what lies before us

"An individual’s life is made up not only of experiences and events but also of ideas, dreams and possibilities."

I came across this great quote in an odd place:  a review of "Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten" on the New York Times.

Does this make sense?  Is it going to provide some sort of deep insight?  Is it OK to get inspiration from an online newspaper’s movie reviews?  Yes, yes and yes.

Many people have life goals expressed in terms of experiences and events.  I have said for years and years that one of my life goals is to visit China.  Oddly enough, I’ve never been there – I’ve been to several other countries in Asia, but never China itself.  I want to take my kids to Europe.  I want to see my children have children of their own.  You could probably start listing a millions goals under the "experiences" and "events" tags.

But the ideas, dreams and unrealized possibilities in your life can be just as important for your own happiness.  I read The Lord of the Rings over and over again as a kid.  I understood that I would never visit the Shire, or see the Misty Mountain, or stay in Rivendell.  But the storm that book set off in my imagination and in my dreams is as much a part of my life – or more – than many of the ‘real’ events in my life.  My own dreams, realized or not, have created a large part of my character, both good and bad.  The ideas you have weave the threads of your daily life together.  You are not a machine, driven by action-reaction.  The original thoughts that you have create a world in your mind that affects how you act.

If that doesn’t make any sense, think about it like this:  have you ever dreamed of being happy?  Sit back wherever you are and picture a happy moment.  Imagine being on a beach, at home in front of the fireplace or whatever makes you happiest.  Now, that exact moment never existed, possibly, but creating that image can make you powerfully motivated to achieve it, to be on the lookout for it.

So what does all of this mean?  It means that even if I never make it to China, the interest I’ve had in the culture and the imaginary trips I’ve taken in my head have provided me with happiness and influenced the way I look at the world.  My perception of myself is measured not just by the fact that I grew up in a small town or live in a huge city now, but is hammered and shaped and molded by the dreams and ideas I had – and have – about what my life looks like, should look like and will look like.

So apply this thinking to your own life.  Overweight?  Imagine yourself fit.  Tired?  Imagine yourself relaxed.  Sad?  Imagine yourself happy.  In debt?  It will be gone someday – tell yourself it’s already gone.  Examine the events that created a condition and then apply your ideas and dreams to overcome them.  You are more than a pinball being banged from event to event.  Your ideas and your dreams can provide a powerful connection between your present and your future, bridging the gaps in experience.  The possibility is there.  The only obstacle is failing to reach for it.

Other reading:

today is better than the day before

Think and Grow Rich

achieving greatness