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Creative Career Path

A Divided Mind2012.07.09


    “Chase two rabbits and lose them both” (nito otte itto mo ezu). This Japanese proverb is a graphic picture of the mind which is divided in its purpose, and therefore loses that which it would gain.


    Have you ever felt yourself torn between two choices? First ask yourself, is there an issue on which your mind is divided, for which indecision could cost you an opportunity? It is hard to know which path to take, for taking one path seems to require abandoning the other. In his poem The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost expressed it thus:


    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.


    Some decisions commit you to staying on a path for a long time, a marriage, a career change, moving to a different country. If there is a fork in the road as the poet said, you cannot be one traveler and travel both.


    You can weigh the advantages against the disadvantages, but no matter how much you compare the merits of each path, there is still much that you cannot know without actually taking the path. The dilemma of the divided mind is that it ends up going nowhere and knowing nothing. This is known as being caught on the horns of the dilemma, paralysis by analysis.


    This state of hesitation and bewilderment is known in Japanese as 迷い (mayoi). The radicals that make up this character are 米 (rice, energy) and (to go, leave), implying the loss of energy. The way out of this is to make a decision, or cut through the hesitation 断ち切る (tachikiru). This is also expressed in the 4-character compound 一刀両断 (ittou ryoudan), severing with a single sword cut, taking a decisive measure.


    In the martial arts, the hesitant abiding mind is considered to be the most vulnerable to attack. The main thing is to get moving. You cannot balance on a bicycle unless you are in motion. Once you are moving you can adjust your course.


    Making a decision and taking action is one way to deal with the divided mind, but there is another, the way of inaction and attraction. One reason that the rabbits run is that they are being chased. If you do not chase them but instead find ways to attract them, you may get the rabbits even more effectively. This takes both confidence and a strategy, because you have to start by letting them go.


    This kind of inaction is nothing like the passive paralysis of the divided mind. It is an active state of planning from a new perspective. Once your mind is calm and clear, you may discover yet another path available, or something even more attractive than rabbits.


    Often the mind is divided not by external but by internal distractions, floating anxieties, lingering doubts, the monkey mind which is restless, confused, and uncontrollable. Neuroscience and positive psychology are now revealing the science behind the wisdom of many ancient practices and rituals for meditation and mindfulness. A book that can be helpful in exploring this state is Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, by Rick Hanson, PhD.


    Whether the rabbits represent real tangible goals or mental distractions, the outcome depends largely on how you deal with the divided mind. Make a decision, take action, get moving, or go to the eye of the storm and find peace of mind.



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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