Photo Essay Series
By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
This is the eighth of my photo essay series featuring images from YourCreativeChord’s newly designed 2020 nature photo calendars. The calendars include monthly self-care themes highlighting strategies for nurturing your creativity and inspiration.
I woke up one wintry morning to find that it had snowed. Bundled up, I went outside just past sunrise to explore. My fleece-lined boots pounded the first footprints into the snow as I made my way to the end of the parking area. Four inches of snow covered everything with an immaculate layer of gleaming white. The dreamy scene of a soft-hued sky over rolling white hills and tree silhouettes inspired the poet in me.
Though it was cold, I lost myself in the splendor of this romantic scenic view, mesmerized like a child, by the clumps of snowy evergreen branches and the morning sky’s mellow pastel colors of blue, orange, pink, purple and yellow. The light of early morning permeated the vista with a tranquil glow.
Winter is often used to symbolize troubles we face in our lives. Living beings brace against the cold. People have to deal with potential problems caused by snowy roads and walkways. The freezing temperatures and winter snow are like the sufferings in our lives. There is a tendency to want to avoid these, hunkered down, hidden away, hoping for the passing of the chill.
The Buddhist teaching, ‘winter always turns to spring,’ came to mind. It’s true in nature that seasons change from one to another. But to create a springtime in the heart, we must use our difficulties as fuel for our inner light. The energy of our heart’s burning light is born of our ability to use the fire of challenges to ignite our full potential.
Viewing challenges, like this amazing winter scene, with the heart of a poet, changes my entire perspective. What if, like the beauty of this lovely winter snapshot, we could see every difficulty as an opportunity to inspire appreciation and creativity?
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by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
Why You Should Dream Too Big
Josei Toda, a deeply humanistic man who gave his life to rejuvenating the spirit of Buddhism, encouraged others to dream ‘too big,’ explaining that we only achieve a percentage of our goals in life.
“What we can achieve in a lifetime is always but a fraction of what we would set out to achieve. So if you start out with expectations that are too low, you'll end up not being able to accomplish anything at all.”
I’m learning the importance of expanding my perceived limitations. Honestly, thinking big is new to me. I need more practice with envisioning my goals, dreams and my life’s future. Without analyzing the specifics of how I’ve arrived this way, suffice it to say, I don’t think I’m unique in this struggle.
The fact that there are incredibly successful achievers in this world, standing out above the masses of mediocrity, is proof to me that many people have this same issue of living within the boundaries of lower expectations. Though I’ve embraced Buddhism for 32 years, I’m still finding I have much to learn about living more joyfully and successfully.
Buddhism teaches that our lives contain everything necessary for our victory, happiness, success and fulfillment. Looking outside ourselves is not necessary. Believing in our greatest potential is the key to these qualities in our lives. (Cultivating this belief in ourselves also paves the way for believing in the potential of others.)
Theoretically understanding this, and being able to manifest my greatest potential are two different matters, though.
Use The Power of Imagination To Expand Your Vision
I’m immersing myself in a process of learning from others, particularly those who have achieved success at the things I want to do, or who have acquired fortune. I especially value learning from those who have overcome great obstacles. Their stories prove the power of one individual life.
Athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs are my role models, as I value creative thinking. Creative professionals seem to be adept at envisioning an outcome, which becomes the fuel for the targeted actions they take to make their desired result a reality.
My mentor in faith, Daisaku Ikeda, clarifies, “The more specific and detailed the blueprint we have in our hearts, the better. The point is to continue vividly painting the target we have and to advance toward that goal single-mindedly. Then, at each instant, the reality of our lives will gradually approach the painting that is our aspiration.”
Expand Your Dream Too Much
Taking this into account, and reflecting on Josei Toda’s advice to dream ‘too big,’ I encountered a similar thread in Gary Keller’s #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller, The One Thing The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Keller points out how expanding our vision dramatically beyond our limitations has a powerful effect on the results.
Instead of thinking about what’s immediately in front of us, Keller advises to “set a goal so far above what you want that you’ll be building a plan that practically guarantees your original goal.”
Keller also encourages the power of imagination, persuasively suggesting to ask a bigger question of ourselves and “pause to imagine what life looks like with the answer. If you still can’t imagine it, go study people who have already achieved it. What are the models, systems, habits, and relationships of other people who have found the answer? As much as we’d like to believe we’re all different, what constantly works for others will almost always work for us.”
I’m not discounting the value of making consistent and significant effort. The most successful, creative and happy people I know work regularly at their craft and are striving for self-improvement in a disciplined manner.
Harness Your Power of Imagery Toward A Larger Vision
But the power of envisioning a clear, expansive, larger goal is effective. People use this power of the mind, and the spirit of pushing against or cracking open boundaries to accomplish incredible things.
Written language was invented to convey ideas. Music was created from noise. Both the written word and music are languages now used to communicate broadly and intimately. Airplanes enable people to fly through the air. Rockets explore outer space. America was resourced as a result of finally challenging the theory that the earth was flat.
How To Achieve Your Biggest Goal With Your Imagination
These outcomes are the results of humans thinking outside the box, questioning their perceived reality, and going for it. This is an inspiring lesson. Here’s my takeaway:
How I’ve Used Imagery, Prayer & Preparation Successfully
Let me share an example of how this has worked for me. For many years, I made my living as a performing musician. This did not come easily for me, because I initially had debilitating stage-fright. But I was able to overcome my nerves, allowing me to make a living as a performer, and perform well because I followed this formula:
Along with my daily Buddhist chant to raise my life-state, my thorough preparation and mental effort laid the groundwork for my success as a pianist/vocalist, teacher, facilitator and public speaker.
Now performing or speaking publicly has almost zero effect on my nerves. I have eliminated stage-fright through the use of imagery, prayer, preparation, and repetition.
Since I’ve had success using imagery to overcome stage-fright and perform, I now harness it for other areas of my life too. Visualization is a transferable skill. Currently, I practice it toward my business, health and creative goals.
I’d love to hear from you. It means a lot to me that my content is helpful and empowers you. Please take a moment to join the conversation below to let me know if you find it helpful to dream 'too big,' practice imagery toward your goals, or if you have questions or suggestions!
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COMING SOON: Watch this space for new ebooks, products and courses for nurturing creativity and inspiration!
In my CREATIVITY blogs, you’ll find tips for exploring creative flow, and inspiring content related to the inherent challenges and tremendous joy within the creative process.