Reflections On Why You Should Take The Hard Path

To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. (Steven Pressfield)

We are incomplete beings. We are a form of potential. We are unlike other animals in this sense. A lion cub grows up to be a predator. It doesn’t require will power to become what nature intended it to be. Nature didn’t intend for humans to be anything. It left that choice to the individual. Each individual has the possibility to transcend what or who they are at this given moment and realize their potential. What stands in the way is Resistance or themselves. The voice that pokes at your insecurities, tells you you’ve worked enough, it’s good enough, that pain is bad, that struggle must be avoided, that you can blame someone else for the way you are (parents, lover, children, society, gender, race, culture), the voice that gives you an out which you actively and consciously embrace. The voice that speaks when there is a decision to be made.

To be more. To do more. To become more. Or to stay what you are.

Take the easy way or the hard way?

Easy way brings pleasure right now and makes you feel good but the chains of comfort keep you from soaring, growing, moving, changing, becoming and it robs you of time. To not work and procrastinate. To skip the last set. To have that conversation later. This choice can take your possibility away, can take your potential away.

The hard way is to do the more difficult thing right this moment and do that every moment of your life. Wake up early, workout, be disciplined, routined, have those difficult conversations, sacrifice the immediate gratification, sacrifice the warmth and comfort, embrace whatever it is that stirs the thoughts of procrastination in your mind. That’s the way. That’s the path. The discomfort.

You know what the right thing to do is because you have done plenty of self-experiments throughout your life. Plenty of times when you chose the easy way which only left you with guilt and without fulfillment. Over and over the same acts are repeated and little to no growth is to be had. The change is simple as well. You’ve known the way the whole time. You’ve avoided it each time you chose the easy way and were left with regrets later on.

The path is hard. This is the way that growth happens. You become the possibility nature laid out for you. The enemy is resistance. The reality is the shortage of time. The goal is to self actualize. The path is hard.

Poem: To Overcome The Self

Man is never alone,

Within him dwells another,

Someone who knows his desires, his weaknesses and dreams,

He sits with comfort,

Waiting to speak up,

The opportunity arises whenever a decision needs to be made,

Right or wrong,

The one who dwells always picks the wrong one,

And his choice rings in the head causing the limbs to obey,

Is that the devil?

Is that how religion came about?

To find a way to quiet this voice,

This resistance that devolves man from God to peasant,

Desire a doctrine to follow so it can drown this other voice,

So we can do good, be good, act good and become good,

Without such doctrine, the fight is lonely,

The worst realization is the everydayness of the struggle,

Each morning brings about the foe, renewed, energized, dangerous, without any hint of the previous day’s defeat,

If it was every defeated,

Each day the battle restarts and each day we must overcome that voice,

Otherwise, life is shortened,

The pleasure from the experience of life, the fulfillment of life, is lessened,

As if there was a cap on what you can get out of life,

As if the brilliance that life offers is only for those who resist,

As if the one that dwells in you is placed in you as an opportunity,

A ready-made obstacle for you to understand what life is about,

That is why the fight is important,

To resist and overcome, daily,

But some never win,

Others give in,

The rare few look forward to it,

Those few I seek,

To become like them, a warrior who resists his inner voice,

Who overcomes himself,

Who reclaims the Kingdom lost.

 

 

Your Feelings Don’t Get A Vote

We often know what we are supposed to do and what we shouldn’t. It’s easy to sit down and make a to-do list, to plan out your ideal day or week, to set goals and map out a plan of action. Yet, with all that being said, we may still lack the desire to act. Instead of following the set plan, we can find ourselves veering off the path and repeating habits we are trying to break. There is a struggle in the execution of a plan.

According to Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, that struggle comes from the resistance that lies inside of us. As Pressfield put it:

It’s not writing that’s the hard part. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

Resistance comes in many forms and its goal is to win small battles. Resistance understands that the more you give in, the stronger it gets. So, the snooze button helps resistance gain an immediate victory. It plays into the soreness you are feeling so you think it’s a good idea to skip the workout. It’ll tell you that you are too hungry right now and that it’s best if you start your work an hour or two later, once you’ve eaten something. Knowing full well that in a couple hours, it’ll come up with another way to procrastinate. It’ll pick at that negative voice in you that tells you that you’re not good enough or that what you are doing isn’t worth the trouble.

A simple way of understanding when resistance might show its ugly little head is:

Any act that rejects immediate gratification for long term growth, health or integrity.

What makes resistance a hard enemy is that it is self-generated. It comes from within. Also, it can never really be beaten. It can only be overcome for that day and then, the next day it is another battle with that inside voice.

If you don’t understand resistance, you can be easily manipulated. If you don’t know who the enemy is and cannot see the signs of the enemy then how can you expect to win? To be free?

The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

Resistance can be that master. It can run your life and ruin it. This might not be in the usual sense, for you can still live a good life with Resistance but you will never be able to live the life you wish to live if your actions are dictated by Resistance. So, in this sense, ones life being ruined does not come from financial bankruptcy or poor relationships and things of that nature but rather, this understanding in you that you caved in to the struggle and hardship that comes with aiming at the highest possible life for yourself and that you settled for some worse version of yourself.

Finding the enemy is half the battle, the other half is actually beating it. One way to fight resistance is to change your perspective on it.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

In this manner, you can gauge the authenticity of your action if you feel this need to not do it. To delay the action. To do what is opposite and to take the easy path. All of this can bring clarity to your mind for you know that you are on the right path when there is a great deal of Resistance in you. So, you can be thankful for that voice inside of you.

Another way to do combat resistance is by controlling your mind.

This is where, the former Navy Seal Commander, Jocko Willink’s advice on mind control matters. For Jocko, mind control means controlling ones own thoughts and impulses rather than that of someone else’s, as it’s traditionally understood. You can control your mind and fight resistance in a simple way: just don’t give resistance a vote.

You have control over your mind. You just have to assert it. You have to decide that you are going to be in control, that you are going to do what YOU want to do. Weakness doesn’t get a vote. Laziness doesn’t get a vote. Sadness doesn’t get a vote. Frustration doesn’t get a vote. Negativity DOESN’T GET A VOTE! Your temper doesn’t get a vote. So next time you are feeling weak or lazy or soft or emotional, tell those feelings they don’t get a vote.

 

 

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What It Means To Be A Pro

The amateur and professional labels are often used to describe an individual and his/her work. We usually attach the term amateur to someone who may be classified as a hobbyist in their given craft. Such as an individual who plays organized basketball at their local YMCA. While a pro would be someone who plays basketball for a living. And so, perhaps the difference between an amateur and a professional could be explained with a paycheque. Or maybe it is how one dresses compared to the other. Or, how much success one has had in their respective field. Maybe even the kind of people you spend time with can help explain who is an amateur and who is a professional.

However, all of these explanations are based on the external aspect of life, on extrinsic criteria. For Steven Pressfield, the difference between an amateur and a professional is internal. The difference lies in the habits. In his book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work, Pressfield stresses the importance of becoming a pro, as he says:

What ails you and me has nothing to do with being sick or being wrong. What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs. So, the solution is to turn pro.

Turning pro comes with a sacrifice. In order to become a professional, we must sacrifice comfort, along with the self we identify with because these things are associated with being an amateur.

An amateur clings to comfort, fearing the uncomfortable, the unknown and so, he/she never grows. And in the realm of comfort, the amateur constantly seeks instant gratification, unable to put off pleasure for some future gain. Hence, becoming an obstacle to themselves, stunting their own growth.

Another sign of an amateur is procrastination. Someone who has millions of ideas which they will start tomorrow and as they procrastinate, they daydream, thinking of the past or some hopeful future, waiting, wasting their precision time and not using their present.

The pro, on the other hand, is straightforward in his/her aim and is willing to act towards it.

Pro plans his day to accomplish his aim. Amateur wastes his day in distractions and drama.

However, just because you act like a pro for one day does not mean that you are a pro. This is related to Pressfield’s concept of Resistance. In short, each day is a battle against our inner resistance, which tells you to act and embrace the amateur in you and each day we must recommit to being a pro.

What does it mean to be a pro?

The following are some key qualities as pro possess:

A pro shows up every day.

If committed for the long haul.

Gives his complete focus to his work.

Acts in the face of fear.

Accepts no excuses.

Doesn’t complain about circumstances.

Dedicates himself to mastering technique.

Is courageous in confronting one’s own doubts and demons.

Is not distracted (amateur tweets, pro works)

Holds himself to a higher standard.

Able to defer gratification.

Doesn’t wait for inspiration.

Gets a psychological reward through his work.

The pro works on habits of order, regularity, discipline and constant strive for excellence.

It is through a conscious effort that one becomes a pro. The good news is that anyone can achieve this status because we have control over our attitudes and behaviors through which we can mold our habits. The bad news is that it requires one to be uncomfortable and to sacrifice that easy path that is associated with amateurism.

The choice is clear but it resides in you and whether or not you are willing to go through with it, every day.

Reflections On Mastery Through Resistance Practice

Recently I read Robert Greene’s book, Mastery. The book puts forth the argument that everyone can master a skill which they love if you follow the outline that has been present throughout history. Greene draws from famous figures and links them to his principles and steps in order to showcase that no matter the discipline, whether it be sciences or art or sports, the underlying facts are the same. Simply put, in order to become a master at your craft, one needs to practice, with intent and focus, for hours on end coupled with discipline, self-control, and emotional stability.

Hence, there are no magic tricks. No short cuts. No Genie granting your wishes.

The reality is that in order to mastery something it will take years if not decades to get good at so you have to be in it for the long haul.

Now in the book, there are many different practices and principles one needs to understand in order to fully grasp the idea Greene has put forth. However, I will just be concentrating on one particular practice.

Robert Greene refers to it as Resistance practice. I previously discussed Steven Pressfield‘s notion of Resistance and Greene’s beliefs are similar to Pressfield. In whatever you do, there will be resistance, whether that comes in the form of external obstacles or whether it manifests itself through self-doubt or other psychological barriers. Knowing this, one must essentially strengthen their will and focus towards resistance through practice.

So, instead of waiting for some barrier or obstacle to come your way and then seeing if you can withstand it, you must create your own. That is just one part of it, the other being the constant practice of actually overcoming those barriers or obstacles. In this way, you build up your ability to combat resistance which allows you to achieve a higher level of proficiency in your craft.

An example of resistance practice would be to give yourself deadlines. Such self-imposed difficulty was what the great poet John Keats often practiced as Robert Greene mentioned in his book. Keats would give himself goals to write 50 lines each day and would commit to finishing long poems, up to 4,000 words, within 7  months. Through such deadlines, he would have to force himself to overcome laziness and self-doubt, to become more time efficient, to be more disciplined and essentially, to improve his character in order to meet his demands.

And so, we need to change our mindset when it comes to resistance.

Resistance is an ally. We need it to get to the next level in our craft. The lack of resistance or the lack of intensity allows us to remain comfortable and safe. Growth comes when you are uncomfortable. Resistance is uncomfortable which is why we must practice it in order to grow. The pressure of resistance aids us in creating what we dream of, making that dream a reality.