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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Navel Gazing to Find Success

Immersing myself in all these books about Success has actually been helpful in some ways. All their talk about wishes and desires and intentions has freed me from a certain amount of guilt.  They’ve allowed me to pursue some things I was already sort-of pursuing in a guilt-ridden because-they’re-not –leading-to-employment-and-money-earning-half-assed-way. 

Like napping.  Just 20 minute catnaps. I’ve always taken those, since college. Even at my library job. My colleagues more than once caught me with keyboard impressions on my cheeks some time in the early afternoon.

Or like meditating, which I’ve mentioned before.

But one thing keeps coming up in these books that  I’ve really had a hard time wrapping my mind around. It's this whole asking God or the universe or your subconscious for what you want phenomenon. Whether it’s affirmations or afformations or writing a list of your intentions and desires, I just can’t quite get my mind around it.

First, how specific should this list be? Is this list meant to include new headphones for my iPod? Because I do need those. I can only hear Pink from one speaker, and that’s not cutting it at the gym.

Second, is the list meant to be abstract, in which case it ought to be wholly altruistic? Peaceloveandunderstanding and all that. 

Third, there are complexities to the whole wishing/desiring/intention thing. 

For example, is there a zero-sum calculation at work here where if I wish to publish an article in a major magazine, then one of my children will be hit by a car. Because I DIDN’T wish for my family’s health and happiness? 

What about wishing for something that has ramifications you don’t understand at the time? Think Sibyl of Cumae: she wished for immortality, but forgot to wish to stay young forever; so she shriveled up into an ever more wrinkly and elderly old woman; furthermore, she was doomed to constantly lose her loved ones because she forgot to wish for their immortality, too.

I used to wish for wisdom. Yep. That was me, the practical-minded teenager. I wanted wisdom. I wanted to be one of those old people at whose knee young people sit and ask for advice. Later, I thought, why did I waste time wishing for that? I ought to simply have wished for health and happiness. Those make for a more comfortable life.

So the wishing/desiring/intention-planting becomes this thing. Like a birthday wish.  You know, make a wish and blow out the candles. It seems simple.

But what if you don’t blow out all the candles and you wished for something specific and particular that you really, really want, like David Bowie to kiss you, and then you have to face your disappointment? (Okay, that was a loo—oo-nng time ago.) You don't want to risk that. 

So then you wish anodyne wishes: you wish for world peace, say. Something faultless but also impossible. If your wish comes true, then great, you helped; but if it doesn't, no one will blame you.  Meanwhile, you get brownie points (with whom, you might ask, since I’m pretty much an atheist—but I never claim to be rational) for your benevolence towards humanity. 

Fourth, what do all these lists have to do with success? By now I've forgotten, caught up in this rather self-serving exploration. Luckily, one of my successful old friends hasn't, and he contacted me, and suggested that perhaps my entire line of reasoning here has been misguided.

Okay, he didn't actually say that. What he did suggest is that success is about setting an impossible goal, a goal that has nothing to do with personal enrichment but with doing something or making something that improves the world a little bit. 

Damn idealists. They always make you look up from your navel.  

His is an interesting suggestion, though. To make sure you always have something to strive for, to inspire you, to occupy your time (and to prevent excessive navel-gazing), choose a goal you can never fully achieve. Even though you'll know you’re never going to succeed, you’ll always be able to place stumbles and achievements in perspective. Best of all, you'll always have something to occupy you.

Besides your navel, my tens of reader, as fascinating as it is. 

1 comment:

  1. This one's the post I meant when I told you what you wrote lit a fire under me. You've inspired me to write a post. Won't pin it down yet, but I'll definitely link back to this post when it's up.