After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.
--- Wallace Stevens, The Well Dressed Man with a Beard
Most times, there are many options provided to us; some are inherent in the situation, others lie beyond the given setting. We just have to be able and willing to look out beyond our limited perspective. And we do tend to limit ourselves in most, if not all, circumstances. Two common ways we do this are through our uncertainty of the outcome (we make negative assumptions of the outcome) or by lacking trust in our ability to proceed. We sense only risk but not the possibilities inherent in the risk.
To ignite awareness of the possibilities inherent in the situation, but that lay beyond the particular situation, we need to say yes to something big that moves our attention forward, and then, take the next step nearest in. The next step nearest in is the one closest to you, often the one that takes the most courage.
If this “something big” were inherent in the situation it would be like the strawberry in your reach, like writing a poem and submitting it for a contest. If the big idea is out of sight or reach (in most cases it will be), you will first have to take a mental reach outside of the particular situation you are in; such as deciding to be a writer and making a living with writing as your central theme. At this point, you will have to believe in something that is not fully formed in its specifics and details.
Fulfillment of any big idea relies on taking your focus off the teeth of the tiger (the limits) in order to see what other possibilities exist inherent in a bigger picture. Then after committing yourself to the bigger picture, identify the next step nearest in that takes you in that direction.
Say Yes to the Big Idea
Say yes to your larger idea, without being ready or having it all figured out. (Hint: What has been nudging at you for some time now?) Sign on the dotted line before you have all your ducks in a row. Commit to reaching for the strawberry or letting go of the branch and leaping into the great unknown. Absolutely every big plan involves leaping into the unknown, or reaching for what looks like a tasty strawberry.
Living creatively means you will have to live with times of ambiguity. The risk in the reach is that you also lose your grip of the known and will soon be falling into something new. A death is certain to happen, but in this case it is the death of the security of the known. You may well have a map in your pocket but the speed of your fall will make it irretrievable.
Say Yes, Then Take The Next Step
Say yes to the big plan, the big idea, then, take the next step, and keep saying yes and then taking the next step close in unless it becomes clear that you need to go in another direction. When you face another direction you will be saying yes to something else. Don’t get caught up in what you say no to; your energy and attention go to where you turn your gaze, to your yeses, and to taking the next step close in.
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Progress and inspiration are guaranteed as you focus on the next step of the great plan. Each one of my books was created line by line. Every success I have experienced has been taken in a leap of commitment first, followed by a series of close-in steps. When I show up to the page, I hold a general sense of the big picture but in the moment of creativity my attention is on this idea in front of me—this line, this concept. I would be in a constantly overwhelmed state if I greeted my writing with only the big picture.
Experiencing Success Step by Step
A lot of writers and others with big ideas give up because they don’t know how to say yes to the creative life, to the next step nearest in. Instead they carry the big plan, the big idea around with them like a weight. Or, they try to skip the step close in, which is always the one with the most emotional risk and bigger payoff.
For example, let’s say you are working for an organization that has become a negative working environment but you have worked there most of your adult life. The next step close in might be to leave that job so that you can find work that is more fulfilling. This step comes with great emotional risk but has the potential for a very large payoff.
Another benefit from learning to acknowledge and then take the next step close in is that we experience the many smaller successes that lead up to the manifestation of the greater idea. And in truth, life is made up of moments and steps close in. Even when we are about to take a grand leap into the unknown, once we land on new ground many smaller steps will be what makes the leap worthwhile. The leap is in making the commitment while holding the bigger picture in mind, then taking the next step nearest in toward our intention.
The Practice of Saying Yes Daily
Get in the practice of saying yes daily. Say yes to your big idea and then notice the next step that needs to be taken to move toward the big picture, now. Don’t go jumping ahead to the third or fourth step in the process. Become clear what the nearest step in is and take that step.
It actually takes more courage to take a breath and then take the next small step than it does to make claim to some big step that doesn’t actually generate real movement. Choose to keep saying yes to each step, trusting that if something feels off, you would stop the process.
The addict in recovery understands how saying yes one day at a time to sobriety will bring about personal freedom. They can’t just be saying no to drugs or no to gambling. They have to have something on a daily basis they are saying yes to, which initially is to their sobriety. Then once sobriety sets in, they can begin to say yes to another big picture and take one step at a time, one day at a time, to fulfill their new big dream.
When you change the way you look at things,
the things you look at change.
--- Max Planck, Nobel Prize–winning physicist,
considered the father of quantum physics
This article is reprinted with permission of the publisher, Destiny Books,
a division of InnerTraditions Intl. ©2013. www.innertraditions.com
The Zero Point Agreement: How to Be Who You Already Are
by Julie Tallard Johnson.
About the Author
A licensed psychotherapist and creative writing teacher, Julie Tallard Johnson has kept journals since the age of sixteen discovering how the writer and spiritual path are one and the same. She has spent the last thirty years working with individuals and groups to help them discover a spiritual practice that brings them a sense of purpose and happiness. The author of many books for teens including Teen Psychic, Spiritual Journaling, The Thundering Years, I Ching for Teens and Making Friends, Falling in Love, which was recognized by the New York Public Library as one of the best books for teens, she lives in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Visit the author's web site at www.Julietallardjohnson.com