February 8, 2011

How Wide is Your Lens?

photo credit: Jules LaVerne

2011 is shaping up to be a year of rapid, no-nonsense “shifting into gear”.  For many people – self included – we’re close to completing the transition through the gears which has defined the past few years.  I don’t know about you, but I’m intending to enter a more stable place of greater alignment with my goals and desires in 2011.   After the preceding (and apparently, ongoing) period of economic, climate and political instability, I welcome this final push even if it won’t be entirely comfortable.

Which is why right now, it really pays to have goals and desires; to have clarity of intention followed by intentional action.  Alignment and clarity are necessarily linked – you can’t be aligned to something without defining it to begin with. The dimensions and areas of your life, of all you are, can’t be congruent without clarity.  So I view clarity and more specifically, the willingness to examine and truthfully see as another defining lesson of 2011.

For some of us, this means simply opening our eyes or pulling our heads out of the sand and at long last facing what we’ve been avoiding.  For others, it will be time to take off the rose colored glasses and have a real unvarnished look at what has manifested as our reality and what we did to create that. Yet for those who’ve already completed these phases, it’s time to open the lens wider and as a result, open ourselves to the world.

I don’t suggest this lightly but do believe it’s time.  Still, let me be perfectly frank: opening your lens to the widest aperture can and will have consequences you should be prepared for.  And some of us just aren’t ready right now, and that’s okay.

Many choose not to open their lens wider for one of these two reasons:

  1. It’s not in alignment with who they are and what they want in life, and for them, that’s okay.  It may not be okay for you, but since you’re not living their life, it’s best not to judge nor project your own desires on others – you’ll just frustrate the both of you. For example, for reasons unknown to me (but likely in perfect alignment with her goals and desires) my mother’s world is small and tight-knit, centered on her children and a few friends, little travel (she doesn’t drive), no college, no career, no artistic passions or community involvement, even less adventure.  That’s how she’s happy, that’s how she likes life, while by contrast I would last about a week in her shoes without going insane from boredom.
  2. For others, they’ve tried opening up before and were burned.  They found a wider view demanded more of them than they were prepared to give; or frustrated them, or broke their heart, or the biggee – paralyzed them with fear.  Many simply aren’t whole or healed or ready yet – they’re not emotionally healthy enough to leave their comfort zone and/or they’re not mature enough to handle things if they do – and for them, that’s okay.

Because to be honest, sometimes the more I see of the world, the less I wish I had.

I’ve written about having been blessed with frequent and far-reaching travel in my life. While I’m not a clichéd business road warrior logging flight miles to major cities where I’ll shuttle to an office that looks just like the last one, business is an enabling reason I travel as frequently as I do.  The greater truth is I’m an opportunistic traveler wildly enthusiastic about experiencing the authentic flavor of a place no matter what the reason that took me there.  In the last 15 years, I’ve taken most of my vacations outside the US, often in third-world countries and emerging economies.

  • I’ve seen the devastation of natural disasters both in the US and abroad.
  • I’ve witnessed poverty and homelessness in mothers trailing a gaggle of small children (even babies) on the busy city streets of Mexico and Peru.
  • I’ve noticed the sweat and grime on the faces of commuters in Beijing as they go to and from their emerging economy jobs on bikes or on foot because they don’t yet own a car.
  • I’ve watched poor black taxi drivers and domestics slog desolately through their day in Caribbean island resorts, knowing that for them the standard of living enjoyed by the tourists they serve will never be in reach.
  • I’ve seen Arab and African immigrants shunned on the streets of Paris within yards of the most expensive boutiques on the planet.
  • I’ve marveled at the mix of fear, pride and resolve on the faces of Jerusalem’s residents, wondering if Lebanon’s missiles will reach past Haifa and hit them next.

As a result, I’ve had a look at plenty I really wanted to see, and right alongside it, plenty I didn’t.  Even after all that, I feel as though I’ve only barely scratched the surface.

The point is, travel has thrown open my lens. It has forced me out of my cocooned American suburban existence and well out of my comfort zone.  It has blessed me with the willingness and desire to not be afraid to look and really see the world.  It has reshaped me from a citizen of a country to a citizen of the world.  And if you let it, it will do the same for you.

But back to readiness for a moment:  if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’ve already pulled your head out of the sand and removed the rose-colored shades.  Chances are the cocooned life isn’t for you, even if you are still growing and working through the fear and pain of leaving your comfort zone (a process that, truth be told, is never done anyway).  This message, then, is for you.

Among other benefits, widening your lens will ground you in your purpose and give you a reality check of your influence.  It’s easy when we reside in a small sphere to feel like (or actually be) a big fish in a small pond.  Plenty of professionals, doctors, authors, bloggers and artists can relate to this – within their niche they are well known, if not rockstars.

Leave that small sphere, venture outside your niche, and you’ll realize the vast majority of people on this planet don’t have a clue who you are and care even less. In fact, a huge percentage of them are concerned only with securing their next meal.  They will never have a home of their own, a clean place to sleep, indoor plumbing or proper medical care.  They will never watch TV or have Internet access; they will never read a book, let alone this blog.

This grounding and coming to grips is humbling to say the least, but it’s not meant to discourage you.  Don’t ever let it discourage you. While you may not become the next Oprah or Nelson Mandela, you are here for a valuable reason.  You claim your power through your truth and are meant to stand in it.

In fact, opening your lens should be the fuel that encourages you to come out of hiding or into greater visibility this year, bring your gift to those in the world who can receive it, and radiate as much light as possible in the process.  Staying grounded and realistic will bring you the focus and humility to do so without being sidetracked by either worry or it’s insidious twin, delusions of grandeur.

Open your lens, see what you see and persist even in the face of fear.  Then tell me, having seen what you have of the world, what are you motivated to do?

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