Friday, October 31, 2014

War

Ex-smokers often talk about the difficulty of breaking the habit. "The hardest part," they say, "is right after breakfast," or "during coffee break," or "right after sex." Why? Because that's when they were accustomed to lighting up. So right after breakfast, when they would normally be having their first cigarette of the day but aren't, their mind starts shouting at them.

"What are you doing?" it cries, tapping its watch. "You should be smoking right now. It's time!"

It's not the physical addiction that's difficult to overcome: it's the habit.

Habits are like ruts in your life-path. They're formed and deepened by repetition. Henry David Thoreau wrote,
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

After a year of writing daily, these last weeks have felt strange to say the least. Like the ex-smoker, my brain keeps telling me I should be here working on my next post.

So what am I doing instead?

Preparing.

You can't charge blindly into war. You need a strategy. You need to sharpen your weapons and train your soldiers. 

Every time that voice pipes up and yells at me to go write, I put my head down and keep working.

Remember the plan, I tell myself. 

First, I'm putting my arsenal together. And since my war is an internal one, a war of words, it is only fitting that I start with my notes.

Every book I've read int he last year is filled with highlighted passages and sections. These are the bits I want to study in more detail or the lines that rang with truth. These are my weapons and I've spent the last two weeks making a detailed inventory of them by manually copying all my notes into word documents.

It's as exciting as it sounds, folks, but there's no avoiding it.

I'm sure there's an easier way of doing this. I could probably export my Kindle notes without typing them up all but then I wouldn't get to revisit some of the ideas that jumped out at me over the last year.

Being organized facilitates the work ahead. Sure, right now it feels like I'm wasting time, like I'm shirking some responsibility or avoiding an inevitability, but I know very well that this is Resistance trying to slow me down.

When I finally get down to the task at hand, it will be with swords sharpened and armour polished. Not only that, but with a strategy for winning the war. No more going in blind for me.

Once I get all my notes transcribed, I'll start labeling and organizing them thematically. And in order to silence my nagging mind, I'll share some of my favourite highlights right here and throw in some rambling commentary to boot.

And what better way to start than with a few lines from Steven Pressfield's most excellent book, The War of Art!


The premise to Pressfield's book is simple to grasp. According to him,
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Resistance is a force generated by the ego and its sole function is to stop you from bettering yourself. Whether it's a diet, new business venture, or that book you want to write, Resistance will find ways to confound and trip you up. It lies, cheats, appeals to your fears and insecurities. It's that little voice that tells you you're not good enough, that there's no point, that it won't work anyway.
Look in your own heart. Unless I'm crazy, right now a still, small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times before, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you.
That's your unlived life. You know what it is just as well as you know your own name. You might bury it under the worries and fixations of the ego but beneath those layers of bullshit, you know exactly what your soul desires. This is the life you were meant for but fear pursuing.
And unless I'm crazy, you're no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn't real? Resistance will bury you.
Indeed! Like an anchor it will bog you down mentally, physically, and emotionally. When you get home and complete the mundane tasks of adulthood, the last thing you want to do is [paint/write/organize/exercise/think/study/build/plan] You're exhausted from carrying Resistance around all day. [Painting/writing/organizing/exercising/thinking/studying/building/planning] just feels like more work, anyway.

What you need to do is relax. Put your laptop away! You had a long day. Don't lace up your runners. Don't start that project. See that couch over there? It's warm and comfy and it's been waiting for you all day.

And then, when you're at the office, job site, or shop doing real work, you think to yourself, "I wish I could do what I love for a living!"

You could! But you never will unless you start. Only whenever you get the chance to start you cop out. You're tired. Not in the mood. Work was brutal. You just want to watch TV and unwind.

Meanwhile, you're not getting any closer to manifesting your unlived life. You're drifting aimlessly, knocking from port to port and acting lost when in reality you have the map and compass in your damn hands! And you feel this vague gnawing in the pit of your being, this nagging sensation that says you should be doing something else, that you were meant for something greater.

And you're right!
We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we're stuck with it.
No, you haven't been robbed of your rightful destiny; you simply haven't taken steps to claim it.
Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
Stop waiting around on uncertainties and future promises. Whatever your calling, whoever you need to become, the time is now. Don't surrender to procrastination, doubt, and the other lies Resistance peddles. It's your job to become the best possible you there is.

Now get started!
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