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Is your world enough?

Is your world enough? Tony Bates
09 01 2007 Irish Times by kind permission
Mind Moves: The world is not enough But it is such a perfect place to start . . . my love And if you're strong enough Together we can take the world apart . . . my love."
I have always considered these Garbage lyrics quite clever. Since the title of the Bond movie had already been decided before a theme song was commissioned, Garbage clearly wrote this song to order.
But think about it for a moment: What lines would you write to follow the opener "The world is not enough"? And as you ponder this, consider that the "world" being referred to in this song is your personal world, ie "My world is not enough."
Many people would follow this opening line with something like "and that's because X is wrong and Y is wrong" or with "and it should be better" or "and it never will be" or "because I expect way too much". And so on.
The problem with these options is that they fast-track you into a cognitive dead-end where you get mugged by feelings of anger, resentment or despair. These feelings lie waiting in the shadows of our minds and often need only a mere prod to awaken.
I like how Garbage resolved the challenge with the phrase - "But it is such a perfect place to start." It says that where you are may not be great but it's a place that deserves your appreciation. It may represent the very best you've been able to manage until now. At a time when you may have grown tired of your vices and addictions and have resolved to make your world a better place, this lyric may have something to say to you before you declare all-out war on your personal weaknesses.
As human beings we are gifted with an imagination that pulls us forward into new and different frontiers. Our imagination stirs in us the desire to experience life in new ways, to go further than we have dared to so far, to express ourselves and give more of ourselves. Even when that means going out on a limb, even if it means your heart gets broken, even if it kills you.
Riding in tandem with this impulse to risk ourselves is an equally compelling force that pulls us back inside the safety of the known, the familiar and the predictable. Our character is shaped by the degree to which we accommodate these different aspects of our nature, eg am I someone who will go for it or someone who prefers to keep my head down and play it safe?
One of the great traps for humans is not living the life we were born to. We can spend years persuading ourselves that the world we know is enough until we get hit between the eyes one day with a painful sense that there is more. There is someone inside me who has never had a chance to make something of my life; someone who wants to be more but is held back by fear.
I believe these Garbage lyrics may contain a useful PIN to put you back on track; that embedded in each line is a code for moving forward. Awareness, appreciation, support and a willingness to let go anything and anyone that is keeping you down.
Awareness is easy. Just consider how successfully you delude yourself that everything you are doing is okay. It takes courage to look at your life and say "everything is not okay . . . my world is not enough".
Appreciation is more tricky. It is probably the last thing you'd expect you need to do after coming clean that not everything in your life smells of roses. But it's brilliant. Humans always try to change by waging war against and ridding their lives of all that they find unacceptable. This leads to a weak "divided" self, where the smoker fights with and resents the non-smoker, where the overweight me becomes an object of scorn in the new regime of carrots and celery.
This simple song says we can only deconstruct our bad habits - "take this world apart" - if we firstly appreciate that they may represent how we have tried to achieve and maintain some degree of wellbeing. This is how we find the strength to change.
I know what you're thinking - "He's really stretching credulity here."
But maybe it's all about stretching ourselves and not taking our "truths" so seriously, especially when they hold our more creative energies captive. And especially when we sense that our world could be an amazing place if we listened more to our hearts and less to those health and safety broadcasts we make in our heads. Happy 2007, this could well be your year to go for it.
Tony Bates is chief executive of Headstrong - The National Centre for Youth Mental Health.

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