Note: if you haven’t read The Art of Instigating, read that first. Grab a copy for free by clicking here. It’s short and sweet, I promise.
The Creative War
When it comes to doing creative, courageous work, there are forces at work that act against us.
Any time we strive to create something from scratch and without permission, we go to war with the Enemy.
The Enemy is composed of two major fighting units: conventional forces (the Army of Bad Habits we’ve accumulated over the years), and unconventional forces (the voice in our head that feeds us negative self-talk propaganda).
These units are led by a hardened combat veteran that wants nothing more than to see your creative work fail: the brain stem.
Understanding the Creative Enemy
To fight the Enemy, we must understand the Enemy.
We will start with the Army of Bad Habits (arguably the simplest to identify, although not necessarily the easiest to defeat).
The Army of Bad Habits is nothing more than the accumulation of years of individual negative actions repeated consistently over time.
These actions, over the course of that time, have gained brain map territory and strengthened their trench lines (neural networks).
Now, anytime we do something counter to those bad habits, it’s like trying to take down Goliath as David (but we’re stone-less and blindfolded).
Try as we might to change a bad habit, or replace a bad habit with a good habit, we still have the Enemy’s neural network deeply rooted in our brain map territory.
The Truth About Habits
This is essential to understand: you will never entirely rid yourself of your bad habit, nor entirely rid yourself of the desire (no matter how faint) to repeat the bad habit.
No matter how often you repeat a good habit, it will never become fixed and automatic (but it will become easier).
The same principle that allows us to create new habits (the plasticity of the brain) is the same principle that allows old habits to strengthen and remain, to some degree, in our brain map territory.
A habit does not mean automatic and thoughtless: a habit is simply muscle memory.
We can choose to strengthen a good habit each day, or we can regress and act on the old, bad habit again (thus strengthening the old neural networks of that bad habit, no matter how many years it’s been dormant).
That’s why the person in Alcoholics Anonymous admits to being an alcoholic, but fights daily to remain sober (and, therefore, fights daily never to resume the old lifestyle, never to repeat the old, bad habit).
The plasticity of the brain is both a blessing and a curse this way.
It’s a blessing because it means we can always, ALWAYS change, no matter how far we’ve fallen, regressed, or deteriorated.
It doesn’t matter if you failed to become the person you wanted to become, or failed to write the book you dreamed of writing, or failed to start the business you envisioned years ago; every single one of these failures is nothing more than a roadblock, obstacle, or setback – none of these failures are hardwired in the brain, nor do they define us.
If we choose, we can create new habits, destroy the deep rooted bad habits, and get to work on instigating our life’s work.
You can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.
But only if the old dog WANTS to learn new tricks.
And here’s the curse of plasticity: nothing about creating new habits is easy.
There’s no quick fix. There’s no magic genie waiting to grant your wish at the snap of a finger.
If you continue to perpetuate your old ways, to reinforce your bad habits, the Enemy gets stronger.
The Army of Bad Habits will continue to fight to strengthen their trench lines and gain more brain map territory.
The Lifetime Creative War
This is a war that lasts an entire lifetime, and it’s a war each and every one of us fights.
Any person looking to create something from scratch, without permission, is entering the warzone.
There are no gifted people without struggles or problems; there are no talented people that create freely and easily. That gifted, talented, and supposedly carefree inventor, designer, writer, entrepreneur, or athlete you see is fictional.
They care – and they fight, just like you and I.
There are no breaks – just our own actions, our own thoughts, and our own work.
Remember, we can break old habits and we can create new habits, no matter how old we are. That’s the beauty of brain plasticity.
But it also means, the longer we wait, the harder that fight becomes.
So pick up arms and start fighting (sit down at your desk and get to work; go to the gym and workout; throw out your processed, junk food and fill your fridge with healthy food; stop avoiding people and start calling people to make sales).
Your life’s work depends on it.