Recently I attended a seminar by Klemmer & Associates called Personal Mastery where I had the opportunity to explore many of the belief systems I held in my head. My approach was not to accomplish anything in particular, but to be open and available to allowing my mind to be changed. With that mindset, Klemmer put me through a clinic that fundamentally altered my thought patterns and the feelings I associate with that which is not connected. Here are some of my realizations that I feel may help those who want to have more emotional health.
I was once (and on many levels, still am) obsessed with Fight Club. The David Fincher movie is phenomenal, and I cannot suggest you read Chuck Palahniuk’s book enough. The counter-cultural tones that this story took on resonates strongly with my being. This seminar helped me fine tune that connection and comprehend why I related so strongly. I have the tendency to take an approach to life that relies upon the appreciation of others. There is a voice that tells me to go after accomplishment x because that defines success. Once I achieved x, that voice was right there to tell me to go after y. But what if my true self is uninterested in the alphabet of accomplishments? What if my true self felt more satisfaction with accomplishing that which society doesn’t necessarily categorize as success? I learned that although I may have needed to obtain x and y for my wellbeing, I am not defined by it. I am able to see decisions I make through my very own lens by understanding who I am and what I want more clearly.
“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Truer words of wisdom have seldom been spoken. It seems trivial, and I don’t really mean to wax poetic, but the reality of life is that time continues on while we are trying to ‘figure our shit out’. I propose that our shit is already figured out. We have figured it out long ago, and we have made our decisions based on what we have figured out. If you aren’t satisfied, you need to consider what it is that you figured out long ago that took you to this point. The decisions we make are guided by our underlying purpose which we live by. I have thought a lot about what my purpose is that drives my decisions in life forward. Here’s what I came up with: My purpose is to evoke a shared perspective that brings forward positive change in the world. All that I do is revolving around those words. Sometimes are harder than others to tie my actions to that principle, but I’m committed to a lifetime of practice in it.
Often times I look at what I do and who I am, thinking, ‘why am I not doing more?’ It’s like I have an expectation of myself that I am not meeting although I am accomplishing everything that I seek. What is the reason for this disconnect? The problem is not me, the problem is my mindset. My limiting belief system that told me if I were going to be great, I would have done it by now was weighing me down. That internal dialogue held me back from contributing all that I had to contribute to the world. It had me pulling away from situations that challenge me and kept me down that path most traveled. If I want to live my purpose and be a great person, I am going to have to make different decisions about what exactly I do and how I think. There is no ceiling on the growth of humanity, compassion, or care. So, why put a limit on my expectations when I approach any opportunity? I have changed my mentality around the possibilities of my growth in order to attain greater results given the same opportunities that I’ve had before.
I have always thought differently. I remember, in high school, I had a fantastic social studies teacher Mr. Combs. In his class we were learning about political beliefs, what they were, how to define our own, and most importantly why we thought that way. He would separate the room into left or right and allow a brief debate about why each side felt the way they did. I found myself standing alone in many instances. Today, I don’t stand alone. I do stand apart.
Stereotypes and structure are not insurmountable aspects in any way shape or form. In developing a relationship with my girlfriend, I disrupted the preconceived ideas about what a relationship should be early on. If she wanted to be a part of my non-traditional lifestyle, she would have to be part of my non-traditional way of thinking. In having a radically honest conversation about what I was looking for in a relationship we became spiritually intertwined in a way.
Radical honesty is one tool I use to raise questions about what we do and why we do it. In my girlfriend’s situation, I was looking to find out whether she was or is capable of being stronger than me. Simply because society has shaped our thought patterns to think of women as less physically or emotionally sturdy than men doesn’t make it so. Fortunately, she is a stronger person than I could ever dream of becoming. It took raising the question for both of us to realize what the full potential was that lay before us.
“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.” – Albert Einstein
This principle of questioning the norm can be applied to all kinds of situations (not just relationships). It should have been applied sooner in the slave trade. We don’t challenge enough when it comes to LGBT rights and inherent prejudice build into our public social structure. Companies play follow the leader rather than taking the initiative to lead themselves. In the corporate world, were afraid to stick out like a sore thumb. However, it is usually the outliers who are capable of the greatest growth and reward.
Change is resisted by most. We are, after all, creatures of habit. The only way I am able to learn and grow as a citizen of the world is to undergo change. Understanding for our fellow citizens is not an inherent quality. We need to step out of our comfort zone to be able to empathize with all walks of life. Don’t be afraid to think or act differently. Change, uncertainty and growth is what the human experience is all about.
“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty.
I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”
― George Carlin
I write often about both perception and perspective with regards to many aspects of photography and the camera world. They relate to all aspects of life. It’s important to acknowledge their presence in our life situations and how they impact us. Perception is defined as awareness of something through the senses, a mental impression, or an intuitive understanding and insight. Perspective is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view, or a true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion.
It seems as though we are splitting hairs in attempting to differentiate the two. In terms of photographic technique, perspective relates more to the actual position of the camera. I’m not saying simply the physical location and direction of the camera, but also who is taking the picture and how they are seeing it. Perception relates more so to the feelings invoked by the image that was taken. It takes into consideration a person’s predispositions as well as the photographer’s perspective.
My perception is highly influenced by my cultural surroundings. I seek to challenge my perspective constantly in order to negate or affirm my understanding or feeling towards a subject. Approaching photo shoots with your perspective of the subject clearly in mind will give you insight to how your images might turn out. Consider the perspective of your subjects as well.
Perception is something I feel to be highly important to the work of a photographer. On a very basic level, we take pictures of things that either affirm or change someone’s perception of the subject. For example, a picture of Yosemite might confirm that nature is beautiful or a picture of a leopard after hunting might alter someone’s belief that all cats are cuddly. Considering and challenging your perspective prior to shooting will allow you to focus on the desired affect you want to have on a viewer’s perception.
Confused yet? I probably talked in circles and used interchangeable terms in a way that made them seem unique. That might just be my perception of my writing which influenced the perspective with which I wrote it. Or was it supposed to be the other way around? In any case, explore what you think and feel about subjects you are shooting. Wonder through those feelings and discover the way which you are seeing what’s in front of you, and consider how you want those around you to see it.