Seeing Beyond

– Posted in: Achievement Orientation, General, Self-Awareness

What do you see?

How many arrows do you see? My daughter came home with a book of optical illusions, and asked me how many arrows I saw in this picture.  Because I’ve done this before, I see 8 arrows, the dark ones and the light ones, but I clearly remember looking an image like this last year and only seeing 4 arrows.

For me, November has been themed with “seeing” in a way I haven’t before.

  • I wrote an article about going to the Starbucks Pike Place Market flagship store in Seattle and the insight for me there was “looking but not seeing.”
  • The week before that I had read the book, “The Giver” by Lois Lowry and then watched the movie on the way back to Toronto in the plane.  In this book, Jonas, an 18 year old newly transitioned out of childhood,  is selected to be the Receiver of Memories because in part of his “capacity to see beyond.”

The lessons for me this past month? I came away with two.

  1. The looking, especially when turned inward (insight, introspection, intuition) will yield more and more information. This is a process and you can take it for several iterations that yield new information which is ever-more-peaceful in message.
  2. Looking has more to do with emotions than any other sense. Emotions have information that point to truth and are richly layered —  more than the physical sense of sight could be.

The Capacity to See Beyond

I connected to The Giver in many ways.

  • For me, it is a powerful story that asks the reader to think about reality and the capability they have to control their experience in this life.
  • Life can be painful and we can shut down emotion, trading off the ability to feel what is “warm and nice” (how they defined love in the book since they had no words for that feeling), for safety.
  • Playing life safe, is not living life to full capacity. There seems to be a tradeoff in there.  It seems we’re going to be called to greatness / called to stand out from “sameness” / called to follow a dream at some point in life.
  • Breaking the rules is an essential part of breaking away from sameness.
  • Another attribute Jonas had which make him eligible for his job as Receiver of Memories was “courage“.  Courage is related to the French work “coeur” for heart.   Sometimes to feel emotions requires great courage.  Sometimes we avoid emotions by compartmentalizing them, stuffing them down, or drowning them out.
  • Choice – “When people have the ability to choose, they choose wrong each and every time.”   The Chief Elder (played by Meryl Streep) says this to The Giver (played by Jeff Bridges).  It calls to question the rules in society that are there because we do not trust young adults to make their own choices.

I recently met with someone who talked to me about the pressures on kids to go to a competitive program at university. These kids are not even teenagers, and are just in middle school, and their parents are already thinking about giving them the best shot at medical school or law school.  He said, “we have to push them so they reach their potential.”  I wonder at the pressure on these kids and the emotions they may be stuffing down to please their elders. I wonder what will happen to their self worth if they don’t achieve a dream that may not even be in tune with their inner call to greatness.

Do we really think if we’re not pushing our kids, they will choose wrong?

I have much more faith than that in young people. I think they have a capacity to see beyond, and it is us, the older generations, that may condition that capacity out of them in the quest for them to be safe and secure.

Last month I also heard a young executive express how difficult it is to bring new ideas into a leadership team that is much older and stuck in their ways. In her voice was discouragement.

I think it is up to us to nurture in ourselves and in others this capacity to see beyond, to follow courage, stand out from sameness, and embrace this messy but oh-so-beautiful life.

Call to Action:

  • In this last month of 2014, set aside some time for introspection. Perhaps the last Sunday of this month – December 28th to sit with yourself. Go to an art gallery, or go for a walk, but spend a couple of hours on your “to-be” list.
  • Consider what encourages you and what discourages you.
  • As you plan for 2015, think about your capacity to see beyond — what are 2-3 goals that will take you beyond what you’ve done or been in the years before?


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