The Dream War

There’s a war inside us. We all feel it. One moment you’re chasing dreams, the next you’re being pulled toward laziness and sluggishness. You, like many others, seem to exhibit the never-ending irrationality in human behavior.

Author and expert marketer, Seth Godin, described it as this: “We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule…We say we want to be smart but we skip class or don’t read that book the boss lent us. The contradictions never end.”

The good news is the two opposing forces of this war within are identifiable. The great news is the good guy can win.

But first, who is the bad guy?

Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, calls it “The Resistance”: “The Resistance is a repelling force…Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work…if we give it so much as a nanosecond, [it] will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.”

The Resistance almost automatically engages situations with a propulsion to eat, attack, run or reproduce. It doesn’t care about dreams, it cares about survival. And anything that threatens survival, like risk or change, is a major threat that it wards off. So, when you’re considering quitting that job you never really liked or starting that project that will revolutionize your entire life, The Resistance is in top gear. As soon as you venture to destabilize the status quo, it becomes the voice that pleads with you to play it safe, to stay on the couch, to remain mediocre. Survival!

Yet, there’s the other force at work inside of you as well. The good guy. Your dream. It has opened your eyes to beauty and possibility. It keeps you awake at night, tells you you’re unique and encourages you contribute to humanity in an incredible way.

And it can win. The Resistance can lose its power and our dreams can be fulfilled.

The truth is, the good guy wins step by step. There’s no quick fix or immediate solution to winning the war within us; however, there are answers. In my efforts to write a meaningful story with my life, I’ve discovered a few tools:

1. Be friendly with The Resistance. Instead of being astounded by the fact that you’ll most likely want to flee in strenuous moments, acknowledge this reality and carry on. Some days I find myself saying, with a little tenderness, “Good morning, lizard brain, you’re awfully loud this morning. But we’re getting up, honey.” I tell it we’re gonna survive, and the chatter softens.

2. Follow through on commitments. I get up because I said I was going to get up. In other words, doing what I say I’m going to do increases my confidence to fight for my dreams. If you’ve never been one to follow through, start small. No matter what the voices in your head say, ignore them and, even if in a robotic manner, do what you said you were going to do. If you set your alarm to wake up at 7am to workout, don’t turn that alarm off! It’s better not to set it than to set it and break your commitment. Keep your commitments and celebrate the increase in trust you’ll create once you follow through!

3. Have a dream. Hone in your interests and choose something to work toward. Something I’ve always struggled with is wanting to do too many things, but I’ve heard countless experts on success communicate that we must narrow our focus if we want to see results.

4. Create a due date. Once you’ve built confidence in your ability to follow through with commitments you make to yourself, make a commitment to your dream. Write down the due date. Post it on the wall. Make it real.

5. Work hard, endure pain. There are a few people out there that get a kick out of pain, but most of us would rather treat our headaches with Aleve, our loneliness with Facebook, and our heartbreak with chocolate. We don’t like pain, but as soon as we understand that achieving the life we’ve always wanted takes sacrifice, we accept pain as part of the process.

As I train for Olympic qualifications in a few months, I am able to observe The Resistance actively at work, telling me that it’s all just too difficult. I have learned to acknowledge the survival mechanism at work and carry on, understanding that joy costs pain. This idea is put so well by Donald Miller, author of A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: “Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.” 

No matter where you are on your journey, identify the war within. If you sense its existence, it’s because you are being called to greatness. You are being called out of mediocrity and sluggishness into a story that you are intricately and uniquely woven into. And this is a war you can win.

The only question remaining is will you take the necessary steps to conquer?

 

Photo Credit: http://ourmidnightchaos.tumblr.com/post/6374704150

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