The new piano book arrived. It was for the next level. I began to attempt to play the new pieces. I was rubbish. It was hard. I felt like quitting. I continued practising.
By the time came for my next lesson, I was already playing some of the new pieces with some level of competence. Deep down, I know I can get better.
Now, of course, the title of this blog was deliberately ambiguous. “I can get better,” would be naturally taken to mean my mental health can get better. Is improving mental health so much different from coming better at playing piano? I think it is. Improving mental health isn’t about learning a muscle pathway like learning piano or to touch-type. But it is about learning new neural pathways – changing the route we take when thinking. Perhaps the metaphor and analogy could work.
For ten years now my vision of the future has been smaller than my present. Unsurprisingly, the results I’ve been getting have been diminishing too. To have a brighter future, we must have a vision of a bigger future. That’s hard when ‘being realistic’ suggests the future prospects are not that good. But as Lennon said, “Reality leaves much to the imagination.” He also said, “Imagine…”
Could I practice, like Alice in Wonderland, imagining six impossible things before breakfast?
Could you imagine a future that was bigger than your present or your past? Some of you will answer with all your heart, “Not today, Lex. Don’t ask me to be positive today.” I get that. The last thing I want when I’m feeling and thinking low is to have some chirpy happy chappy telling me to be more positive.
No, this is more of a dare. Could you, would you, should you dare to imagine a future that is bigger than your past or present? For me, it is remarkably easy to list what the (seemingly impossible) elements of a bigger future would be. I know much of what I would have, be, and do as evidence of a bigger future.
That bigger future is unlikely without a massive shift of focus – a massive shift that includes a narrowing of focus. To build a better future, you and I must realise and act upon the uncomfortable fact that much – even most – of what we pay attention to now is a distraction. Moving towards a bigger future means saying, “No!” to many of our present activities, and, “Yes!” to the people, principles, and procedures that we sense will move us closer to what we’d rather have.
I don’t want to hear this message today. But I do want a bigger future. It’s time (for me) to prune. It’s time for me to focus. It’s time for me to say, “No!” and it’s time for me to say, “Yes!” Is it time for you, too? I could do with the company on this difficult journey…
A Moodscope member.