Now comes the hard part: the day-by-day moments where you have to live out those promises and resolutions you made just a few weeks ago, lest you face another year of reckoning and wrecking your best laid plans. There’s a reasonable chance that all of your well-intended visioncasting and early action is starting to wane (after all, it’s almost February). If it hasn’t yet, hold on. It will.
And know that you’re not alone.
While we all need this important if not wholly artificial January reset, we need something even greater to stop us from hitting the proverbial snooze button on pursuing our joy; that thing and sense of purpose we know, deep down, we were meant to pursue and do.
In effort to keep myself on track, I continually return to Steven Pressfield as he knows a thing or two about this conundrum, and his truth-searing words are like a bucket of ice water thrown in one’s face. If you’re an artist, writer, maker, entrepreneur or creative of any type, you need his wise words bouncing around your head on days of setbacks as well as the ones filled with promise. In his book The War of Art, he talks about that thing, that force, that undeniable enemy that lines up on the opposite side of the field preparing to slay you again and again. As a prelude to his deep dive on falling short and understanding why that is, he sends us a wake-up call with this passage below.
If you need motivation that you cannot conjure up on your own, read it.
If you can visualize your end reward knowing you just need to persevere, read it.
Or if you’re scared to death of not realizing what you were meant to become, then definitely read it.
Neither Times Square nor your town square catalogs your hope-filled confetti. Your party hat and noisemaker have long been recycled. The clock continues to tick whether you’re counting it down or not. And you still have choices to make about pushing through or getting up off the mat.
THE UNLIVED LIFE
Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two lies Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark on a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you envisioned the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who doesn’t start a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is a Latin word. The Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling. A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It’s our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.
Every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance. As powerful as is our soul’s call to realization, so potent are the forces of Resistance arrayed against it. Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, harder to kick than crack cocaine. We’re not alone if we’ve been mowed down by Resistance. Millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here’s the biggest bitch: we don’t even know what hit us. I never did. From age twenty-four to thirty-two, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again thirteen times and I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face.
Have you heard this story: Woman learns she has cancer, six months to live. Within days she quits her job, resumes the dream of writing Tex-Mex songs she gave up to raise a family (or starts studying classical Greek, or moves to the inner city and devotes herself to tending babies with AIDS). Woman’s friends think she’s crazy; she herself has never been happier. There’s a postscript. Woman’s cancer goes into remission.
Is that what it takes? Do we have to stare Death in the face to make us stand up and confront Resistance? Does Resistance have to cripple and disfigure our lives before we wake up to its existence? How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to? Resistance defeats us. If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, infotainment business, not to mention the pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and dandruff.
Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real. Resistance will bury you.
You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it an overstatement but I will say it anyway: It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.
Steven Pressfield, excerpt from The War of Art