|Reaching for the stars, or, maybe just one star.|
Ed. Note: With her usual style and panache, my friend D.A. Wolf is back today with more insights on living a life well examined. You’ll find her here, as well as on the Huffington Post. She’s addictive so be prepared. . .
Aren’t we all searching for the means to succeed – whatever our objectives?
Aren’t we all searching for the means to succeed – whatever our objectives?
If you’re wondering where to begin, not to worry. After all, we live in the age of the aspirational, of tidy texts with tips and tricks to achieve our success. And if we don’t make it, we’ll find plenty of sources to ensure we keep trying – for that just-within-grasp brass ring in business, in relationships, in life.
That’s what it’s all about, right? Success, however we dream it?
I imagine we could debate what success means, and I dare say that success on the “smart” side of 50 looks different from our vision in earlier years. But setting aside how we define success (for the moment), may I share my secret to success – such as it is?
We’ll try several dollops of observation, a healthy dose of determination, and yes… the inevitable perspiration. Hard work is part of the package. But what else?
Aspiration. It’s one of the keys, though certainly not the only key.
An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse
It was one of those deals I couldn’t refuse. Four magazine subscriptions in exchange for completing a survey. So I answered two dozen questions, and soon after – the glossy pages began to appear!
My selections? Two glittering fashion magazines, one scrumptious gourmet cooking magazine, and the fourth – a periodical known for its quirky subjects and high quality writing.
Three out of four? Purely aspirational.
Who doesn’t aspire to becoming a better self, living a better life, and doing so for as long as possible?
I might add that I am a lover of fine art, and my shelves are lined with specialized publications and weight-lifting worthy references. The words and images reflect a passion that is not aspirational but inspirational – at least, for me.
I don’t need to imagine myself surrounded by mid-century masterpieces to adore looking at them or reading about them. I can be inspired and enriched by pictures and descriptions, while learning from the creative lives that were dedicated to making great work.
I can be motivated by that dedication, and the motivation flows through to my own goals, in my own interest. So despite the aspirational quality of my reading selections, inspiration is hugely important to me and always has been.
10 Tips for This, 6 Steps for That, How to Succeed at Marriage
Don’t we all fall for the quick tips and simple steps? For the catchy headline that promises how to lose weight, how to find love, how to succeed at marriage– or for that matter – divorce?
This is a media trick that is especially effective; Americans live in a quick-fix society and we’re always in a hurry. We consume these sound bites rapidly, and if we gain something in the process – great! If not, we tell ourselves we’ve only invested a few minutes of reading.
It’s a win-win in many respects – except if this is the only material you consume, and if you actually think that anything worthwhile is so simply and superficially accomplished.
If you ask me, the tips-and-tricks approach generally supports the aspirational. It’s also a nifty means to trigger reminders – good habits that do lead to good progress toward our goals.
But as we clamor for additional instructions in how to navigate a complicated and competitive world, might we remember that how to set up your latest desktop or install software is entirely different from these other rounds of self-improvement – how to lose 20 pounds in 10 days, how to ramp up your love life in 30, how to succeed at online dating (in any period of time), or for that matter – how to succeed in business, in marriage, or in life?
Might we discern the value of the aspirational, the inspirational, and when requiring a closer examination and acquisition of skills, to seek out the informational and educational?
Why We Consume What We Consume
I buy into the aspirational, and enjoy doing so. I consume a variety of media (and products) not only to learn, but to be entertained. But I balance that with reading (and viewing) for inspiration. I recognize my need for both, and I’m clear on the difference between the two.
The definition of aspirational:
strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition: intellectual aspirations; a goal or objective desired.The definition of inspirational:imparting inspiration (stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings to a special act of creativity; person or idea that causes this state)I am keenly aware that I may aspire to a way of life and never attain it. For example, I aspired to a particular body shape and size as decades were devoted to variations on that theme. Eventually I realized that it was smarter (and saner) to deal with my body type, making it healthy and strong, rather than fighting nature.For that matter, when I flip through fitness magazines or those that address the traditional fare peddled to the female audience, I may sigh at the thought of dewier skin, a rosier cheek, a longer neck and still (I confess) – a tinier waist, a firmer thigh, a trimmer hip.But I know my body (and my age), I’m coming to grips with the fat issue and my own interpretation of “the body politic,” and I acknowledge my resources as well as my constraints. I’m still coming to understand that what is aspirational within reason may motivate me to pick up the pace of an exercise routine, whereas once the aspirational – taken as a non-negotiable – condemned me to impossible standards, and low self-esteem when I failed to achieve them.Aspiration is Good, Within ReasonWe all imagine our lives taking on a certain shape and rhythm. Our aspirations – our longed for objectives – form part of who we are, what we seek to accomplish, how we look, how we feel, how we live, what we define as success.There is much to be enjoyed and learned from aspirational magazines, books, and films – as long as we don’t presume that we must inhabit the entirety of this posed picture of perfection, that anything less is failure, that anything less is lacking in value, that if we don’t arrive at the desired state it is because we are lacking in value.As for inspiration, it’s a different matter. It stimulates the mind, it engages the most profound emotions; it stirs us to action whether to chase after our own dreams, or to help others pursue theirs.Some of us need aspiration; others need inspiration. I know that I rely on a reasonable quantity of both. They may overlap, they may coexist, and together they reinforce motivation.Definition of Success, Motivation to Keep GoingIn the wake of disappointments, we may struggle with absolutes: success as we imagined it is out of reach, and we stamp the Failure label on our foreheads.Couldn’t we redefine success – and do so more kindly? Could we remove ourselves from the contentious battlefields of our bodies, our titles, our bank accounts, our relationship status – and reconsider what we genuinely value?I won’t say that I’m not motivated to feel good and look good; if I want to succeed “at life” in the ways that matter to me, a measure of caring about health, fitness and appearance are part of my necessary equation. But life circumstances always come into play, and a mature perspective on success has less to do with appearance and more to do with health, less to do with “me” per se and more to do with giving back.Aspirational words and images help us to visualize something better, and possibly a means to get there. Inspirational words and images put a fire in our bellies, and drive us to accomplish critical objectives.