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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We live in a world with infinite possibility; infinite room for growth; infinite choice.
Yet society at large is depressed.
Being happy requires that you define your life in your own terms and then throw your whole heart into living your life to the fullest." - Brian Tracy
Because real happiness comes from choosing your purpose and committing to it.
Brian Tracy says it even better (bolded by me for greater emphasis):
The key to happiness is this: Dedicate yourself to the development of your natural talents and abilities by doing what you love to do, and doing it better and better in the service of a cause that is greater than yourself. This is a big statement and a big commitment. Being happy requires that you define your life in your own terms and then throw your whole heart into living your life to the fullest. In a way, happiness requires that you be perfectly selfish in order to develop yourself to a point where you can be unselfish for the rest of your life.
Now let's assume you already accept that you can be whatever you want to be (with enough time), and that you will be successful at any pursuit you undertake (with enough effort), and you have the freedom to choose both, then what is there to be depressed about?
Simple: most people can commit to just about anything (working for less than they're worth, or accepting an abusive relationship, or allowing someone else to dictate their life plan), but are paralyzed by their freedom to choose.
Few people can say they chose the path that they are on; that they chose their purpose ON purpose. Most simply wander until they find something agreeable - or worse - suffer for their entire lives, never finding something even remotely worthwhile.
Why? What's the hangup?
Choice is scary; when you choose a specific course of action you automatically:
1) take responsibility, and
2) deny all other courses of action (presumably).
It's a shame that most people are so good at the commitment part, but lack the courage to make a choice.
So stop wandering and start choosing; begin by making the choice to live on purpose today.