Saturday, July 17, 2010

Goals.

So there are two schools of thought regarding goals, right? There’s the idea that if you want something, you should visualize it, imagine that you already have it. Put yourself there; make everything in your life about realizing the dream. And there’s the school that says don’t get hung up on where you’re headed, live for now. (Sorry if I’m trivializing anyone’s philosophy of life here.)

Whenever Dolly Parton is asked for the secret to her success, she says, “Work hard and dream big.” I used to find that very inspiring. You hear it over and over in different words from different people, and it has the ring of truth. Dolly Parton is one of the most successful entertainers and songwriters in the world, so it must have worked, right? The problem is that you know there are millions of people out there who believed the same thing and it didn’t bring them fame, success, whatever. But they don’t get interviewed.

You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe that you have something important and unique to offer, and that it is inevitable that you will find your audience. It’s only a matter of time. Keep at it. It’s a powerfully motivating frame of mind. But it does not account for failure. Failure is not an option, as they say. Okay, it’s not an option, but it is the most likely outcome, and then what?

“Work hard, dream big, and remember that more likely than not you will never have the kind of success you dream of.” It loses its ring.

I’m more inclined to the second philosophy -- or at least I say I am -- which is to work at letting go of those dreams, learn to relax into the moment, cultivate contentment with whatever happens. It’s the Buddhist view, and it has brought me some peace in the last 10 years. If my happiness depends on a certain outcome, then I might never be happy, right? And I want to be happy.

But I’m realizing now that perhaps the only way I’ve been able to find any contentment with the present moment is by seeing it as a moment on the way to a moment that I’ve been visualizing since I was 7 years old and that I still want so bad I can hardly see straight.

My urge for fame, I think, is one and the same with my urge to create. My urge to create is the only thing that consistently makes me feel like life is worth living. Love, beauty, pleasure -- all the things I’m drawn to -- come and go. The urge to make art never leaves me.

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