Why Just Do It Is A Just Don’t
We’re a world of dreamers. We have bucket lists and life goals, and it seems nearly everyone wants to a) get in shape, b) write a book, or c) start their own business. I recently wrote about how to cultivate willpower in order to make our dreams a reality. And I was still mulling that idea when I caught Steven Pressfield discussing his book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.
Pressfield tackles the other side of willpower, which is resistance. He talks about this dark side of our calling, which keeps us stuck and in constant stasis. The more passionate we are about our dreams, the stronger the pull of resistance. His advice isn’t a magic pill; it’s simply to accept resistance as a natural force, and commit to “put your ass where your heart wants to be.” If you want to write, put yourself in front of a computer. Movement begets movement.
(Pressfield, by the way, knows about resistance. He’s written 12 books, including The Legend of Bagger Vance, but it took him 17 years — and a stint being homeless — before making any money from his writing.)
Anyone who has thought of venturing into unknown waters understands this pull of resistance. We can easily rationalize it away as being cautious, analytical or realistic. And the older we get, we may find that our dreams are even at odds with our motivation.
Heidi Grant Alvorson, a social psychologist and associate director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia Business School, says that as we age we are more motivated by prevention rather than promotion. Promotion motivation is about seeing our goals in terms of gains, whether new experiences or more money. Prevention motivation is about sustaining the status quo and mitigating loss.
When we grow older, we lose the idealism that we can accomplish anything by taking risks (i.e. there’s a reason 50-year olds don’t go around tweeting YOLO). As we lose that sense of youthful immortality, we’re more likely to want to hold on to the gains we’ve made. It’s harder to chase that entrepreneurial dream when you have a decent job, a mortgage and kids in private school.
All of this adds up to a whole lot of people with big dreams who aren’t doing anything about them. We’ve elevated the self-help market into a $10 billion recession-proof industry, which hits squarely at this longing for self-actualization. Most of us know, on some innate level, that self-actualization can only come from living into our calling and using our full strengths.
Perhaps this endless pushing and pulling is inevitable in our culture of ambition. We want to chase our dreams for fulfillment but we’re worried to lose what we have in the process.
Or are we masterful at making excuses for what is, in essence, resistance or fear? We don’t try at all despite the fact that there are small steps that can be made without sacrificing everything.
Either way, there are a lot of us stuck, with books unwritten and companies forever in idea stage. As Pressfield so eloquently put it, perhaps the only way to get there is to move our butts closer to the possibility.
Where does yours need to go?
Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. Find her at kristihedges.com and @kristihedges.
This column also appears on Forbes.com. Image credit: master isolated images.
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