Everything great in life starts with a decision: the decision to start a business, the decision to change careers, the decision to enter into a relationship or have kids, the decision to stop being a victim, stop blaming others or external factors, and take 100% responsibility for your emotional well being. Every great song was preceded by the decision to sit down and compose. For every great painting or piece of art, a decision was first made to walk to the canvass. Every great book started with the decision to sit down and write, and then keep writing until it is done. You cannot do anything in life without first making a decision. Everything starts with a decision: your new life, your new career, and your sense of fulfillment and purpose must first start with a decision.
Decisions are the mechanism that facilitates ideas into tangible existence. Everything first begins in the mind, in the form of a thought, but it takes a decision, backed by discipline to move that thought into reality. Many people have ideas. Many people dream about working from home or abroad, starting a business, writing a book, starting a blog, or attempting something unique, but it seems that only a few people actually pull it off. A true decision involves removing the escape route. The etymology of the word “decide” reveals a notion of “cutting off” alternatives. So in actuality many people fail to create, they fail to start, they fail to take a chance because they fail to decide, in the sense of making a true decision, a decision where alternatives are eliminated. When they fail to decide they miss out on the feeling of being alive that is associated with taking risks, and charting one’s own unique course.
What is the force that prevents people from stepping over the threshold and making real decisions, regardless of the consequences? One of my favorite writers, Steven Pressfield in his books The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks And Win Your Inner Creative Battles and Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power And Create Your Life’s Work , labels this pernicious force “resistance”. Resistance can take many forms: fear, laziness, distraction, addiction, indulgence, self-doubt, or giving too much credence to critics. It can be subtle, and disguise itself as what Pressfield calls “shadow careers”, where we are too scared to seek out our true calling (even through we know deep down in our hearts what that calling is) so we seek a shadow career, one that really entails no real risk, and one that if we fail, the consequences are basically meaningless. For me, law was a shadow career.
Resistance is a terribly effective force. It invokes paralysis, rationalization and immobilization. It justifies fear by distorting the importance of “rational risk analysis” when in reality sometimes the best thing that can ever happen to us is that we take an irrational position, indulge a risky venture or an “unorthodox” career move. Resistance, as Pressfield notes, will catch you dead in your tracks. Resistance will particularly rear its ugly head when a creative endeavor is attempted, and don’t for one second think that starting a business enterprise isn’t a creative venture. Resistance has stopped, and will continue to stop, many people from creating their art (which for many is in the realm of entrepreneurialism).
How do you stop this paralyzing force? Pressfield’s answer literally changed my life, and is the reason I have been able to write 209 pages of my first ever book (the first of many to come).
You defeat resistance by doing your work. You defeat resistance by being a professional. What does this mean? It means that if you make a decision that you are going to leave your current career because your heart is calling you elsewhere, you make a decision, and then you stop thinking about it. You control the fear and the criticism through work, plain and simple. Work keeps the mind from stirring. Work keeps the anxieties from racing. Work keeps fear from being immobilizing. You sit down and you work. As Pressfield once noted on his blog, “you put your ass where you heart wants to be”. There is no other path. This is the path of the professional: work.
If your heart is yearning for freedom from your nine to five, then in the hours from when the kids go to bed, until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore from fatigue, you must be building your business. Resistance will take the form of TV and fiction books. Resistance will take the form of making you believe that your idea won’t turn a profit. It will take the form of self-hypnosis that you don’t have what it takes to market yourself. You shut it up through work. That is what a pro does. A pro doesn’t spend her life in self-analysis. A pro spends her life refining her craft. A master makes time for the things in his life that speaks to his heart.
Defeating resistance is how I am writing my book, day after day after day. I’ve had many self-doubts. I still do, “what do you have to say?”, “who wants to read this anyway?”, “you are too busy with your business”, “you are neglecting your family by spending so much time on this”, but my heart keeps yearning.
Every time I feel resistance I immediately make a goal to push out 500 words, then another 500 words, then another, until finally the first draft was completed. Whether or not you consider my book beneficial or even effectively written doesn’t really matter. What is most important is that I defeat resistance. I have a thought in my head. I have a message that I want to share, and I’ll keep at it. I’ll keep working until the message was out. I’ll defeat resistance. That is my goal. Anything else is ancillary. It doesn’t even matter if I’m the only one who ever reads my book. The most important rewards are the ones experienced internally.
That is the way that you take ideas and bring them into reality. If you want to write a book, learn a language, get a blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu, get a recruit in your downline, start a business, figure out how to make passive income on the internet, weed your garden, anything, there is only one path: work. You have to have the Spartan discipline to sit down every day and make progress. When resistance rears its ugly head you defeat it by doing your work. You work on your business every single day. You work on unleashing your creativity every single day. This process is at the heart of my rules for being happy. I can trace everything positive that has happened in my life since I left law to this process: first, discovering what I value, what makes me tick, what makes me feel alive, outside of any monetary goal or social status; second, making a true decision to pursue it, this means actually cutting off alternatives; and third defeating resistance each day by showing up and doing my work.
This process makes the journey fulfilling. It is freeing because my life is no longer about the rewards. It is about the process. The process in and of itself is fulfilling. It is autotelic. It is self-contained. Life is most rewarding, most rich and most abundant when each day I am defeating resistance on the path of what I value most. This is the path of ultimate freedom. It is the freedom of the mind. I am free from the trap of external rewards or seeking money goals just because that is what everyone else is doing. I am free from the trap of needing other’s approval or acclaim to make myself feel complete. Life is no longer a competition where money is the measure of success, where what my neighbor does, or buys impacts my thoughts.
Life is my own to experience. It is about doing the work that I know I was meant to do. It is about fulfilling my own unique purpose.