Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Ever since I was a kid I’ve occasionally had a kind of recurring fantasy: leaving everything and everyone I know behind and either surviving in the wilderness or moving somewhere far away and completely different.

Often that fantasy is preceded by recognizing some kind of lack in myself or something I want to improve. I like the idea of being able to go work on myself alone for a while. In fact anyone who’s ever gone on a retreat to figure out a problem or find a spiritual solution probably knows exactly what I’m talking about.

In “Imagine: How Creativity Works” there are a few examples of how changing your scenery or situation can spark a moment of ingenuity that enables you to overcome an obstacle or even just get your creative juices flowing. The idea is that if you remove yourself from your day-to-day situation you (at least temporarily) break free from the preconceptions and assumptions you have made about yourself, or that others have made and you’ve chosen to believe.

The problem is that eventually you have to come back to “the real world” and get back to whatever life you live. Hopefully you can start integrating some of the things you’ve realized or learned, though that’s certainly not always the case. There are a few great teachers out there trying to help people bridge the gap between these amazing realizations and how you apply them in day to day life, but it’s still a difficult journey.

I think what has enticed me the most about retreats and solo excursions is that I get to reinvent myself – become whoever I want to be. At least that’s the draw… if you’ve ever gone on a trip and thought “no one knows me here, I could be anyone I want to be” you know just how easy it is to fundamentally change ourselves.

It’s not.

Most of the time I’ve said something like that to myself I make it all of 10 minutes before I find I’m just acting like myself. I’m sure there are people out there that are much better at it but regardless of just how good your are at being someone else I think you end up at the same conclusion: anyone you could ever become is someone that you already are.

Whatever amazing person you’re trying to be, whatever incredible solution you’re trying to find, you already have all the tools you need inside of you to do those things. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can intuit the answer to every test or build a lunar lander in your backyard without some hard work and dedication. What it means is that no matter what you aspire to do you are capable of it because our minds are infinitely capable tools.

That’s why it matters so much that we always do our best. It sounds trite but it’s absolutely true. You may not be able to walk through walls or fly but if you always do your best it will feel like you can. And doing your best is more of a feeling than anything. It’s a confidence and trust that even though you still mess up and you don’t do things perfectly, you’re trying your hardest and not leaving anything on the table.

When you want to become someone else it’s usually a way of saying that you’re not happy with who you are. But if you’re not leaving anything on the table you know that who you are is exactly who you should be, and who you will be is completely within your ability to shape and become.

So go on, get out of town. Change your perspective. Find the answers you’re looking for. Just remember that when you have your “a ha” moment it came from the person you brought with you, not the person you were trying to find.

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