When I’m driving down Memorial Drive sometimes I get green lights as far as the eye can see. You would think that makes me happy, but I just get anxious. That’s because I know those far away greens are going to turn red before I can get to them!
While I can laugh at my ability to get anxious over trivial things, there is a valuable piece to take from that scenario. In general it is unwise to extrapolate the distant future from what you can see in the present. In other words, don’t mistake your limited impressions for the whole of reality.
As dicey as memory is, it’s more reliable than prediction. We can look back at our lives and see where we succeeded. The question becomes: If we see something in the present that looks like a success, should we expect a future success?
if one of my students has a terrific practice day, what should they do with that information? Should they practice harder the next day, or not as hard? Should they, in fact, change anything at all?
This is where it gets tricky. If I see nothing but green lights on the road, I can’t close my eyes and assume they will stay green because they might change. On the other hand, if I assume they will turn red and I slow down, ironically I will probably miss them!
Instead I have to be aware of the possibilities in the future while remaining in the moment. I will pick the fastest speed that would still allow me to stop if the light turns red. That way I maximize my chance to get the light without jeopardizing my safety.
My students should also move forward in their work and address a more difficult challenge, rather than remain in the safe place of success. However, they should remain alert to the level of difficulty the new challenge requires. If it is unmanageable, they should stop and reassess what they are doing.
Are you looking at the world now and making a judgement about how it’s going to be? Is there a way you can move forward without assuming anything? Is it possible to live in this way?