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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Success Scaffolding: Goals & Wishes

Hello, Readers, here’s what’s been happening. I went to the hair salon. I love going there. I love my stylist, Donna, and the whole place.  It's her place, and it’s just nice. Everyone is close there. For example, I walked in and Donna was finishing with a client and she said hello to me and I saw that her eyebrows were covered in dark smudges. Then I saw that the other stylist had dark smudges on her eyebrows, too, and that she was touching up the roots of the manicure-pedicurist. Everyone was dying her hair and eyebrows. Rinsing and dousing in between clients. A perfect ballet of personal care. Now, I have not dyed my eyebrows nor my hair, but I do get highlights. As I said to my friend the other day, I’m just another Jewish woman slowly going blond. Donna takes good care of me.  

Anyway, I told Donna that I finished my manuscript and sent it to Agent. I told her that I hope Agent is still my agent, and that I’m not sanguine about that. Then I started twirling off into the wings about whether Agent is really going to pull through and be Agent for me, or if I will have to find a new agent. And Donna put her hands up. Whoa, whoa, she said. Let’s take a moment to celebrate. 

About completing my manuscript, she meant. Did you open the champagne? To which I said, Not yet, because I don’t know what Agent is going to say about or do with it. So Donna says, But celebrate. You wrote it!

This was true, and also true was that I had done nothing in particular to commemorate it. I finished my manuscript draft. I pushed send. I pushed send on an email with an attachment. The attachment was my manuscript, well, the rest of manuscript. Ninety thousand words. Sent. I texted the husband who was counseling the family of a stroke victim and texted back, Congratulations. I got a little electronic confetti. 

But, but, but…. I said, thinking of all the things left to do and all the possible ways I can be rejected, shot down, and made miserable about this sent manuscript.  And also about admitting to it in public, for example, here on my blog. 

And then Donna said that I need to stop with the negativity.  This is a nice thought, of course, stopping with the negativity. However, the debate is still open whether this is the dog of negativity, or negativity’s litter mate, pragmatic hedging. 

Now, pragmatic hedging is a term I have made up. Therefore, I am on that side of the debate. Pragmatic hedging descends from the superstition, common among the Jews I know, of mitigating all good fortune or even hopes and dreams of good fortune with a muttered, “God willing.” It’s like spitting over your shoulder or whatever. I don’t actually think it’s a Jewish thing. It’s a human thing-- for the neurotic human. It’s making sure that the God you don’t even believe in won’t smite you for daring to have a less than humble aspiration or a modicum of good fortune. It’s a kind of reflexive self-humbling so the Universe doesn’t decide to squish you.

But Donna had the scissors and I was in the chair. Her eyebrows, by the way, were by now rinsed. She said, because she is a big Deepak Chopra fan, Here’s what you’re going to do. You are going to manifest what you want to happen. 

Sounds great, I said, my pragmatic hedging ready to intrude immediately. I shushed it. 

Here’s how you do it, she said. You think about what you want. You imagine that publisher calling about the book. You picture it. Then, you imagine how you will feel when it happens, really feel it. Then you feel it. Give yourself over to it. 

Okay, I said. As I mentioned, she had the scissors. I had the pragmatic hedging in a down-stay. 

Now, I have written much about visualization in this blog, and some about abundance theory, also known as the Law of Attraction. This is the stuff of Deepak Chopra. He’s one of a long line of peddlers of this theory that if you want to achieve something, you think positively about it and attract it to you. That’s the theory. 

Also known as hooey, flim-flam, and bunk. Sorry, you Law of Attraction believers. BUT. Visualization can be an excellent tool. Visualizing a positive outcome can be helpful. It can prime you to work harder, because you’re primed to be a bit more optimistic than, uh, pragmatic. And there is a more complex form of visualization that is also helpful. It is called mental contrasting. Mental contrasting is visualizing one’s goal and also visualizing the obstacles one is likely to encounter when striving for said goal and how to overcome them. Mental contrasting helps in setting appropriate goals, because once you envision your ultimate goal, you then lay out a series of smaller goals you need to accomplish on the way there. 

This is a lot of work. Trust me, I have been doing it for a long time with this book. First a first draft, shitty a la Anne Lamott. Then another draft. And another. Then the proposal and the agent and the editor and publisher and the--- I have overcome multiple obstacles. The book, she is done. I mean, she needs polishing and revising, but her essential organs are intact. At this point, things are out of my hands. I have sent the book out. So manifesting—what harm can it do? 

Donna is not a nut. I would not let a nut take scissors to my head. What she also said was that I had to let go of how this wish manifests and just focus on the wish. I took that to mean I have to drop the reins of worry for awhile, while I wait to see what Agent says or—my big fear being that Agent doesn’t respond at all—doesn’t say. Then, I can act further. Find a different agent or whatever. Meanwhile, I can think happy thoughts about the day the publisher calls and says, I love this book! Let’s get it out on the shelves. 

Pragmatic hedging, by the way, is a relative of mental contrasting. Mental contrasting is all about being pessimistic—or realistic—in goal-setting. It’s about figuring out the contingencies that might make reaching a goal difficult and then getting around those. This is turning a goal into a series of small goals or steps. All in the head, mind you. It’s a form of proactive positive thinking. It’s positive, because you visualize your goal. And it’s negative because you visualize obstacles; that turns out to be positive, though, because you visualize obliterating those obstacles. Fortunately, Unfortunately. Anyone remember that children’s book? Fortunately, I got the last seat on the airplane. Unfortunately, the plane exploded. Fortunately, I did not die. Unfortunately, I was thrown from the plane. Fortunately, the plane had parachutes. Unfortunately, the parachute did not open. Fortunately, there was a haystack. Unfortunately, the haystack had a pitchfork in it. Fortunately, I missed the pitchfork. Unfortunately, I missed the haystack. 

And so on. Here is someone reading it aloud, in case you missed it in your elementary school education: 

Tangential to this hair styling situation, was the dharma talk I listened to while walking the dog the other day. The actual dog, on a teaching about putting the burden down. Buddha said to put down all the things we carry with us, including—according to Gil Fronsdal, the teacher—the search for Nirvana. The spiritual search can be a burden, too. Anything we struggle with represents an attachment. The idea is to somehow exist with those things WITHOUT struggle. 

Putting down the burden. That is the appeal of manifesting. That was the appeal the other day. To just let go of all the pragmatic hedging. To let go of all the caveats to the wishes and to just imagine having a simple form of wish granted, to imagine how that would feel.