How to Determine Your Own Reality

Warm artificial light illuminates a subway in Paris, France

Sadness, anxiety and even heartache are temporary if we decide that’s what they are. They are of the moment and how long we spend in that particular moment is completely up to us.

Our Perception Determines Our Reality

But such emotional states are also necessary. Without loss how could we understand love, without despair we would undervalue bliss.

No one lives in a bubble and the outside world does impact our life. But that doesn't mean we have to allow it to do so at the expense of our own happiness.

Working For The Man Is No Longer The Answer

Over the years my work as a photography teacher has brought me into contact with a lot of interesting and highly motivated people.

It's always great when, in such a tough industry, those who undertake formal studies as a means to find employment are able to transit from the world of a full time student to that of an independent working photographer.

The same is true for those wishing to establish a photography practice in the visual arts.

Because of their own personality, talent and tenacity some folk are able to make that transition without even completing formal studies.

Others are good students but, not being able to find one of very few full-time positions in the industry and without the capabilities or desire to run their own business, flounder.

For those folks jobs on the fringe of the industry (e.g., camera stores, distributors) or, alternatively, in an aligned industry may seem like the only solution.

But what's the point of spending years enrolled in tertiary based education programs only to find yourself working in retail.

At the end of the day, with little energy or inspiration left, only the most passionate photographers actually make photos in what free time they have.

  • Was your reason for undertaking that course of study to actually escape life for a while?

  • Did you make the most of your opportunities at the college or university you attended?

  • Have you made room for your creative passion to flourish, despite the constraints of work and family life, now you're back in the real world?

A beautiful black and white portrait of an elderly man sitting by an open doorway on the outskirts of Chennai, Indiag

Teaching Is About Making A Difference

During my time as a teacher I've worked with literally thousands of people. Usually the relationship is mutually beneficial, they learn and I revel in that journey.

Sometimes the student/teacher experience is so powerful, so very much in the moment, that time seems to stand still as critical understanding is experienced.

I’ve known this both as a student and as a teacher. I'II never forget my own favorite teachers over the years and the sacrifices they made to help me along my own very independent path.

As a teacher I've experienced many out of time moments when the blessed trinity of information, delivery and understanding seem to gel within an entire group of people.

Such moments can be highly palpable, even blissful for a teacher.

Every now and again a favorite student has to prematurely leave a course of study. This can be a great sadness for student, peers and teacher alike.

I remember being contacted by a student, let's call her Eleanor, whom I'd taught at a photographic school where I once worked.

Due to a significant illness she had to leave her studies and return to her parents home to recuperate. The nature of the illness dictated a slow, careful recovery in a peaceful, nurturing environment.

I remember at the time thinking that Eleanor’s decision was both correct and courageous.

After all one's happiness and health are paramount and formal studies are but one way to live a creative life through photography.

A lovely stream cascades on it's journey to the sea on the lovely island of Kunoy in the Faroe Islands.

Heal Yourself, Heal The World

I very much believe in the notion that to heal the world you first need to heal yourself. It’s hard to live a productive, meaning-rich life and bring joy to others until your own life is happy and healthy.

Our modern world can be such a tough, difficult place and many do all they can just to survive. They spend the best years of their life swimming against the tide or, at best, treading water.

Working For The Man - There is a Better Way

We're all presented with choices along life's journey and I've learned to understand that we often miss the point of those choices.

Why take on a so-called promotion when the job promises the following:

  • Elevated levels of stress

  • Significantly longer working hours

  • Loss of personal freedom and leisure

Usually the so-called financial rewards simply aren't there and the best way to climb the slippery ladder is, more often than not, to seek a promotion with another employer.

We must all learn to say no to stress, poorly disguised as opportunity, and say yes to life.

Pathways provide the traveler with both a perfect metaphor and a way across the spectacular scenery of Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain), China.

The Way Forward for the Creative Soul

Why spend your life running to keep up with a train that does little more than travel in circles? To begin to determine your own reality maybe the choice you need to make is the one outside of the box.

Consider leaving the track and taking a nice, slow relaxed walk on the grass. And why not stop for an ice-cream and a snooze along the way?

You may not make as much money but, with a more enlightened view of money and the cost it has on your life, you'd likely experience the following:

  • Better health and fitness

  • More fulfilling relationships

  • An ability to see and experience more of the beauty and joy that surrounds us all

Wisdom and Saying No

We need to be smart about our decisions in life. But there are many levels of intelligence, including emotional intelligence, and wisdom is not concerned with your ability to use an app or write code.

Wisdom sometimes requires the kind of courage that allows you to act in your own best interests. That kind of courage often starts with the word no.

By saying no to the so called opportunities that undermine your journey through life you’ll be able to pay attention to what matters: your own true purpose in life.

We all have to find the moments and spaces between the madness of our modern world where we can begin to discover ourselves, to breathe and begin to understand why we're actually here.

It’s not just a matter of existing within the rat race, we also need to find ways by which we can separate ourselves from it.

We can do this physically by undertaking a trip to the country or by simply taking a walk in the park.

But to free our minds we also need to find psychological separation from the stresses and strains of the modern world.

I believe that we all have a purpose in life, but few of us take the necessary action to realize that purpose. Making a difference is at the very heart of a life well lived.

Warm backlight brings a hint of summer to a field of lupins at days end in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Your Creativity Matters

Whether your creativity is expressed through writing, music or photography it's important to allocate the time, energy and finances required to nurture that talent.

Why not share your journey and outcomes with the world. This is one way by which social media can actually help heal our world.

My view is that, if you’re not seeing and posting life affirming messages on social media, it might be time to break the bonds and reconnect with people and the world around you in a more natural, organic manner.

By healing yourself you’re then in a much better position to contribute and make a positive difference to the lives of so many other people and, as a consequence, to the health of our world.

Depending on your generation and your upbringing you may or may not have been told that you are unique, talented and able to do anything you want.

Of course you’ll only achieve your dreams if you take the kind of action that moves you towards your goals on a very regular basis.

I sometimes wonder if parents forget to instill that particular reality based lesson in the minds of their kids.

The Perfect Student

I’ve been fortunate to have facilitated creative photography studies for thousands of wonderful people over the years. Some of them proved to be quite outstanding people.

I once thought of a former student as a child of the universe who glows with a luminous quality. And I meant it!

Their approach to life was positive, without being naive. They were attentive, empathetic and approached their studies with interest and energy.

What’s more I had the distinct impression that, like me, the only person they felt they had to compete with was themselves.

Understanding that they were, ultimately, responsible for their own reality was central to their own identity.

No matter where life took them I was confident that they’d be able to stay true to their own, unique life’s purpose.

You can’t imagine how good that made me feel.

The Game Of Life

My own journey has taught me that you don't actually acquire or achieve happiness. Rather you experience happiness along with other equally important emotions, not all of which are considered positive.

I doubt that true happiness will come as a result of keeping your boss happy by entering data and moving numbers around in cyberspace.

Happiness surrounds us all. But it's our state of mind and the way we perceive what's going on around us that determines our reality and, as a consequence, our ability to experience happiness.

Life is not the cards we are dealt, nor is it the way we play those cards. That's because such a game, by definition, results in winners and losers.

The secret to life is the ability to determine what those cards actually are. We all have the ability to make an ace out of a joker, a flush from a pair.

Once we understand that fact the need to play the hand is replaced with the desire to share our cards, openly and generously, with others.

An icy staircase takes the hiker through the rock and onto the path proper along the spectacular trail on Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain).

How To Manage A Horrible Boss

If you have a horrible boss you have 3 choices, as I see it, available to you:

1. Stay Mad, Miserable And Powerless

This is the easiest choice and many folks find a sense of identify and significance in identifying themselves as a victim.

I know this from personal experience and it’s one of the reasons why people choose to enter or remain in destructive relationships.

There is power in being a victim and in being angry. But it’s a very negative, destructive power and I’m relieved to say that I’ve long since removed myself from dwelling in that space.

2. See Things From Their Perspective

Learn to better understand your bosses point of view and motivations. You may find you even pity them.

As a result your relationship with them will change and you may find a sense of freedom from the stress you'd previously believed they were responsible for causing.

3. Get Out And Get On With Life

This takes real courage, which is why few of us, including our bosses, do it. But the reality is no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship.

Get up, get out and don’t look back.

If you’re going to change the world you’ll need to locate yourself in an environment that’s more conducive to doing so.

Children, just before their daytime nap, in a nursery on St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, India.

Us And Others

Last I heard was that Eleanor was well on the road to recovery. Indeed she’d developing into a very good photographer.

It’s always rewarding when someone you know is able to realize their own potential and live a happy, meaningful life.

And I'm so pleased that the light I saw in Eleanor, while temporarily dimmed, is burning brightly again.

Perhaps our shared purpose in life is to bring happiness into the lives of others. But to be able to do that in a sustained, meaningful way we first have to be happy ourselves.

If there’s one salient piece of advice that you might want to take away from this post, that would be it.

I say again heal yourself, heal the world.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru