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How often do you realize you are both artist and picture?


Today is May 28 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you realize you are both artist and picture?” Leveraging your mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos of life and translate one dream after another into reality often requires you to realize you are both the artist and picture simultaneously. This may seem difficult to grasp at first since the artist paints or draws the picture but those who navigate the chaos reflect upon this duality and come to the realization that they do indeed possess the ability to be both artist and picture. Today’s reflection includes the work of Austrian medical doctor Alfred Adler who established the school of individual psychology. Often viewed by many as the first community psychologist, Adler emphasized the role community played in human development. He preferred the use of two chairs in talk therapy, as opposed to the reliance on a couch, and educated people on his developmental theory involving the intermingling of three life tasks – occupation, society, and love. For Adler, navigating the chaos of life involved one successfully recognizing, balancing, and leveraging, each of the three life tasks.


According to Adler “We are not determined by our experiences but are self-determined by the meaning we give to them; and when we take particular experiences as the basis for our future life, we are almost certain to be misguided to some degree. Meanings are not determined by situations. We determine ourselves by the meanings we ascribe to situations.” This meaning, however, involves what Dr. Shahram Heshmat labeled as psychological distance - mentally separating oneself from the immediate situation and taking a broader perspective or seeing the big picture. In a Psychology Today article Heshmat explains how “Psychological distancing allows greater flexibility and control in our thinking and behavior and is central to self-control. Self-control requires people to make decisions consistent with distal goals when tempted by more immediate rewards. Exercising self-control requires ignoring the attraction of short-term temptations in order to pursue other long-term goals. Resolving goal conflicts through self-control is an important component in achieving and maintaining a healthy life.”


This observation is most certainly helpful as you look to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well. While you may think the experience impacts you, and it very well may, but what meaning did you affix to the life situation? Did you create any psychological distancing? Perhaps you gave an event too much meaning and another too little? Only you have the power to prescribe a level of meaning to a situation. This is critical when it comes to one of the three life tasks of occupation, society, and love. What one person may interpret as a significant experience you might view as a minor one.


Adler continued and noted: “Every individual represents a unity of personality and the individual then fashions that unity. The individual is thus both the picture and the artist. Therefore, if one can change one’s concept of self, they can change the picture being painted. He is the artist of his own personality, but as an artist he is neither an infallible worker nor a person with a complete understanding of mind and body; he is rather a weak, extremely fallible, and imperfect human being.”


As with all artists and their work, it is important to recall the words of Salvador Dali who observed "no masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist." You can be a masterpiece. You can navigate the chaos. You can translate one dream after another into reality. To do all of that and more, you will have to make a commitment to leverage your mind, body, and soul each day of the year. You cannot be lazy. You are both the artist and the picture. Just how much of a masterpiece you want to create is up to you.

  • How often do you allow your experiences to determine who you are?

  • How often do you remind yourself that your self-determination is what gives experiences meaning?

  • What role does self-awareness play as you determine the meaning found in life situations, experiences, and moments?

  • How often are you exercising psychological distancing in order to give yourself a moment to leverage your self-control?

  • Are you so caught up in a certain type of life moment that you simply fail to create the much-needed psychological distancing?

  • Do you remind yourself the critical role self-control plays as you navigate the chaos of life?

  • How much time each day do you spend resolving goal conflicts through self-control? Another way of asking this question is – how often do you allow the life situations of the day to side track you from making forward progress on your goal?

  • How often do you remind yourself you are both the artist and the picture?

  • When is the last time you changed your concept of your self?

  • Does your current life situation require you to change your concept of your self?

  • Who or what is holding you back from allowing yourself to be both artist and picture?