Thursday, 6 October 2016

How to treat the risk of failure

One of my almost-daily routines is hanging out at Aeclectic Tarot Forum, which is an online discussion board for anyone interested in tarot and wanting to practice their reading skills and intuition in general.

I have shifted from other social media to AT, because in the tarot community, the focus is on self-improvement and helping others, whereas Facebook and other platforms are nowadays flooded with bad news, disrespectful language, trolling and other negative traits this species of ours can exhibit.
The more time I spend on Facebook, the more agitated and annoyed I get, whereas with AT, the more benevolent and refreshed I feel - it's funny what a big difference the language, attitude and ambience of a forum can make.

Because AT is anonymous, people discuss their issues openly. One of the common underlying currents of discussions is "I want to do thing X, but my family/friends/social circles oppose/ridicule/don't approve it". No person is an island and whatever people around us say and think, affects us. positively or negatively. But. How can we ever achieve anything in life, if we put too much emphasis on other people's opinions?

For instance, I want to be a novelist one day. I have supportive and encouraging people around, but also those who don't think I can make it. It is possible I can't. But it's also possible I can. And the only way to find out is to give it a proper try - do my best to become what I want to be, even when it comes with the risk of failure.

People around us often think they know better, see the risks better, are more realistic than us or otherwise just have more authority to tell how to live our lives. But is that really true?

It's actually just a perception. The louder or more convincing these critics are, the more credible they sound. However, being loud or sounding confident don't make anyone right. And nobody else but you can know, whether something is good or right or doable for you.

But here's the trick. You need to believe in yourself to make it work - whether this is a new job, relationship, studies or business. Critics around can take that self-confidence away, thus spiralling you to a failure and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. I told you so! When in fact, if they had not told you so, you wouldn't have failed. Tricky, isn't it?

My motto in life is:

nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

This (perhaps foolishly?) bold and straightforward attitude could be best described by wands tarot cards, i.e. those that depict willpower, inner fire, drive, motivation and wants. However, I think it's best captured by the slow and even dull-looking
7 Pentacles.
The traditional 7 Pentacles of Rider Waite Smith deck shows a farmer assessing his crop. Only one ripe pentacle has dropped, the rest might still fail or succeed. The only thing to do is to keep trying and hope for the best.
Tarot of the Pagan Cats shows a different side of 7 Pentacles - curiosity and play. Any dream, project or plan in life starts with curiosity (could it work? what if it worked?)  and at best, is fuelled by play: fun, exploration, creativity, excitement. Even if the dream fails after all, experiencing those elements on the way make it worth trying.
Every farmer knows that the crop might wither and die. No matter how much you've watered, tended and cared for it, it could still fail. But then again, there could be a huge reward, a bounty, a successful harvest. The only way to know is to try - not just half-heartedly, but giving it the best you've got.

I value tarot as a tool because looking at the cards and pondering them peels off layers in our thinking that are plastered in there by other people.

Looking at the pictures analytically or semi-meditatively should reveal what your real thoughts and feelings about any given matter are, free and pure from others' influence. How could I best make this project work? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What could I do to strengthen the strengths and weed off the weaknesses? How to best go about with this dream of mine?

These are all empowering questions that help you forward, instead of dwelling on "I really want to do it and I think I could, but everyone says it's not wise/easy/possible/for me." Well, everyone can say that the sun will be blue tomorrow, but it doesn't make it true, does it?

Here's a spread to explore a plan or dream you're unsure about. Pull 1-3 cards for each question, depending on your preferences and reading skills.

New plan or dream - analysis spread

1. What do I believe this plan/dream will give me if it works?
2. What is the real reason I hesitate achieving it?
3. How can I overcome my hesitation?
4. What skills I have that will most help me with achieving this?
5. What in my life or thinking is hindering me from achieving this?
6. What will my life be like when I have achieved this?
7. How to best start moving towards this goal?
8. How to encourage myself to keep going until I reach my goal?

Saturday, 1 October 2016

When to change plans? Ask tarot

One of the most common questions tarot readers get is along the lines: should I keep doing what I'm doing, or change the plan and do something else?

This question repeats in every area of life: studies, work, love and relationships with loved ones in general. It is, indeed, tricky to know when to continue and when to change course. The main problem, however, is not necessarily lack of knowledge, new ideas or plans, it's this:

8 Swords.
8 Swords, Rider Waite Smith tarot.
Often in life, when we've been putting in a lot of effort on something, it feels unbearable to think that no fruit came of it. Changing a plan feels like a failure. We often don't feel at ease to quit studies, change careers, change partners or cut out friends, even when it feels there's nothing but roadblocks. The feeling of a roadblock is real, but here's the catch: the roadblock itself is not.

Tarot card 8 Swords symbolises a situation where we can't see a way forward. We're so set on one course or one thinking pattern, that we don't realise nothing else but our own worries, assumptions, expectations and beliefs are stopping us. There's always a choice - a different choice.

8 Swords of Anna K tarot shows, how the feeling of being trapped is just a projection or illusion. The person is free, holding a sword - symbolising power, knowledge and clarity of thought - but she believes she's trapped. In reality, nothing but her own thoughts are keeping her captive.
I once read that an average person makes thousands of choices every day without counting them.

We decide whether to get up or not. Whether to have breakfast or not. What to have for breakfast? What to wear for work? To go to work at all or not? Do some pilates before work or not? Catch a bus or drive? Start with task A or task B? Have a chat with Bernie or Bonnie? Leave early or stay late? Shop at Fresh Groceries or Fresh Produce? Send a few job applications at night? Sign up for couples' counselling or not?

Now, usually it feels that these are not actual choices. Many are self-evident, automated motions we have to carry out to simply live life. But, from a philosophical point of view, they are all choices. And if we chose differently, our day and life would be different.

8 Swords is the mindset where things happen and thoughts are thought, because that's how it's always done. But technically, we could NOT go to work. NOT talk to Bonnie the Boss, but Bernie the Jovial Friend. NOT go shopping at all but drive to Vegas to spend all our money, never come back and forget our job and marriage troubles forever.

Maybe not the best decisions, but decisions and choices nevertheless. And if any of the daily choices are different than usually, the day is different and can gradually produce a different life, when changes and different choices accumulate.

To wind back to bigger life choices. How to know when a change of plans is in order, and how to encourage oneself to take that step?

It can feel daunting to admit that nothing came of this field of studies, career, or relationship. What will everyone else say? How will I be viewed? How can I justify to myself or others I've spent so much time on this, and now I've got no results to show?

This, again is the 8 Swords: feeling trapped due to thoughts. Thoughts are only mental constructions and ways to see the situation, and they can be changed: negative, limiting thoughts produce trapped behaviour; whereas positive, expansive, curious thoughts produce new choices, new plans, new vistas.

I used to do a lot of knitting and that was a hobby that thought me the necessity of sometimes going back and fixing things from the root. If I made a mistake with the pattern, it could not be patched up later on. My creation would very visibly show, almost radiate the fact there was an error. I often had to undo what I had knit, unravel perhaps an hour's work. What a pain. And yet, it simply had to be done to get the best result. If I'm putting a lot of effort into something, why accept grade C quality?

Life is a lot like knitting. We try to create something the best we can, sometimes we follow a pattern, sometimes we wing it, but in every case, if there is a mistake made or wrong turn taken, we might need to humbly go back and do it again - change course, no matter how late it feels.

Nobody excels at living and nobody's life is error free. So let yourself out of the mental jail and stop judging your earlier choices; more importantly, stop listening to anybody who judges your choices.

If something needs to be changed or fixed, don't be afraid of unravelling. What you build next can be much better. At least it's different, and a source for different lessons.

Here's a spread that can help (pull 1-3 cards for each question depending on your preferences and skills).

When and how to change plans?

What in my life needs to change?

To what direction should the change be?

What action to take to change it?

What have I learned from going through this path until the change?

What in my life needs to stop altogether?

How to stop it?

What in my life needs to start?

How to start it?

Tarot cards 8 Wands and 8 Cups symbolise taking action (or communication); and realising that something does not bring joy any more or won't become fulfilling, no matter how much we try. So, it's better to move on and take action to change plans.