Fighting Fatigue, Part One

This is the first part of some thoughts on fighting fatigue. As someone who writes, teaches and consults with people I’ve been thinking a lot about the problems that hold all of us back from reaching our true potential.

Before I get into specifically business related topics, let’s start with things that hold us back from pursuing the big, lofty ideals.

Take “Follow your dreams.”

That’s easy enough, right?

You’ve heard it thousands of times. You’ve read it in books, heard it in everyday conversation. You’ve seen movies and listened to songs that used it as a theme.

And I’m willing to bet that a number of times in your life, you’ve really taken those words to heart. You’ve read them or heard them, and inside your head something responded and resonated that made you think for a moment, “Yes that’s right. I should follow my dreams.”

And it’s so simple, but are you doing it? Right now, can you honestly say you’re following your dreams?

Probably not, or at least not to the extent you could be. Right?

So there’s a gap. On one side, there’s this idea – this truth – that sparked brightly in your head and on the other side of the chasm is you actually acting on it.

And this is really important to understand, because it’s at the root of so many of our slow failures. It’s the gulf between what we know is true in our heads and our hearts and how we act. That gap can take many forms – from procrastination to stubborn denial to creating needless drama to actual physical manifestations like anxiety and disease –  but they all boil down to one root cause; fear.

Here’s what I think happens. We hear, read or think something that resonates with us and that we know is true. It’s in our head, and in that moment, we intend to take that idea out into the world and act on it.

But something happens as soon as this thought tries to take its first steps. Instead of being welcomed into the world, this idea is challenged… viciously. It’s insulted and assaulted beaten-down and broken.

In our head, we knew that “follow your dreams” rang true. But in the cruel world, we’re told if we follow our dreams we’ll starve or subject our family to misery. We’re told to rationally consider the odds; how many fools pursue their dreams, and how very few succeed. We’re told that our dreams aren’t attainable. We’re told, over and over, why “follow your dreams” is a dream itself.

We’re told these things, by people close to us — our friends and family, our coworkers and confidants. And with the advent of the Internet, we also get the chance to have simple truth is attacked by total strangers, all over the world, with a permanent record stored on a servers somewhere.

And so suddenly that simple idea that we had in our heads seems like a crazy impossibility. We were delusional for thinking it in the first place. And really, after weighing it out we knew was a pipe dream along.

I mean, think about it. “Follow your dreams?” How trite. It’s like something a child would think. Who does that? Who can do that? Nobody I know. No, the people I now have to put food on the table.

And soon we learn how to do crush our ideas with hardly any help at all. It’s more efficient that way, isn’t it? Why wait for someone else to kill our ideas when can just we strangle them ourselves in their infancy?

This all happens in the blink of an eye. Simple truth turned into embarrassing distant memory. At that point, you’d be foolish to act.

And so there it is. The gap, the chasm, the gulf. All those questions and all those voices delivered their death blows to your dreams.

That’s where people like me come in, in our capacity as writers, artists and teachers. We’re not trying to come up with some new truth , because ultimately there aren’t any. So we pick up the old tattered and battered ones and try to nurse some new life into them.

Yes, they are the same old truths. Old, trite, clichéd…that’s what the critical voices shout. Things like “Follow Your Dreams.” But we tell their stories again and we look for new stories that bring them to life anew. We repaint them and repackage them and hold them up to the light.

We know you know you know these old truths. Somewhere inside – you still know. And that’s why you sought us out. It’s why you’re hear right now. You want you to remember.

And when we to remind you about the simple ideas that are so important you implement, you know we’re battling right?

The enemy isn’t your parents or your friends or teacher or your envious enemies or strangers on the Internet or any of the other choir of critics that are so easy to blame.

It’s you. We can’t shut up all the critics. It’s not possible. We’re just trying to get through to YOU because you do have the power to shut them up..

Those wars going on – those voices of violence – only matter if you listen to them.

The critics are a persistent illusion, as real as you make them. They are mostly dust; echoes of things said to you in a distant past. They are the fear of what you’re afraid you’ll be told again. And every time one of those ghosts appears and points at you and screams, you can let it shame you. It’s hard to fight the feeling that the world is looking at you and judging you grimly in that moment, because the specter has exposed you and brought with it an Army.

Keep moving. Ignore the voice of fear and keep moving. That’s the message you need to hear right now and the one we all need to be reminded of, over and over again.

So those are the lofty ideals. Next post : the details that we ignore.