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March 2004
Success Harmony Newsletter


I heard it said that, given a choice between finding a lost $100 and spending time to make an additional $100, people will spend a disproportional amount of time in looking for the lost $100, even if they could have made far more during the same amount of time. In other words, fear of loss is still a far greater sense of motivation for most of us than the hope for something greater.
And yet, we need to trick our brain to overcome this tendency if we ever hope our circumstances to change for the better.

The January 2004 issue of Fast Company had a short article by Bill Joy, founder and former chief scientist of Sun Microsystems. The article finished with a quote by him, "We have to encourage the future we want rather than trying to prevent the future we fear". The quote reminded me of standing at the top of the Austrian Alps as a teenager, as my family was about to escape from communism into freedom. I was 16 years old and I really did not want to go. Well, at least not at that time. As a concept, it didn't seem like a bad idea to live in the free world. But it meant abandoning the only life I had known up until that point: my friends (ever so important to a 16-year old), all family except my Mom who was with me on the trip, a boyfriend who didn't even know I would be leaving, my swim team buddies, the apartment we lived in, the fields and forests my dog and I used to run around in, the language I spoke and everything else I had experienced so far.

What were we leaving it for? We had some vague idea that life on the other side of the Iron Curtain would somehow be better, that we would be able to express our thoughts freely without fear of persecution, that we would be able to choose our means of work and the means of our rewards, that maybe one day we might be able to have a pretty house with a backyard and a car, and that we would finally experience appliances like dishwashers as well as odd conveniences like pizza delivery that we had only seen in a few of the American movies that made it to communist Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, despite of those vague ideas, we really didn't know. On the one side of the border, there was a sense of certainty, albeit one that included many things we didn't want. On the other side of the border, there was nothing but uncertainty, albeit one filled with great hope.

I recall facing two images of alternate future realities at one point soon after crossing the border line. In one, I saw myself with my friends back at home, enjoying and laughing together. I wanted that reality very badly. I didn't want to lose it. Then I got another image, further into the future. My Mom and I were talking to each other about 20 years into the future, back in communist Czechoslovakia. According to this image, we got scared, gave up and went back home, thinking we'll try another time, when it would be safer - but that time never came. Nothing had changed and we forever wondered "what would have happened if only we hadn't given up back at the border line." I wasn't enlightened enough to bring up these images consciously. They just happened but that was when I made my painful choice to step into the unknown, to embrace the future we had wanted to create.

I have had many times since that day when those two images would come up in my mind when I was about to make a choice. One image would be of what I already had, of what I was afraid to lose. Sometimes the only thing I was so desperately to hang on to was the "evil we know is better than the evil we don't know" kind. The other image would be of what I was trying to create. The choices are never easy. Sometimes, the better choice is to leave the current situation and start anew. Many times, the better choice is to stay and enrich what is already there. In either case, the images of the alternate future realities make it easier to answer the most important question, "IN WHICH SITUATION AM I MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE MY DREAMS?" With that question answered from the heart, obstacles become something to deal with, not something causing us to give up. Do we always make the "best" decision this way? Only hindsight can tell that. But what we can always say is that we made the best decision given the information available at the time. That means, we regret much less and are much more optimistic, even if something doesn't work out as easily or as quickly as we hoped.

What are your dreams? What situation will most likely help you achieve them? Will it be through your current job, with your current spouse (or lack of one), with your current ways of thinking, in the current environment you live in? Are there only minor adjustments to be made or do you need to make some drastic changes to accomplish what you want?

For example, if financial freedom is part of what you dream of, will a job at Walmart or McDonald's be sufficient to get you there, or will you need to spend some of your spare time upgrading your skills or perhaps starting your own business venture that could get you there? If you dream of a happy working environment and yours is full of gossip, suspicion, and hierarchical "you will do as your boss says to do" orders, can you do something to influence your current environment to be more positive, or is the environment so entrenched that moving on is a better choice? In either situation, don't look at your current situation in isolation. You may be in a situation that feels great now but leads you to a horrible future. Or you may be in a situation that is tough now but gets you to where you want to go. So, whatever you are facing, look far into the future and ask away. "What do I want? Which situation do I need to be in now so that I get there?" And then take a few deep breaths and step across the border line. Right into the unknown, the place where dreams are made.

Happy journey, sunshine and smiles,



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"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
Anais Nin

"We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. But it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents."
Eric Hoffer

"Do something today which the world may talk of hereafter."
Admiral Collingwood




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