The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself

We go through our days following a path that is largely determined by our expectations, thoughts and beliefs. This ancient tale that my Tai Chi instructor shared with me illustrates this point very well. There was a man traveling along a road and as he neared a village, he came upon a farmer tending his fields. He stopped to ask the farmer what kind of people lived in the village. The farmer in turn asked him about the town he had recently left. He said the people there were not at all friendly and that is why he moved on. The farmer said you may want to avoid this village then and he pointed the stranger to another road which bypassed the town. A few days later, another stranger was walking down the same road, and he too stopped to ask the farmer what type of people lived in the village. The farmer asked him the same question about the people in the last place he lived. The traveler said, oh the people were wonderful and friendly. I was sad to leave but I needed to travel further away for my business. The farmer told the man that the people here were very friendly and would welcome him to the village. The stranger thanked the farmer and proceeded into the village.

You will find what you are expecting to find. Your mind and expectations will lead you to see what you are looking for. There may be something else in the picture, but your bias will only allow you to perceive the thing that will fulfill your expectation. So, the most important question you can ask yourself, “Is the Universe a friendly place or not?” Does the Universe have your back or is it conspiring against you? The answers to these questions and the beliefs you embody can become self-fulfilling practices.

Here are a few ideas on how you can change your perceptions and your life by changing your perceptions. If you think that everything is against you, that is what you will pay attention to, and others may even come to reinforce these views. My brother was one who always thought the only luck he had was bad luck. He would miss out on an opportunity because of timing, have bad weather interfere with plans and much worse. I would point out to him all the times that good things happened, but he focused on the negative. Others around him would also repeat the mantra, if wasn’t for bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all. Does this sound like something you may do? How do you turn this around?

Let’s begin with art. Do you let your critic trash your art and you in the process? Are you only seeing what you don’t like? Mute the critic and open your eyes to the good. Here are 5 exercises to get you started.

1. Look at your art with fresh eyes

Turn the piece upside down and look at it for awhile in that orientation. What do you see? Look at it in a mirror. Make note of the areas and parts of the piece that you love. Focus on those areas for some time and then dialogue with how to emphasize those areas.

2. Emphasize the positive

Prime yourself to pay attention to the positive things in your life. I call these the daily miracles. Keep a journal and write down three things daily that were unexpected pluses. Like, you find a parking place near your destination. You get an unexpected message from a friend you were just thinking about. You find yourself in a place of beauty and you take the time to notice it. It can even be something big like receiving money you forgot you had coming to you. An opportunity to show your art or a sale from your website. Pay attention to these wins.

3. Let go of your usual expectations

Answer these questions with 3 different examples.

When I go to ___________, I find____________.

For example: When I go to a party, I find myself in the corner with the most boring person.

When I do ___________________, I get this_______________________.

For example: When I try something new, I get disappointed because I am not good at it.

Now change the scenario to the best thing that could ever happen.

When I go to an art opening, I find inspiration and connect with new artists that I admire.

When I go to a gallery, I meet the director and make an appointment to show my work.

When I do a new art project, I learn so many new things and it brings me joy.

When I take a chance, I find new avenues of interest.

Write examples of the outcomes you would love to have. Focus on these outcomes.

4. Focus on the outcome you desire

Adjust your mindset as if the desired outcome has already occurred. When I didn’t have money for any extras, I used to pretend I was rich (a relative term). I would always carry a $20 or a $100 bill in my pocket. (Even if the money was going toward paying a bill) I could feel rich and say, well if I really wanted that, I could buy it. Not long after I began this practice, I found myself having the extra $100 to spend. It is worth repeating, act as if your desired outcome has already happened. Feel it and experience it with all your senses. Jump up and down with joy. Do the happy dance!

5. Gratitude is abundance

Another practice I began as a poor student, was to be grateful for my bills. I know this sounds crazy, but it works. I would say a little prayer to the power company for providing me with heat and electricity. I would also say a prayer of gratitude for having the money to pay my bill. This gratitude created a sense of wealth instead a feeling of poverty. I changed the perception from poor me to how abundant I am to be able to have this energy and power. Be grateful for what you do have, and you will get more of that. Focus on the positive, not the lack.

Change your perception, change your art, change your life.

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