Think back to the last time you really outdid yourself. Maybe it was at a business meeting, or on a school project. Maybe you whipped up this amazing loaf of banana bread, or crane kicked a bully to win a karate tournament.
I’m serious, think back to instances of yourself surpassing your own expectations, because this proves two things:
- You are capable of great things.
- Your expectations are bullshit.
Riddle me this, Batman: How did you manage to exceed your expectations? Was it dumb, luck, the stars aligning? Waking up on the right side of the bed and having a decent breakfast? No matter how you justify your low expectations, they’ve been wrong in the past, and they’ll be wrong again. Self-limiting thoughts and language are real psychological phenomena, and we’ll talk about them more in the future, but today we’ll skip straight to kicking ass.
As a human, you’ve got these reserves within you, these deep pools of resources that are waiting to be tapped. In the right circumstance, with the right motivation, you draw on these reserves and you are capable of amazing feats. Bright ideas, really great banter on a first date, beating an old fitness record by a mile.
Think of these reserves as the big warehouse in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, but full of intelligence and courage. Or just think of them as wells. You’ve got many of these hidden resources, but I’m going to talk about a few in the future:
- Courage. Getting shit done without being crippled by doubt or fear.
- Physical strength/endurance. Like that one time you lifted a car off that kid. That was really rad, by the way.
- Calm. A place within you that never wavers, and that is never disturbed.
- Confidence. Letting actions flow rather than having to force them.
That’s for the future. If this is some time that isn’t today, maybe a few of those link to their respective blog posts. Good luck, future-me!
Today, however, we talk about wisdom and inspiration.
“Oh, this should be rich. Clue me in, King Solomon.”
Wow, first of all, you are just super negative today. Secondly, I’m not saying that I’m really smart or make the best decisions in the world. Last year I went to a Halloween party as a naked person. No one thought it was funny, and my parents wouldn’t even look at me.
I’m saying that you can have “ah ha” moments, and you can make decisions, without extraordinary pressure or time constraints. If you allow yourself, you can access the deep well of wisdom within you and pull out some pretty neat ideas.
Consider your own “coming up with ideas” process. Take a step back and look at the funny imaginal space in your head. When it’s not full of a memory or an imaginary scene, mine is a black space with lots of symbols and images and sounds zipping around. Yours might look like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, or like a rich gumbo with just the right amount of okra.
How do you get ideas out of there? Do you type in a search and a page of results comes back, conveniently ordered by wisdom and feasibility? That’d be pretty sweet, but that’s not how mine works. Mine’s more like casting a net into the ocean and hauling up a square meter of assorted mental garbage.
There’s an old boot, lots of paper and glass, a couple of really junky ideas that I’m going to throw back, and sometimes a useful idea that I can put into practice, or at least take home and wash off and put in a little idea cabinet and never look at again.
“Ah ha” moments are like magic, golden super-fish. Sometimes you’ll catch one when you try, but usually they seem to jump into your boat of their own volition, no net involved. The question is, “how can I get more of those elusive little bastards? Should I just think really really hard and worry about it a lot and get frustrated and go back to playing solitaire?”
It doesn’t work that way. All you can do is create an environment where–
“You’re not going to make me brainstorm, are you?”
Wow, you are all over my ass today. No, I’m not going to make you brainstorm, though it creates a similar environment of uninhibited thought like I was trying to tell you about. Brainstorming, while it does work, is still too forced for me.
And that, my friend, is the trick. You can’t force inspiration. All you can do is wait for it, and recognize it when it arrives. These are two separate skills, and you’ll get better at both over time. Let’s start with the waiting part.
Imagine that place inside you where your wisdom resides. It comes from deep within your brain, your spirit, your chi, whatever. You draw from it whenever you have a flash of insight, or the perfect idea for a theme party, or think of just the right thing to say in the moment. To draw upon it whenever you want, you can’t force, you have to allow.
I do this while meditating, but it can work whenever you’re not buzzing with lots of thoughts. It’s a process of getting into a state of mental quiet, and throwing a question out into the universe. You sit for a while, and sometimes something comes back. Often it’s something sort of cool that wouldn’t have occurred to you otherwise. I don’t know why it works, other than that we’d all be smarter if we listened to ourselves once in a while.
Anyway, it goes a little something like this:
Close your eyes and sit quietly for a while. As your mind wanders to matters of the past and future, gently bring it back to the present, perhaps by focusing on your breathing. Allow yourself to become immersed in the experience over the next few minutes. As your mind becomes still and restful, compose a question. Maybe “what should I do next?” or “what is really standing in my way?” Now, let it go. Continue in your quiet awareness of the present moment, and watch/listen. You may get a picture, or some words. Roll the thought around in your mind, see if it feels relevant (sometimes random crud emerges), and keep listening. Passively observe these packages as they arrive, and allow yourself to emerge from the meditation whenever you like. Write down anything that seems beautiful or true, and go on with your day.
I plan to post a guided meditation having to do with this sometime soon, which may help if you have trouble reaching that place of mental stillness. We’ll work on meditation over the next few weeks/months/years, and maybe some neat stuff will start happening. Try this, and let me know how it goes.