Saturday, January 7, 2012

A New Year! On the edge of past and future

Welcome to 2012! It has arrived and already consumed a week of January.

Everyone knows about the phenomenon of new year's resolutions. For many of us, those are the things that we half-heartedly mention in passing but then really don't do anything about. For some others, though, resolutions are serious business.

Why is that, you ask? Human beings find it difficult to live in the moment. Partly that appears to be due to the fact that we have such large and active brains. We seek stimulation, even when we are learning from all the newspaper articles and magazine series and self-help books that it is extremely helpful to be mindful. To let ourselves pay attention to what is, right now.

Chances are that as you have begun to read these words, your mind, without even having been invited, has formed a variety of associations, some of which tickled memories that you may have allowed to unfold, and then those memories became the focus. Or, possibly, your mind moved ahead to the resolutions that you might yet make and how those could work for you, or you might have imagined engaging in one of the tasks that was added to your resolution list.

It seems that as much as we are creatures of habit, as homo sapiens we can be pretty distracted, too. Do you multi-task? Do you find it helpful (or even possible)? Or does doing three things roughly at the same time lead to one or two or maybe all of the tasks either not being completed or completed with reduced efficiency or quality? Chances are, you may multi-task better if you operate from a master list, such as a to do list. That helps to ensure that things that you believed to be important don't fall off the radar. And there is always a sense of accomplishment in checking things off of a list, or, if you feel more bold, scratch right through the words with vigor and triumph!

But...where was I? (Kidding!) Our ability to look back and remember or look ahead and imagine can be great strengths. They can also be obstacles. For example, if you are a creative sort, like a writer or a musician, and you are learning a new piece of music that is difficult, or if you are writing a new short story or novel and you find yourself with a wee bit of writer's block (or, potentially much worse, writer's acre), you might pause, put down your pen or harmonica, and just kind of settle in and think back to times when you leaped creative hurdles and found success. Voila! You are using positive memories and motivation and as part of a road map for what you might do next.

As a writer or musician, you might also pause, reflect, and imagine a point in the near future where you explore and expand the imagery of success. Picturing and feeling yourself getting beyond the present difficulty and into whatever the next step might be. Success!

Conversely, if you are a writer or musician and you find yourself remembering failures or creative endeavors that never found fruition (wouldn't it be nice to locate a town somewhere called Fruition, so periodically you could driver there, and, well, you know), and the result is more like "I can't do this. I'll never be able to do this." Despair. Or you could find yourself imagining the results of not learning the music or writing the story or novel. Nothing you touch will ever find success (another town we might want to look up). Anxiety.

Clearly, looking to the past and imagining the future are double edges on our swords. Being mindful of these pathways may be a first step in guiding creative change.

Next post: Routine, habit, or pattern?