There’s a story about a fly trying to escape a room it became trapped in. It could see outside through a window so it kept flying into it only to find out the window was closed. It’s so focused on what it sees in front of it that he only sees one way to reach his goal: through that window. It gets frustrated and it ends up wasting its life trying to get out of the same closed window. It never knew that had it flown in the other direction, the door was open the whole time. The point is this: don’t waste your time trying to fly through the window when the door is open eight feet away.
How often do we do the same thing? We have an expectation that something is going to go a certain way, and it might go that way for a while. Or we think our partner or our friends should do something or that we have to behave in a certain way. All of that is looking through the window because that expectation or goal is in sight but we never seem to actually get where we thought we would. We beat ourselves up against the glass because we can see what we want but the glass never breaks. We talk a lot about flexibility and mindset here, and this case is no different. Don’t get so caught up in how you think it should be that you lose sight of how it is. When you get yourself stuck in thinking, you create a rut that’s no different than flying into the window over and over again.
The other lesson we learn from our little flying friend is that sometimes it only takes a shift in perspective to see the answer. Had he only turned around, he would have seen that he there was another way to reach his goal. Yes, it would be a different path, but there was still a way to get outside. There are moments when unexpected opportunities come our way. I’m guilty of passing many up in my earlier years because I felt like they didn’t come at the right time or that I wasn’t experienced enough or that I didn’t really deserve it and what was really mine would come my way when I was ready. The truth is many an opportunity were missed because I essentially told the universe, “Looks good but not good enough,” when the reality is that was an interpretation of my own being—I didn’t feel good enough. Which leads me to Sponge Bob.
My kid was watching Sponge Bob while I was trying to get some work done and this was an episode where Squigward becomes an art teacher. Sponge Bob takes the class and it turns out he has a phenomenal talent for art in many mediums. Squigward becomes jealous at Sponge Bob’s natural ability and insists that Sponge Bob create by the book. Sponge Bob complies and ends up losing his natural gift because he feels he failed Squigward by not following his “method.” How often do we lose our own spark because we are told we have to do things a certain way? I can attest that I lost nearly two decades of my life doing things as I thought they were supposed to be done. All it got me was a life on repeat, a ground hog day of waking up and literally doing the same thing day after day, waiting for my instructions. For several years it truly did sever my tie with my own creativity because I looked at it as a fruitless endeavor.
One day I turned around and I did see the door. I realized that no matter how much I had shunned the creative side or focused on what I was supposed to be doing, I always felt that call. It never left me. What I had to do was give up the laziness and entitlement and listen to the call—and act on it. No, my life didn’t look how I expected it to with a creative calling—I had a naïve vision of spending my days in leisure, able to come and go as I pleased. My reality was grinding it out for 50+ hours a week at my 9-5 just to stay afloat and fitting in the fun stuff when I could. Then I began to prioritize the things I enjoyed. Finding room for joy in our lives is so key. The truth is that joy is always there, we have to allow it in. We can choose to ignore what makes us happy, hoping we will find it another day. Or we can make the time for it and create our own door. Don’t be like the fly and ignore the opportunity that looks a little different. And don’t be like Sponge Bob, sacrificing your natural talent because someone says it isn’t right. Listen to the call you hear and that will never steer you wrong.