“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it” – Michelangelo
I hear the refrains of “I can’t;” and “that will never happen;” and “if only I could...” pour forth from people all too often. There seems to be a pervasive limiting belief that has crept into our collective consciousness keeping us playing small in our own lives.
Author Wayne Dyer says, “...our objectives and aims are diminished by our beliefs before they can be worked on and materialized.” How can we change patterns of limiting beliefs after they have been engrained in our psyche for so long? How can we tap back into a creative mindset and see things from a new perspective with new possibilities?
There are numerous reasons our aims diminish over time. Sadly, in childhood, many of us experienced a time when a teacher, parent or peer questioned our ability to succeed leading us to question whether we were capable or worthy of success at all. As a culture we place an inordinate amount of value on standardized tests that measure only one kind of intelligence leaving those who don’t test well or who exhibit alternative intelligence to feel that they are subpar. Arts programs are often the first cut from our schools when times are tight which impedes students from finding their personal voice and creative abilities. The results of all this? Many adults are hard pressed to call themselves creative, intelligent, capable or talented and thus, on a large-scale, the loss of potential contributions to our world is immeasurable. On an individual scale this results in the loss of self-esteem, dreams unrealized and people feeling unmotivated or helpless to create changes in their lives.
With the blossoming of springtime, the season of renewal and rebirth, we have an opportunity to try something new. To begin to change this pattern we must first notice the limiting beliefs we hold. Tune in to the running tape in your head: when and where are you an automatic ‘no’ believing you cannot do, accomplish or try something? Then examine where you came up with that opinion. Why can’t you do it? Why shouldn’t you try it? Says who? We all have stories of negative feedback (the time your choir teacher told you to just mouth the words; the 15 rejection letters your novel got; the job in the industry of your dreams that never materialized), but you are the only one at the helm of your life. Are you going to let those setbacks define you? Or might there be some other creative way to move towards your dreams? As Marianne Williamson writes, “We ask ourselves, ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”
To begin it helps to find a neutral area in which to do some ‘muscle building’. You are trying to work the muscles of creativity, imagination, and possibility. For instance, think of something that might be just fun to try, something that doesn’t carry a lot of weight or expectation for you. Try a tiny painting, writing a little poem, learning a dance, attending a seminar on something new, or anything else that gets you out of your “I can’t do that” box. Do little things like that for a few weeks and notice the impact on your quality of life. Then focus on a place in your life where you may have set the bar too low; perhaps you have reached it and settled there. It’s time to take the risk and aim higher! It’s time to prune away your limiting beliefs that are holding you back and instead, plant and nurture the seeds in you that want something more. Life is best experienced in the dynamic pursuit of our dreams, in what we are creating for others and ourselves, rather than in the stagnancy of our routines and limitations.
There’s a famous Zen saying: “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” We can sit idly by and the days will turn, season to season, without any help from us and our lives will remain the same. Or we can notice the changes all around us and bring ourselves present into this moment. Springtime holds great inspiration for our lives. It’s a time to poke our heads out of hibernation and nurture our own growth, create possibilities. Listen to the whisper of your soul telling you of something you really want; big or small...let your imagination wander back to all the things you dreamt before you believed they were impossible...and start creating!
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