traveling_to_Rome

All roads lead to Rome.

As the saying goes, you have the freedom to choose any road to your destination.

You can take a train to Rome.
You can take a plane to Rome.
If you are, however, in Florence, traveling by car may be preferred because of the great views.
If you lodge in Venezia, on the other hand, a ship cruise to Civita Vecchia and reaching Rome by bus can be an appealing alternative.

Perhaps you want to be in Rome tomorrow, no matter what.
Perhaps you want to be in Rome sometime this summer.
Perhaps you want to stay in Rome for a year to learn Italian.
Or perhaps you want to enjoy a break in Amsterdam and Brussels, before reaching Rome. You simply want to see as many cities as possible on your travel to Europe.

All good, yet, how would you choose to travel?

Is the travel by boat better than by plane?
It depends.
For many years my friend has been traveling by boats and trains, even though it could have taken him many days to reach the place he wanted to. Why did he do this? For the richness of experience, views to be seen and admired, people to meet and chat to, inspiration to sparkle and so on.

Is hitchhiking better than traveling by car?
It depends.
If you are tight both with money and time it makes sense to prefer a cheap flight over hitchhiking and traveling by car.

So …

What is the best way to travel to Rome?
There is no answer to it, because the answer depends on
– how fast you want to get there
– how long you want to stay there
– what you want to do there
– what is your previous/next destination
– with whom you will go
– how much money you have at your disposal
and so on.

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The point of the above is this:

Deciding on the Way/Road (the How) before deciding on the Destination (Goal = Where/What and Circumstances) is pointless. It is a waste of time, at best, and a real pain and misery, at worst.

I know that, you will say.
Let’s see now how things are in life.

Sometimes you have just a single goal (destination) but there are usually multiple goals to attain. You may have two goals, A and B. However, reaching B is more important than reaching A. Consequently, in the worst case scenario you could sacrifice A for B.

For instance, you want to loose weight (goal A) and get fit (goal B). Although you would rather love to see yourself thin, the priority is on getting fit. In that scenario focusing on goal A, say by drinking slim-fast drinks, is a distraction if you don’t adequately address your goal B.

You may need to reach the goals A, B and C and D, but loosing on D would be acceptable. For instance, you want to loose weight (goal A), get fit (goal B), improve the condition of your liver (goal C) and start saving money (goal D).  The latter is not the main focus though.

In fact, any major decision with respect to your business, family (say, holiday, moving house, choice of schools, solving health issues), personal development or job challenges you to clarify your objectives first.

They are different roads you can choose to go to Rome. Or to any other city.

Decide what you want, your Goal/Destination, very clearly. It is not only important to decide whether you are going to Rome, but even more importantly When, How and for what purpose. Knowing that you can optimize your Way to get there.

When you ask:

  • “Is this a good house to buy?”
  • “Is this a good strategy for my business?”
  • “Is this person a good match?”
  • “Is this a good job?”

Remember to ask yourself
“Is traveling by car a good way to get to Rome?”
As you see, these are wrong questions. Why? Because they are too general. They are highly unspecific and will lead you to Distraction.

Better questions are somewhere along these lines:
“If my goals are A, B and C, but I want to avoid D, is this house/strategy/person/job a good (best) match to meet my objectives?”
It may still not be a question that is precise enough but it is a good starting point. Remember also that too many objectives are counterproductive.

If your goal is to have a family holiday in a warm climate (goal A) but save money with respect to your regular holiday spending (goal B), perhaps house swapping with another family in Spain provides the Way. Choosing an attractive holiday package from the travel agency, just because your friends do it and you want to look cool, is a Distraction.

If you run a business and want to get more clients, then focusing on the Like’s, Tweets and beautifying your Webpage may be a Distraction. (Say a break in Amsterdam instead of reaching Rome directly).

If you want to have a creative job (goal A) and with small kids (goal B) such that you possibly provide a therapeutic effect on them (goal C, minor), then following a job at a corporation, because it pays well and sets you on a good carrier path, is a Distraction.

Your family, parents, colleagues, neighbors, bosses and any other form of social pressure will encourage/push you to meet the objectives and goals you don’t have.

They will do their best to convince you that what they offer/suggest is the wisest / smartest / fastest Way to go.  However, to Rome, or to the Destination they point to.

Find out your own objectives because this is what ultimately matters.
You fall from your Way towards Distraction because you don’t clearly define your Destination.

Do all roads lead to Rome?
Well, they do. But perhaps you are not going to Rome this time.

Does your Way lead you where you want to go?
Remember, everything else is a Distraction.

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Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn. Photo available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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Do you want to be a norm?

You want to be perfect.
Balanced. Harmonious. Spotless.

That is what you think you want. To follow the perfect dream.

You want to have a great family.
(Obviously, a great house and a car too.)
You want an easy and smooth life.
You want to make a great carrier.

That is what you think you want. To follow the standard dream.

Do you want to be a deviation?

Luckily, you are much different than the norm.
You are strange, perhaps odd, colorful and spotty.
You are a masterpiece in creation.

***

It is the differences, not the norm, that shape interest and curiosity.

They make us think.
They make us look for answers.
They make us change and grow.

What is known and explained becomes boring.
What is different and standing out becomes interesting.

Have you ever thought that the greatest inspiration comes from the parts that do not fit to a model?
These are the ugly parts, aberrations, defects, imperfections, or surprises.
Indeed, we push towards a new development because the deviation is there and demands attention.

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Harmony and elegance are powerful. They create a comfort zone.
As much as we want it and love it, we become lazy and purposeless when we dwell there for too long.

The norm, the model, the comfort zone is a place of rejuvenation. For a short while only.

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The parts of yourself that are elegant, polished and worked-out make a great cover.
They help you shine. Yet, they likely stand on the way to your progress.

The parts of yourself that you wish to dispose of, change or hide are the sources of great power.
The imperfections are a potential for growth and purpose.

It is where you don’t fit and how you differ from others that becomes your strength.
It is the difference that is an inspiration for change.

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Dare to be a Deviation, not the Norm.

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never_get_old

There was a lovely summer night. It was hot, but no so much as during the day. The night was young and full of promises. The darkness was friendly and welcoming. The stars were shining. The wind was brushing the cheeks. Space, people and stars. A lovely combination.

Life was seemingly frozen in a perfect moment of balance.

Harmony. Elegance. Music. Being present.

And in moment like this, a few people were discussing life and about.

***

“I’m tired. I’m really tired”, said Mark. “I’ve had no break, no holiday for ages. There is only work and responsibilities.”

Mark was 30 and tired of life indeed.

“I’ve been asking questions for my whole life, with little results. I don’t want to ask questions any more”, sighed Mark. “I even don’t want the answers any more. I want the results.”

Mark was feeling as if life was running too fast. He lost the sense of purpose and direction.

“I’ve found answers”, said John, “… but I haven’t got any satisfactory explanation to the important questions I asked.” He sighed as well. “I hear the same ideas or generalizations over and over again. Nothing new under the sun. Sometimes I’m offered complaints, nagging or meaningless advice.  And I’m lost as ever.” 

John was 40+ and disappointed. His life was run by boredom and routine, day by day. He was dreaming about the enthusiasm and inspiration he used to have. They were gone for good, however. Where to find them?

“I don’t feel like doing anything meaningful in my life. I lack contribution.” John sighed.

“What’s wrong with you guys? It is better not to think too much”, added Frankie. “It’s probably a matter of age”, he continued. “I don’t ask too many questions. They lead me astray”, he paused. And then he said

“You guys are quite old and therefore start to think about unnecessary issues. Questions are stupid.”

“There are questions that you need to answer, however”, observed Mark.

“I don’t believe so. Which question, for example?” Frankie was surprised.

“What makes you tick?”,  “What is happiness?”, “How to become successful?” asked John. “There are more important ones, as well”, he thought. “Who are you?” is an example of a truly powerful question.

“For me it is only important how much money I have and how to make it.” – Laughed Frankie.

“There is no money without success.” Mark reported.

“They say that money does not give happiness…” – laughed John – “but the ones who say it either have the money in abundance or nothing at all.” He paused.

-“When you are 40, you either have the money, or you will likely not have. When you are 30, your are still hopeful, and for the 20 year old, everything is just as difficult and just as possible. Before you watch life pass.

“What are you talking about?” – said the old man, who had just entered the room.

“Oh, you’ll not understand this,” said Frankie – “Just a small talk.”

– “What are you talking about?” – asked the seven year old boy, who ran happily to the table attracted by the shapes, colors and flavors. The blinking stars did their job too. They were fully visible through the window.

“You will not understand”, said the 40+, “You’re too small. We are talking about serious stuff. Nothing for small kids.” – he added.

“Will I understand when I become as big as you are?” asked the youngest.

“If you become like them, you will not understand.” said the oldest.

“So, whom should I become?”, asked the little one.

“Stay as curious and playful as you are” – said the old men. “And never get old”, he added with a smile.

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The conversation above is a free interpretation of this post (in Polish) by a great coach, Maciej Bennewicz.

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Photo courtesy Fe 108Aums, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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We learn from others.
We have family and friends.
We have teachers, mentors, supervisors, managers or bosses.
We have colleagues, politicians, media people, musicians, and stars.

We observe. We analyze. We model. We emulate.
We compare to others.

Without perhaps noticing, we keep dancing between two worlds.
One world is defined by Similarity or Sameness.
The other world is defined by Difference.

Similarity is Interdependence, Belonging, Sharing and Being a part of a Group.
Difference is Independence, Individuality and Self.

We want to belong to a family, community or a peer group. We want to be with others, share experiences and have fun. We want to be appreciated. And we want to be loved.

At the same time we want to explore the boundaries of Self. We want to mark who we are by the way we think, we look, we walk or we talk. We want to do things in particular ways, choose our likings, make own decisions and create. Above all, we want to love.

So, we need both, Similarity and Difference, Interdependence and Independence, Individuality and Belonging, to live happily and healthy. No doubt about that.

And the middle way is about the flow between these polarities, between giving and receiving, self-focus and focus-on-others, individual thought and cooperation, being an individual and a part of a group.

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We learn from others. We exist both as Selves and in relations to others.  And we compare.

It is impossible not to compare.

How else can we receive feedback?
How else can we measure progress to a baseline performance?
How else can we evaluate our growth?
How else can we identify the borders we want to transgress?
How else can we test new skills and practices?
How else can we determine which rules or ideas serve us or not?
How else can we define realistic goals?

We look to other people for inspiration, mentoring, help or example. Comparing to others gives us the necessary context  for growth. It also enables us to find out what is possible to achieve or whom we may choose to become. However, it gives us a partial view only. The other important view is to compare to ourselves. In a timeline. And we often forget to do that.

We forget to learn from ourselves.
We forget to measure the progress along our own journey.
We forget how much we have developed with respect to the starting point.
We forget our milestones and achievements on the way.

So, if you are tempted to review your progress, look back at who you were a month ago, one year ago, 5 years a go or 20 years ago. Any progress?

If we are not careful, it is easy to compare to others with a diminishing light, focussing on our inferiority. This may lead to thoughts of jealousy, envy, shame or guilt. And from that place, there is only a small step to unhealthy self-criticism and over-beating. If continued, we will likely pick the fruits of self-devaluation, low self-image and low self-esteem.

Now, imagine this.

Next time when you notice a big difference between yourself and others, just at the very moment you are so much tempted to think how unskilled, untalented you are or how much you suck, welcome and cherish a new thought. Do it consciously.

This thought tells you that what you are perceiving as a difference is merely a distinction.

And this distinction makes you – unique You.

You, who is welcome here, loved and appreciated.

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Other inspirational or educational posts:

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The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on www.ingeduin.nl.

holding_back

I had a dream as a child.
My dream was to conquer the whole world. Was it also your dream, perhaps?

Of course I knew it might be difficult, perhaps even very difficult, but it sounded possible. Just as possible as for a boy, usually perceived as a stupid or incapable one, to become a king in a fairy tale.

I wanted so much out of my life. I wanted a happy family. I wanted to make great scientific discoveries. I wanted to teach. I wanted to support healing. I wanted to write meaningful books. And so on.

I wanted to create. Science. Art. Harmony. Balance. Love. And I wanted to make an everlasting impact. What about you?

How have I scored so far?

Well… far below my dreams and ambitions, to be honest. But I can say that, at least, I made little steps in every direction I dreamt as a child. More importantly, I’ve become a conscious person. And I know that I am the only one responsible in my life to make things happen.

What about you?

What dream did you have as a child?
Did you want to become a great engineer or perhaps a great climber?
Did you want to become a doctor?
Did you want to paint? Or make art?
Did you want to write bestsellers?
Did you want to travel the whole world?
What did you want?

If you are honest with yourself then you will recognize that you still cherish your old ambitions. They are not gone. They are hidden in the vast depths of your soul, where you hardly ever look at. And you find excuses not to shed light on them, given your current commitments, responsibilities and obligations. Surely, you most likely have a daily job to do. Surely, you may have small kids or growing-up kids. Surely, you have a household to take care of. Surely, you have a financial challenge. Surely, you have a health problem in your family. Surely, there is something on the way.

What is your excuse?

I would love to start my own business but I have a family to provide for and cannot accept the risks involved.
I would love to write a novel but I have no time as I work hard and long hours.
I would love to travel but I have little money to spend and a carrier to look for.
I would love to become a musician but I am not sufficiently talented.

I don’t have enough skills, money, experience, time, possibilities or support. I don’t know how to start. I don’t know whether I am good enough. I am too young or I am too old. I have too much on my plate. I have too many tasks, responsibilities and challenges. And so on.

Yes, there is always a “but” if you want to find one.

Is there any limitation that keeps holding you back?

Think of Ludwig van Beethoven, a great composer. His hearing began to deteriorate in his late twenties, until he finally become completely deaf. Did it stop him from composing, conducting and performing? Not at all. Many of his masterpieces were created at that time he was deaf. He heard music in his mind.

Or think of John Milton, an English poet. He became blind, possibly because of glaucoma. Did it stop him from writing? Not at all. Many great works were created, including Paradise Lost after him becoming blind. He simply dictated his words over and over again. What about you?

Is there any traumatic event that keeps holding you back?

Think of Aron Ralston, a heroic mountain climber. He survived an accident in which he chose to amputate his own arm with a dull pocket knife in order to free himself from a dislodged boulder. What a courage!

Did the accident stop him from climbing? Did it stop him from having a successful life? Not at all. Even more. Not only was he a climber but he became an inspirational speaker as well. Read his biography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, or see the 127 hours movie. What about you?

Is there the attraction of the comfort zone that keeps holding you back?

Think of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, two mountain climbers who survived a descent from West Face of Siula Grande in Peruvian Andes against all odds and circumstances. Simpson’s survival is perhaps the most moving life story you will ever hear. Their adventure is transformational. Please watch the movie Touching The Void or read the book. It will touch you.

Did the traumatic events and numerous injuries stop them from climbing? Not at all. They hardened them into the men of Spirit. What about you?

Is there age, “bad luck” or lack of an experience that keep holding you back?

Think of Daniel Defoe. He had a life of troubles, political engagement, imprisonment, being cast out from the country, and so on. Although he wrote many pamphlets during his life time, he wrote his major novels and works, including Robinson Crusoe, after the age of 60. Overall, he was a prolific and wide-range writer, delivering a few hundreds books and pamphlets during his life. What about you?

Is there lack of money or possibilities that keep holding you back?

Think of Maria Skłodowska-Curie, a pioneering researcher on radioactivity, the first female professor at the University of Paris. She lost her mother at the age of 12 while her family lost fortunes in national uprisings fought for the freedom of Poland. She had to work hard as a teenager. And she had to work even harder as a young adult to pay for her sister’s studies and later for her own.

Did it stop her? Not at all. She was barely providing for herself, yet she persisted in studying math, chemistry and physics at Sorbonne in Paris, being the first woman in Europe. Imagine her Spirit! After the marriage with Pierre Currie, she took care of two daughters and worked days and nights at the laboratory. She was the first woman to get the Nobel prize and the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes, being one of the two people ever to win this prize in two different sciences. What about you?

Are the unfavorable, chaotic or otherwise difficult life circumstances your excuse?

Think of Miguel de Cervantes who wrote the Don Quixote masterpiece while being in and out of jail.

Think of Nelson Mandela, a world class leader and peace maker. Did 27 years in prison (for political reasons) stop him from taking action? Not at all. He remained a person of high morals. He refused to compromise his political position to obtain freedom. What a Character! He preserved his goal-orientation, energy and love for the people.  After his release he plunged into action and become one of the most successful reformers and leaders in South Africa. What about you?

But I have my job

O.K., so you read the above and you say, “Yeah, this is fine. But I have my job and my family”. Well, have you ever heard of Dave Navarro? Did his full-time job and a family of three young kids stopped him from following his passion? Not at all. He built a successful online business at the same time and helped others to do so. He learned to take consistent action and organize from inside out. And he saw the results. What about you?

Do you think of yourself as physically handicapped?

I have news for you. Nick Vujicic is a men born with no arms and no legs. Just imagine the challenges he went through as a child, incapabilities, being all the time dependent on others, being bullied at or laughed at. Not even mentioning the challenges of growing up. Yet, he overcame his disability to live not just independently but a rich and fulfilling life, welcoming every day with a smile. Watch him here or read his book Life without limits to change the way you perceive your own problems. What about you?

Back to you

Think again about the precious ambitions and dreams in your soul. Then look again at the excuses which stop you from making them happen. Just recognize how false they are. Whatever it is, lack of money, lack of experience, traumatic events, misunderstandings, handicaps or limitations, these are merely obstacles to make your journey much more interesting and thrilling than it could have been otherwise. Simply start slowly, begin running and jump over the obstacle. And enjoy it.

Express your creative desire through your own creative activity. Allow it to flow.

You are the only person who holds you back.

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Other inspirational or educational posts:

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Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

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