Five or six days ago, a reader sent me an email asking some questions. (I can't show you the email, or quote from it.) He wanted to know what he could do to break the cycle of gear acquisitions and break out of the photographic doldrums in which he finds himself.
So I've been thinking about this, and one particular thing I heard lately keeps running around in my head.
I'm just telling you, though, you're going to laugh at me. Pop psychology, little pithy aphorisms, the superficial masquerading as the profound—I know. But you know the way pop love songs on the radio sound hopelessly inane until you're actually in love, at which time they suddenly seem infinitely profound? Well, that's how this struck me.
I heard it on "Dr. Phil," of all things. I know.
He said "You do know the difference between a dream and a goal, don't you? A goal has a plan and a timeline."
Okay, you could get that from a fortune cookie. I know. But it hit home to me.
As a rough guess, 75% of you reading this probably have no problem whatsoever with goals, personal organization, time management, etc.—all those sorts of things.
Some of you even have a real talent for them. I have a friend who told me that she was in her 30s before she realized that being well organized was not a talent that everybody had. Her life started to improve as soon as she realized it.
Or take our friend Ctein. That guy is really good at keeping track of things, staying organized, getting things done. He lives plans and timelines. He's a plan-and-timeline ninja. I'm sure Kirk, and Carl, and most professional photographers—make that most successful professional photographers—are the same.
I, on the other hand, have long had a problem with "gonnas." As in, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that. It's not just around here, and it's not just with a photography. It's a longstanding character defect. I've been dealing with it all my life.
I don't even keep a calendar. If I try, it doesn't do any good; half the things that should be on it I forget to write down in the first place, and for the other half, I forget to check it. Doesn't work for me.
Or—putting it another way—to me, every ambition's a dream.
I'm "gonna" organize my vacation snaps from this year. Yeah, right.
But hey, I can dream, can't I?
People have a tendency to overvalue the things they're not good at, but we also tend to "assume" that the things we are good at are at least moderately simple for everyone. If something's really easy for you, you tend to assume it's at least moderately easy for most other people, and that if they won't behave accordingly it's just because they don't want to, or they're weak, or undisciplined, or belligerent about it. I assume that slow drivers are just trying to annoy me, and that people who spell porely and punctuate, incorrectly are acting out their contempt for their long-ago English teachers or simply flouting conventional rules—deliberately. That is, I assume it's a stance. It doesn't occur to me right off the bat that maybe they just struggle with spelling and punctuation. (I did figure out that some slow drivers are driving as fast as they're comfortable going. I've learned to be patient.)
People who are good at making plans and setting schedules assume it's simple, that anyone can do it. All anyone has to do is try. It's hard for humans to put themselves in someone else's shoes.
So anyway, my dream for today is to transform my living room project (we're trying to get it emptied, painted, and recarpeted) from a dream into a goal—by writing a plan with a schedule and deadlines. And as for those vacation pics? Well, I haven't organized my pictures from the summer of 2006 yet, so why would I think I'm going to get 2012 done?
Back on topic
It did strike me that this might be a good key for my unnamed questioner.
For those people who are like me—that is, who might need a little improvement in the planning and timeline department—here's a modest little exercise:
1. Write down five to ten of your photographic dreams—things you've wanted or been meaning to do that have been rattling around in your head for while. Doesn't matter what they are, just five things you've always wanted to do in photography. Do that by, say, tomorrow night.
2. Go back to the list the next morning and cross out all but three of them—three that are feasible but still appealing.
3. Pick one that could be turned into a goal, as opposed to a dream, by making a plan and setting a schedule.
4. Do it! (That is, make the plan and set the schedule.) By, say, Thursday of this coming week. (Why Thursday? So we can talk more about it then.)
I'm thinking of trying this myself.
Or rather, dreaming of trying it. I have lots of those gonnas.
By the way, want to know why I can't show you that reader's email, or quote from it? Because it's five or six days old, and I can't find it.
It's okay. Laugh at me if you want. I deserve it.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.