Not Entitled To Should

Lots of people in this world have a real clear idea of how their life should be.

That includes, of course, a real clear idea of how people with whom they are in relationship should be.

After all, they argue, isn’t that the way to create a better life, to have a clear vision of how your world should be? Just pick the bits and bobs out of a catalog, a design magazine or a TV show and build your own American Dream life!

It’s always interesting to me to hear new-age teachers use the world visualization. Some suggest that means visualizing the end product, the ultimate goal, what you want, while others suggest that visualization is another way of rehearsal, seeing yourself work the process before you go and take your shot.

Athletes have long figured out that visualizing an outcome isn’t very useful. They don’t control the outcome of the match, rather they only control their own actions, their own behaviors and choices. Their opponent and the world has a say in the outcome, but doing the best they can is their best shot at winning. Athletes know they need to visualize performance, not outcomes.

When you get attached to a should that is a visualization, you get attached to an outcome. Getting attached to an outcome means you limit yourself to what you can imagine, and your imagination is paltry compared to the universe.

Think about the best things that ever happened to you; love, success, delight. Could you have predicted a year before how those great moments would look? Five years before? The best parts of our life are always better than we could have imagined, better than we could have visualized, and conversely the worst parts of your life were probably a lot less nasty than you imagined they would be.

Life is a curvy road, and you can’t see very far ahead. You might have the vision to decorate the living room, but the vision to know what is possible for you in ten years, well, that’s not really in your range. Your normal will change, because of challenges, because of successes, because of love, and the best you can do is work the process, not the outcome.

The universe doesn’t think you are entitled to shoulds. You don’t get to pick the way you want your life; the best you can do is offer your smarts and sweat to co-create your life with God, trusting what you offer and what the universe gives to create what is right for you in this lifetime.

Planning is essential but plans are useless, as General Eisenhower said. We need to be smart and well rehearsed, thinking options through and visualizing possibilities, but we also have to be able to adapt and change to meet what is. We don’t get comfort and satisfaction promised to us; we only have the opportunity to work to create that for ourselves and others.

For many, I know, the idea that they can’t visualize a future of their dreams is an idea worth rejection. They need to cling to the idea that they have ultimate control of their world, that they are the only ones who get to shape and define their world.

I just think that years of experience in living in God’s world, our own experience, the experience of history, and the experience of scripture tells us that in the end, we are just traveling through. We can make moments and spaces, but what we leave behind is story in the hearts of those we touched.

It works if you work it. The process is the product. And no one is entitled to should, no matter how much their shoulds are better than the present. We have to create what we create, and we can’t control the outcome, only our own choices.

Clear visions aren’t bad things. But a willingness to see things and people as they are in this moment and in the next is also important, too.

And should can easily get in the way of that.

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