Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
* misquoted Thoreau
This (mis)quote is on the cover of the journal I have used for the last six months or so. Whenever I come to the end of a journal, I use it as an opportunity to review the span of time it covered. This time, as I reflected on everything I have either accomplished or set in motion during this span, I was actually surprised by how many core-shaking changes I have made in such a short time. And I wondered, did this quote, which I have consciously or unconsciously read nearly every day for the last half of a year, make an impact?
The last half year has offered a multitude of changes – working from home, which lead to the realization that I want something else… the decision to pursue massage therapy and meditation offerings as a career, and enrollment in a massage school… renovations to my home which make it an even more wonderful space, but are a gamble on my future income… All of these changes have changed my foundation, all of them towards a very different life than what I have led.
So I browsed my collection of unused journals with care, looking for one with words to take me into the next half-ish year of my life. My choices were few – most of the journals I pick up don’t have quotes on the front – so I settled on Emily Dickinson’s “Dwell in Possibility”.** It was a gift from a friend some time ago. When I opened it, she had hand-written a lovely, inspirational quote on the first page. A few days later, a few pages later, another quote, and more, peppered throughout the whole journal. A gift that does, in fact, keep on giving.
Words have immense power. They are the primary means by which we understand our lives, they surround us in sight and sound, they are the most common means by which we connect to each other. The words we choose tell volumes about who we are, who we think we are, and who we want others to think we are.
When we consciously change the words we use about a person, problem or any subject, we change our experience of that thing. This is the idea behind affirmations, and to some (very limited, bastardized) extent, mantra meditation. So what about all the words we subconsciously let in?
When I stopped watching television and stopped flipping through the pounds of catalogs I receive each month, I stopped desiring things I did not need or truly want. When I stopped spending time with people who only saw the things in life that were wrong, I realized how right life generally is, and saw in much greater clarity the specific parts that really did need change. (And I became a heck of a lot happier, myself, even before changing those parts.)
Two secondary consequences of these observations were inquiry into what effect my words might have on those around me, and a heightened awareness of other people’s words in the effort to understand their words as intended (language is imperfect to begin with, and when emotion or stress or pressure is involved, what we speak is often not exactly what we desire to communicate).
Understanding the power of words creates the invitation to pay attention to them – all of them, the ones we intend, the ones we are bombarded with, the ones we don’t intend or don’t receive as intended. We can’t control many of them – even our own are products of habit that take time and effort to change – but awareness of them is the first step to changing what we say, what we choose to hear, what we choose to ignore. What impact could that have on your life?
*The actual quote is ““I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. . . . In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.”