I have very clear ideas about what I want from my career and I write down my goals and I practice visualisation and manifestation but I still feel stuck all the time. How do I know if I’m moving forward or not?
I’m a big believer in setting goals, working towards them and manifesting the life you want. I’m also a big believer in just going with the flow and getting off the path. These are seemingly contradictory points of view and when I’m asked to explain I tend to just shrug and say ‘life’s complicated’.
I do think it is absolutely possible to set extraordinary, exciting and enormous goals for oneself and, at the same time, not become so fixated on them that you forget to look around and explore a bit. It’s strange how getting off one path and onto another can sometimes lead us right back to where we wanted to be in the first place. I often say that the path from A to Z takes in twenty-four other letters along the way and leads to number 5. You rarely end up exactly where you planned – life itself has a knack of getting in the way and scuppering the best laid plans. For me, the journey is one of exploration not destination so I tend not to limit myself to goals that need to be accomplished within a certain time frame – “I will win an Academy Award,” is a lot easier and less stressful than “I will win an Academy Award by the time I’m 21,” isn’t it?
With goal setting, I have found it doesn’t work for me to set the goal and visualise an outcome and focus all my energy on the outcome. I need a bit more structure and so, when I set a goal, I work backwards from that goal, laying out the steps, all the way down the ladder to where I currently am. Say you want to play Lady Macbeth at some point, one of the steps along the way would be to read Macbeth, wouldn’t it? Say you want to win an Academy Award, the step right before that has to be ‘Get Nominated’ and somewhere before that would be ‘Have the kind of career that puts me in the room with people who cast Academy Award winning type of movies’ – and so on, and so on, right back to where you are now. ‘Get lucky,’ isn’t a step. Sure, it might happen, but you cannot rely on luck, it’s much better to think in terms of structure and process, step by step.
In the musical Sunday In The Park With George (one of my favourites), Sondheim writes “Look at what you want, not at where you are,” and that has been a mantra for all my creative life. The song that comes from is Move On. Movement is the key. You don’t have to move fast, you don’t have to race along a path, believe me, the only person you’re in competition with is yourself, but you do have to keep moving – if you want something to change, then you need to change something.
Of course, we are always in motion. We are on a rock moving at a thousand miles an hour orbiting the centre of the Milky Way at 140 miles a second and our galaxy is hurtling at 375 miles a second You’re not even in the same place you were when you started reading that sentence! Change is built in to our existence, but we have a tendency to focus on where we are right now. That can be comfortable but it can also be constricting. I sometimes think that when I feel stuck it’s because I’m so focussed on something that I have stopped looking around and am closing myself off to all other opportunities.
Funny enough, in another Sondheim musical, Into The Woods, he looks at the story of Red Riding Hood. This is often seen as a warning against straying off the path – don’t get lost in the woods or else you might get eaten by the big bad wolf! Except Little Red doesn’t get eaten, does she? Instead she conquers her fear, learns something about herself that otherwise she wouldn’t have discovered, and emerges braver and stronger than before. Paths are overrated frankly!
Near where I live there’s a wood where I like to walk my dog. If I stick to the path it’s still pretty and calming and a good walk but it’s a bit predictable. Everyone on the path is doing the same as me – walking. Sure some are walking faster than others – rushing to get through the woods, some are taking their time and strolling along enjoying a bit more of the scenery, but on the path, we’re all pretty much doing the same thing. When my dog disappears into the undergrowth and I have to follow, have to get off the path, I find all kinds of unusual things. A little pond. A hidden grove of bluebells. A solitary person practicing yoga. An artist sketching. There is a life off the path that is vibrant and exciting and interesting. It may be harder to navigate, I may have to climb over a fallen tree, I may get scratched crawling under a bush, I may even get lost for a while, butI always see things I would never have seen if I had stayed on the path. Eventually I stumble back on to the path and I am slightly changed and a little different from the experience. I may find myself back on the same path, continuing my journey, or I may be on a new path.
Sometimes when we feel stuck, or feel like we aren’t moving forwards it’s because the Universe is redirecting us off the path for a while. Don’t be scared to explore a little, you don’t need to race towards a finish line. As I’ve said before, your journey is your journey – why rush something you want to last forever?
Stay connected. Stay creative.
Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]