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We all know how change can be scary, wanting from you to let go of your previous beliefs and habits and pushing you out of your comfort zone. It’s a work you have to do on your own and there is no right way on how to embrace change on your growth journey. I often like to say that we will meet success in life, once we are able to master ourselves.
What I mean by that?
Let me explain:
Becoming too much immersed and attached to our ego can transform into a real hinder and obstacle on our path of self-improvement. Once we are able to conquer our mind, the self-awareness of who we truly are begins to expand. The motivation and inspiration behind the process is unique, personal and for that purpose we can use variety of tools. Hence plain reading text-books and taking workshops will do little unless you become really motivated and inspired to take a leap towards positive change.Poetry can be noninvasive tool that in one non-judgmental manner helps you improve your life. It can improve your creativity, decision-making and you can become even more empathetic. When you are inspired by the poetry you read, when you write your own thoughts, change occurs silently, unnoticeably removing fear, bringing maturity to personality at all levels. That’s why I think that it can be a better approach to self-development than reading self-help books and learning lessons like at school class.
Here are just few examples how you can use poetry for self-development purposes:
Find inspirational poems and read them as often as you can.
Select about 5-10 poems that you like and that really ‘speak’to your heart. They should be aligned with your personal goals and what you want to achieve in life.
Write them down in your notebook.
By writing down the words, it’s easier for words to enter your subconsciousness, you are giving them life.You are already creating new experience while connecting with the words in a meaningful way. You can also write down any new idea or comment that comes to your mind while reading the poems.
Find your own inspirational meaning.
Read your poems slowly, absorbing in every stanza. You can use those poems even for a meditation practice. Find most suitable interpretation behind the poet’s words that is motivational for you. You will be more open to what writer is trying to tell you and you will pave your own road towards achieving self-development goals.
Inspired by poems, develop your own affirmative sayings.
Affirmations are powerful way for us to take action. By repeating them we become more inclined to make a change – we will experience desired results only by taking timely inspired actions, where fear is replaced by curiosity about our own potentials and ego by desire to become a better person.
Life is like a sandwich!
Birth as one slice,
and death as the other.
What you put in-between
the slices is up to you.
Is your sandwich tasty or sour?
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Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet, born in 1911. Very early, both of her parents left, so most of her life was marked with moving from city to city, country to country and living with different relatives. For her life time she published only around 100 poems, but she was quite a perfectionist, constantly rewriting and editing her work. In the later years of her career she was globally recognized for her work, winning in the 1956 Pulitzer Prize for her collection, Poems: North & South/A Cold Spring (Houghton Mifflin, 1955).
Her writing is best known for the usage of rich descriptions, giving sensual experience of her physical world to the reader, like in this poem:
Arrival At Santos
Here is a coast; here is a harbor;
here, after a meager diet of horizon, is some scenery:
impractically shaped and–who knows?–self-pitying mountains,
sad and harsh beneath their frivolous greenery,
with a little church on top of one. And warehouses,
some of them painted a feeble pink, or blue,
and some tall, uncertain palms.
For a subsequent amount of time she lived in South America, where especially the stay in Brazil has made a profound influence on her work, which can be seen in her Questions of Travel (1965) poetry collection. In many of the poems, in this collection she raises question, why do we have the need for new experiences? How do we interact with something that is foreign to us? And what and where exactly is home?
In this poem, Question of travel she writes:
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theaters?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instangly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
—Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
—A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
—Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr-dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
—Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
—And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hour of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:
“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there…No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”
Among other themes, Bishop plays around with the notions of identity and its relation to the understanding of “being at home”, and “belonging somewhere”. We observe and absorb new experience, but how that impacts our inner world stays individualistic and personal. She further stirs thoughts and emotions on questions like: does travel makes us more aware of who we truly are, where do we come from and where we are heading?
How deeply rooted are beliefs? How the change of environment can enhance our attitudes and the way we see/perceive things?
Bishop implies that once we are self-confident enough, home is where we are. We don’t have to go to search for something out there, it’s our inner world that requires the most attention and nurturing.
All my life I have lived and behaved very much like the sandpiper – just running down the edges of different countries and continents, ‘looking for something’.
New experiences are important. They shape our personalities, but once you begin to live your purpose, becoming who you truly are, you are at home. And your home will be with you wherever you go.
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We are much familiar with mission and vision statements that companies develop in order to communicate their business much clearer to customers and business associates.
Now, I will not go here in detail what mission and vision statements are, but if you think more clearly, we all as individuals “project” ourselves and with our behavior, actions, language (both verbal and body) we communicate who we are. In one of my recent posts I suggested that we should revisit our core beliefs from time to time, as they change with our maturity and conditions around us. This time I propose, just as your business or company can have mission and vision statement, for you to develop your own purpose statement. I believe, by developing our own purpose statement (that encompasses both your mission and vision in life) we can:
- become more effective; it helps keeping you on track with your goals and plans;
- develop personal leadership; by referring to it and internalizing its meaning, we make choices that serve our values and discard the things that contradict them.
- stay motivated to achieve our goals.
In this post, I talked about thinking in reverse, which literally means having the end goal in mind: what do you want to achieve, in what sense do you want to contribute, what are your values and how your goals you want to achieve align with your values…all that in sum, represents your purpose.
By looking in front of us, that kind of thinking becomes more powerful, more influential in any further decision-making than by being chained by baggage of the past that doesn’t help us.
There is something powerful about writing these things down. And I mean writing by hand on paper: it’s like you are breathing life in those words, you are declaring what you want, who you are and everything becomes more real, and more probable to happen.
I don’t think it should follow any specific format or length, but it has to be relevant to you, to be your motivation in further life decisions.
Some ideas how to start:
- Write about the project you’ll have in near future and think of outcomes you wish to achieve; what steps you can apply to get you closer to completing a successful project?
- Collect all the notes, pictures, quotes, poems that inspire you, that you identify with and let that be your guidance in developing your purpose statement.
Of course, there is a flip side that we should all be aware of: life has unfortunately that ugly side of face – frustration, full of trials and errors when is so easy just to give up. For a real passionate purpose you are ready to work hard and endure long enough to get where you want to be. It’s like drudging through the drudgery as writer Joshua Fields Millburn refers to it. It is part of the process and your purpose statement is there to remind you who you are and who you want to become.
Look at developing your purpose statement as a journey to self-discovery. Nobody can and no one expects from you to have figured all out at once, but it’s a step forward. Purpose can change and evolve with you, or you can have multiple purposes. And why not, as long as they don’t contradict your core values?
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up,
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like the curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
We could call our core beliefs our “operating system” in this world. The system of values formed from our early childhood, adolescence and later through out the life. Our values are mostly influenced by our family, educational system, but also by our surroundings. Going though life we experience each and every event which we “catalogize” somewhere in our memory as a good or bad and when something similar happens we tend to compare and label each event. Usually this is framed by societal norms that act like boundaries within we want to fall: we strive for success, but in terms that society implies…and it happens that we get lost; that our value system evolves and demands something else from us.
Or we are so wrapped in the societal way of thinking that unless something like illness or other form of trauma happens, we are not able to recognize the signs and life demands our attention – wanting to tell us that something is not right. Then it’s the time for a different approach.
One thing important here is that we are in complete control over our beliefs and our emotions. We are creators of our experiences and only we can call them “good” or “bad”. Remember the famous experiment in quantum physics where it is proved that observer affects and perceives reality from his own point of view?
In a study reported in Nature (Vol. 391, pp. 871-874), researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have conducted a highly controlled experiment demonstrating how a beam of electrons is affected by the act of being observed. The experiment revealed that the greater the amount of “watching,” the greater the observer’s influence on what actually takes place. When a quantum “observer” is watching Quantum mechanics states that particles can also behave as waves. This can be true for electrons at the submicron level, i.e., at distances measuring less than one micron, or one thousandth of a millimeter. When behaving as waves, they can simultaneously pass through several openings in a barrier and then meet again at the other side of the barrier. This “meeting” is known as interference.
Strange as it may sound, interference can only occur when no one is watching. Once an observer begins to watch the particles going through the openings, the picture changes dramatically: if a particle can be seen going through one opening, then it’s clear it didn’t go through another. In other words, when under observation, electrons are being “forced” to behave like particles and not like waves. Thus the mere act of observation affects the experimental findings.
We are creators of our reality, and values we follow. I think that from time to time we should reevaluate our core beliefs, because we change; it evolves with us and there 3 crucial reasons for that:
1.What stands as a truth for us, might not be the same for somebody else.
Some beliefs have roots in the experiences of our parents or have the origin in the collective subconsciousness. We should honestly ask ourselves: “Is this what I truly believe? Is this what I want?” Your definition of success is only yours. The same it comes with the notion of failure.
2.Our needs and desires change.
When I was 18, 19 the world looked completely different. I had different expectations of myself. What I wanted to do then is not in alignment with who I am today. My purpose changed as much as my ambition, which influences my further choices and decision making.
3.Each experience is an opportunity for growth.
I don’t dwell that much on the bad stuff. Yeah, it happened, but I don’t want to be stuck in the past. It has no power unless as a learning lesson; something I wouldn’t like to happen again and that’s it. While letting go we are able to move forward, like removing heavy chains off our feet. And than you are prepared for new experiences.
Engaging in the poetic process can accelerate our quest in search for meaning, value and purpose. Claire Morgan in her book “What Poetry brings to Business” further notes:
The development of ethical sensibility is a mind changing process. The changing of mind is partly dependent on a reframing of viewpoint in which the transformative potential of art can be a major motor. The absence of a simple, singular message in the artwork is a part of its value in developing an ethical sensibility.
Poetry is a pathway to new experiences: unlived, missed, desired. Either way eventually, it can be our guidance in which way to turn our life and to what kind of reality we strive for.
They Were Welcome To Their Belief -by Robert Frost
Grief may have thought it was grief.
Care may have thought it was care.
They were welcome to their belief,
The overimportant pair.
No, it took all the snows that clung
To the low roof over his bed,
Beginning when he was young,
To induce the one snow on his head.
But whenever the roof camme white
The head in the dark below
Was a shade less the color of night,
A shade more the color of snow.
Grief may have thought it was grief.
Care may have thought it was care.
But neither one was the thief
Of his raven color of hair.
To better understand social systems, thinking from a system perspective allows us to see and recognize interactions between system elements. Systems thinking takes into account larger number of interactions as an issue being studied and therefore results in greater number of conclusions than those delivered by other forms of analysis. It’s quite an effective approach and it can be applied to any type of system, being that business or your life in general. Now, I would go even broader in my definition: successful entrepreneurs have the ability to perceive the world as a system.
Why is that important?
As Michael Gerber states in his article Systems thinking:
Your business should be systems-dependent, not people-dependent.
With no systems in place, your business depends on you and on a few people who run things for you. If you or they disappear, even for a short time, your business is thrown into chaos. But if you have the right systems in place, the systems run your business, and nearly anyone can run the systems. You can decide suddenly to take a three-month holiday and your business won’t skip a beat. Your key employees could quit, and you could replace them easily with no ill effect.
This type of thinking is like taking precaution measures: as you start your own business, with systems thinking approach you are establishing right connections between the elements of your business, allowing for business to become adaptive, responsive – you are able to manage better any change.
But I would go even step further: a real systems thinking approach is a crucial step to becoming a holistic entrepreneur. Not only when the elements of the business system are beautifully interrelated but when your business is aligned with your values, your passion, your whole outlook on the world. There is no separation between your life, work and spirituality – it’s a system that like a hologram reflects in its tiniest atom who you are. You recognize the purpose in everything and your business and life is the realization of that purpose.
To truly think and operate your life and business in such way takes time and practice. We have to work on ourselves every day to improve our habits and how we respond to everyday challenges. I see poetry as a shortcut on this journey. Poetry can be that sixth sense that most of us lack, as it translates hidden agendas and prepare us for new experiences. It disintegrates the complexity of the world around us – opening our eyes for new possibilities and making new thoughts easier to digest. Poets are true systems thinkers: with each poem we read, even for that shortest moment, we take on the world as they contemplate it to a higher level of comprehension.
Life’s Meaning by Fra Giovanni Giocondo
Life is so full of meaning and purpose,
so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge
that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.