action, motivating the desire, and giving a false impression of what you might really want. You can’t build your life on such choices. Perhaps a better questions is this: are these types of reactive cravings actually choices? Most addicts are not addicts by choice, but by lack of choice.

If we were to look at how a person becomes the creative master of his or her own life, we would see them having more and more of true choices available. When we were children, there were few choices that were within our realm of decision-making. As we became adults, more choices became available. Often people have choices that they don’t know they have. They are so infused with concepts and obligations, with issues of identity and fear, of feeling that they are not free to live lives of their own, that they feel a profound lack of choice. Words that commonly describe this experience are stuck, lost, depressed, in a rut. All of this usually leads to a mid-life crisis. The crisis comes from the feeling that you don’t have a lot of choice in your life, that all you can do is follow your patterns and routines, and try to stay out of too much trouble.

After years of this, the human spirit wants to rebel. Of course it does. Too often, the rebellion is unduly destructive, as most revolutions are. There are better ways to accomplish an escape from limitation, and that is the nature of strategic choices that have the ability to lead to the life you want to live, not the one you have created by default. Here, the choices are not based on impulses or vague ideals, but aspirations and values. What you want to create becomes the focal point of your creative process. The major goals are primary choices, and what it takes to accomplish those goals are a series of secondary choices that supports the primary goals. This relationship is the essence of true discipline. Not a trade off, but taking strategic actions, things that you may not want to do and wouldn’t do if it were not for the primary choice, but purely motivated to support the primary choice.

But not all things are as they seem. As I have described in my book Your Life As Art, there are structural patterns in play that are not easy to see and hard to understand. In fact, I describe two distinct types of behaviors in patterns, oscillating and advancing.

In the oscillating pattern, it looks like you are going in the direction you want to go, and even have success for a while. But in this pattern, success is not sustainable, and soon, there will be a reversal of fortunes, and you will lose what you had.

Everyone has a version of this pattern. Most people do not know it is in play in their lives. So, from within the pattern, they can make the wrong conclusions about themselves. They might think they are losers, or cursed, or screw-ups, or failures. The thing is, the structural pattern is not personal to them. If we took them out and put someone else in, the new person would act exactly like the old person.

When we talk about a change of underlying structure, this is what we mean. If you had an oscillating pattern as your M.O., and you changed the underlying structure from that structure to one that has the ability to advance, your life patterns would change from oscillating, in which success was not sustainable, to one in which success is not only sustainable, but is the platform for future success.

Of course, all of my books are about this in one way or another. Structural dynamics is one of the most useful and insightful disciplines there is, especially in regards to creating your own life. In an oscillating structure, your choices are less about what you truly want, and more about reacting and responding to the circumstance in your life. Another way of saying this is, what seems like choices are not really true choices. This reinforces the experience of powerlessness, and exacerbates the conflict between structural limitation and the desire of the human spirit to soar.

•••

The above article can open a useful area of investigation, but cannot, itself, lead to the type of transformation that is possible. For that, we have created a special workshop called CHOICES. This happens only once a year here in Vermont, and is lead by my wife and colleague, Rosalind Fritz. See below!

CHOICES
This is a transformational workshop in which you have the possibility of starting your life anew, with new energy, freshness, clarity, and firm grounding for the future. What could be more vital and important than the strategic choices you make from now on?
Rosalind Fritz is CEO of Robert Fritz, Inc, and she leads the two-year structural consulting certification program. She has taught structural consulting over 25 years, and is a master structural consultant. So join Rosalind for this exciting and life-changing workshop.

Pricing:
The price is $650 USD per person including lunch
Please contact seminars@robertfritz.com, or call 802-365-7286 for more information and/or to register for this program

Click here for more information

Ideals

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 1.37.15 AMDo a quick check on yourself. What are the ideals that you have adopted for your life? Most people adopt ideals of how they should live in childhood, and update them throughout their lives. However, they are never able to live up to their ideals. There will always be a difference between the ideals you have and how you are. Here’s why: Ideals are abstract concepts about how we should live. Plato called them virtues. Concepts are neither true values nor genuine aspirations. Instead, they are notions, theories, and generalizations that are used as a model of how to live, what to think, what kind of person to be, perhaps, even, what kind of work or career to pursue.

The term “ideals” can seem lofty, virtuous, even noble. It may give you a false standard by which to aspire, one that is often impossible and inconsistent with your deepest values and true aspirations.

Ideals vs Values

It is easy to confuse ideals with true values. An ideal is a picture of what you should hold dear. The fact is there is no particular way you should be, so concepts like these are based on the false notion that you must live up to idealized standards. 
Here is a common definition for the word ideal.

Noun: Ideal
Plural noun: Ideals
A person or thing regarded as perfect. A standard of perfection: a principle to be aimed at.
A standard of perfection;
Synonyms: perfection, paragon, epitome, shining example, ne plus ultra, dream.

True values come from what you think is more important and what you think is less important. Ideals are models of “good” or “perfect” behavior. Values come from our critical choices in reality. You know your values especially when they are in conflict with other competing values. Let’s say that truth and kindness are two of your values. You go to a concert that featured your sister. Poor thing, she can’t carry a tune in a basket. After the concert, you have a conflict between truth and kindness. If kindness were the higher value, you might say, “Sis, you were great!” If truth were the higher value, you might say, “Sis, you were pretty terrible.” And if you could not decide which of these values were more important you might say something like, “Sis, for a person who can’t carry a tune in a basket, you were great.”

Choice vs Ideals

In our experience, when people have a choice as to how they want to live and what they truly want, they want some very good things. They want good relationships, meaningful work, good health, and a host of other very productive results. They may not know how to create such a life, but that doesn’t prevent them from wanting it. If you could have good relationships, meaningful work and good heath, would you take it? Of course you would. This is not adopting an ideal, but recognizing some of your true desires. Choice means you can do it, whatever the “it” is, or not do it. Ideals are not based on choices but on implied obligations of how you need to be. In other words, no choice.

Some people’s ideals were formed as children from the adults in their lives. For others, it may be rock stars, athletes, astronauts, actors and actresses, public figures, historical figures, and the list goes on. There are many models from which to choose. Yet, wherever the ideals came from, they function exactly the same way. “Here is how you must be.”

You may have adopted an ideal or two when you were young. You thought that it was important to live up to these ideals as if they were secret promises you made to yourself. Then, you measured yourself against them.

Many people have ideals of what they should have accomplished by the time they had reached a certain age. Others have the ideal of what adventures they should have experienced. Most people do not happen to accomplish or experience their ideals by the deadline, and they feel as if they had let themselves down. If you have this kind of pattern going on, step back a minute and review your fundamental assumptions. Why did you think you had to be, do, accomplish, or experience any benchmark by any age? You simply made that up. It is not steeped in reality. It is pure fiction.

So, here is a very simple yet life-changing principle: rid yourself of all ideals. The goal of life is not perfection. The blessing of life is the chance to be involved with life. The point of life is to live.

The Power of Impossibilities

Olivier MessiaenI’ve always hated the New Age movement slogan “nothing is impossible.” First of all, that is wrong. Second, for those who preach the motto, they often aren’t doing much real creating in their lives. For those of you who have adopted this adage, you are missing the great advantages of being in touch with reality.

Before we hear a chorus of my truth and your truth, my reality and your reality, here is an experiment you can conduct. Choose a meal you ate yesterday, and try to eat it again today. I mean, the very same meal, not just a version of the same menu. This will help you understand that some things, even seemly simple things, are not always possible.

I suppose the phrase “nothing is impossible” is meant to give people hope, courage, and fortify what must be assumed to be their terribly weak will-power. Dumbo’s magic feather comes to mind. Hold this feather and you can fly. Hold on to this notion and you can accomplish great things.

I began to understand the power of impossibilities when I was a student at the Boston Conservatory. One of the composers we studied was the great Twentieth Century French composer Olivier Messiaen. I read his Technique De Mon Language Musical (“Technique of my musical language”) several times. I still pick it up to this day to get a touch of his wisdom. One of his central ideas was that, and this is how he put it, there is magic in impossibilities.

He wasn’t being abstract. His book reveals how certain music scales and rhythms cannot be transposed or inverted. Before I completely lose you, think of the name Bob. If you try to spell it backwards, you still get Bob. It is impossible to spell some words backwards and get something different like you can with the name David. Backwards it’s Divad. Totally different.

Messiaen was a Catholic mystic and loved creating compositions that had natural mysteries built into the structure of his music. Some impossibilities are pretty cool. Just to have a little fun thought experiment, if suddenly it became true that nothing is impossible, then suddenly most of Messiaen’s music would disappear. So would my nickname. The irony is that if nothing was impossible, Messiaen’s music would become impossible, contradicting the claim. Hussein Nishah said, “If you think nothing is impossible, try slamming a revolving door.”

Time, at least in this time-space dimension, only moves in one direction – forward. You don’t get younger and younger, go back into your mother’s womb, then separate into sperm and egg.

It is impossible to get back to the past. Time is non-retrogradable. The past is over, and that’s just how it is. This fact can bring you a new burst of creative energy. You will not longer feel the need to make the past right, resolve it, fix it, relive it, or change it in any way.

Your mind can have the bad habit of being fixated on the past. But, you can change the channel. Even for those who “live in the past,” it only in the present that they can think they are somewhere else.

Nice to have had a past. All that learning, all those skills we get to use. Knowing now what we didn’t know in high school. But it is the ability to be focused on the present that enables us to reach and create the future.

Impossibilities often lead to hierarchical choices. Because it is impossible to be in two places at once, one may have to choose which place to be. What if your son is the starting pitcher for the high school baseball team, and your daughter is playing the lead role in the elementary school play, and what if they were happening at the very same time? There are limited choices available because of the impossibilities. You could watch your son play, or you could watch your daughter perform, or you could miss them both. But you can’t see them both, because it is impossible to in our physical world to be in two places at the same time. You might think, “Hey, nowadays, we can Skype.” But that’s not being in two places at the same time. It is being in one place, and electronically viewing another.

Impossibilities are part of our world. Many things are impossible. Sometimes we know that, and sometimes we do not know that simple fact. Some things seem impossible, but as it turns out, they are possible. Sometimes we don’t know. To proclaim everything is possible is folly. But when it is asserted, it comes from the idea of having a positive attitude, that by holding that belief, you will do better, that the subconscious mind will attract and manifest what you want. This is the old “Thought is creative.” Think and grow rich, the power of positive thinking, and all of the latest variations of this old chestnut of an idea.

In the creative process, THE most successful process for accomplishment in history, you need to know where you are in relationship to where you want to be. You have to develop a clear eye, open mind, and truthful awareness if you are to adjust your actions successfully. But, those who know little about the real creative process, who think it is a matter of mind tricks, say wonderful sounding platitudes that are designed to hide reality by imposing a positive spin on it:

“With love and patience, nothing is impossible.”
Daisaku Ikeda

“Virtually nothing is impossible in this world if you just put your mind to it and maintain a positive attitude.”
Lou Holtz

“Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.”
Mary McLeod Bethune

“Nothing is impossible in this world. Firm determination, it is said, can move heaven and earth. Things appear far beyond one’s power, because one cannot set his heart on any arduous project due to want of strong will.”
Yamamoto Tsunetomo

“Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means. It is often merely for an excuse that we say things are impossible.”
Francois de la Rochefoucauld

“Nothing is impossible to a willing heart.”
John Heywood

“Future orientation is combined with a notion and expectation of progress, and nothing is impossible.”
Alan Dundes

And before Waterloo Napoleon Bonaparte said, “The word impossible is not in my dictionary.”

Before he died in his early 30s and wasn’t around to see his empire fall apart, Alexander the Great said, “There is nothing impossible to him who will try.”

If you thought that the key to success was to think nothing is impossible, you would try to impose that idea on yourself and to do that you must ignore reality as it is. You will be disappointed when things don’t work out. You might think you didn’t have the right attitude, faith, or courage. Instead of learning how to do better next time, you will try to increase the intensity of your belief. Yet in the creative process, what you belief makes no difference at all. What you do, what you learn, what you experience over time, what you master, how well you create does matter. And you don’t need slogans to hide the truth of the universe we live in, in which some things are impossible and we are enriched by the magic of that fact.

A Life in Transition

Change AheadTransition means from somewhere to somewhere. If you are in a period of transition right now in your life, you have left the life you were living, and you have not arrived at the life you are moving to. It might be a career change, a relationship change, a loss, a move, a change of heart, a change of interests, a change of finances, a change of health.

There are many changes we go through in life. These major changes can seem a little scary if you don’t know where you are going. They can seem a bit disorienting if you do know where you want to go, but don’t have a clue as to how to get there. They can seem driven by conflict if the change was not of your own choosing, such as losing a job or a relationship in which you were left. In those cases, you thought you were fine, but then, you had to rethink your entire life.

These periods, while sometimes hard, are often some of the best things that can happen to you. While you are going through that, you won’t be able to appreciate the change. But later, once you have landed in your new life, once you have landed on your feet with an even better life than the one you have left, you will look back in retrospect and see the transition for what it was, a period of growth, soul searching, rediscovery, and renewal.

Our friend, Candice Carpaenter ran emerging businesses at American Express, won an Emmy for a documentary series when she was a senior executive of Time Warner, and she is the founder of iVillage. And after she left iVillage, she wrote a wonderful book about a life in transition called Chapters.
In Chapters, she talks about the profound cycles of change a life can take.
The first stage she calls The Gig Is Up.

This is when you know that what you have been doing is over. Perhaps you know it intuitively. Perhaps you know it consciously. But somehow you know it’s over, and know it rather deeply. What had been your life can no longer go on. It is unsupportable on some fundamental level.

When you try to hold on to a job, career, relationship, living situation, or the direction your life has taken, and, to use Candice’s phrase, the gig is up, change will be thrust upon you with greater and greater force until you let go. The more you try to hold on, the more the intensity of the tornado that is pulling you out of the present unworkable situation.

The next stage in the pattern is Falling.
Candice describes Falling this way: “disengaged, disidentified, and disenchanted, we fall into disorientation.” This is the most frightening experience we feel in the cycle.
Then comes A Walk In The Desert in which you are able to reflect about the most existential issues of your life.

Next comes Stirrings.
Candice describes it as: “All the threads of your past ultimately will be woven together as you become an accomplished creator.” Let me quote that again: “All the threads of your past ultimately will be woven together as you become an accomplished creator.”
This stage is followed by A Stake in the Ground, in which you begin to focus and then commit yourself to your new way of life.

Candice describes still more stages in the cycle that enable you to build your new life. There is much wisdom and truth in her observations about the nature of change. Change often is a kind of death followed by a resurrection.

One thing that will be helpful, if you are going through this type of transition, is to not spend time resenting that the past is over. The faster you can come to terms with reality, the better you will be able to move to your next stage of creating your life. And remember that creating is not problem solving. If you attempt to make a transition by reacting to the conflict you feel, you will only fall into an oscillating pattern in which any success you create will not last, and you will revert back into something that is not sustainable.

If you are in transition, and you don’t know what you want, get into motion. Do things, little things. Create little projects. Built your creative muscles. Volunteer for local charities, get involved with the good works your community is doing. Do not spend a lot of time sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.

In your period of transition, if that is where you are right now in your life, you don’t need to know where it is going to finally land. And, this is key, if you start to move in any direction, you will have the momentum you need to create your future more easily than if you were not moving at all.

Don’t see the period of transition as something bad. See it as something real, and you are closer to the nature of such periods in our lives. A time to rethink, reflect, reevaluate, and then set the direction for the next major period you want in your life.