Resistance, Habits and Progress
“We’re wounded by fear
Injured in doubt
I can lose myself
You I can’t live without” – U2, Red Hill Mining Town
Bono is singing about his relationship with God with those lyrics. I’m not inclined to embrace religion in the same way. I’m more pragmatic I guess. A higher power? A creator? I don’t know… and anyone who says they do should be greeted with a degree of skepticism. And yet the lyrics resonate. They just mean something else to me; A universal struggle against our inner critic. Fighting the saboteur within. Steve Pressfield calls it The Resistance. Seth Godin describes it as overcoming your Lizard Brain. It’s far easier to embrace distraction, and it’s easier than ever. Fight through it. For me that means making more outbound activity to drive business in my job, but it also means fighting for the daily habits of reading, writing and exercise. And the struggle is real.
I just finished reading Atomic Habits, which is a great book that I can highly recommend. But I’ve read many books on self-improvement, compounding action over time, grit, etc. The call to action resonates, but it’s the action that must occur now. What I like about Atomic Habits is that James Clear breaks down the process of establishing habits into small, actionable steps.
“Focus on the process not the result.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits
“Incentives can start a habit. Identity sustains a habit.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits
Now this I believe in. I’ve seen too many examples of identity sustaining habits. Friends who identify themselves as hikers are off hiking every weekend, and are more fit and happy than ever before. Friends identifying themselves as entrepreneurs who jump into the deep end and live the life of a business owner, learning and climbing as they go. Tired but more satisfied in life for the identity they’ve chosen for themselves.
Me? I’m working to establish my identity as an athletic, accomplished sales professional and well-read, well-travelled, disciplined writer. I’ve established the loyal husband, father, son and friend thing already. And I’m proud of that. Time to add more. Do I want to be an accomplished sales professional? I don’t know that I do, but I know it’s a means to an end. Elizabeth Gilbert discusses jobs versus careers in a YouTube video I’ve watched a few times. I’m 52 going on 53. I don’t give a damn about career aspirations at this point in my life. I care about being successful enough to more than cover the bills and keep the family ship afloat.
“If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you didn’t seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.” – Rudyard Kipling
That’s as informative a quote as I’ve chewed on in quite some time. I care about being a professional and my contribution to the team, but I don’t give a damn about being a VP or President of a company or any such nonsense. No, that’s not for me.
“No, that’s not me.” – Arya Stark, Game of Thrones
But all that said, I believe in making progress as a professional, as a member of society, as an individual. If we aren’t moving forwards we’re moving backwards. So growth is a key metric in life. Being better today than yesterday. And tomorrow better still. Aiming for 1% improvement. That’s tangible progression towards a goal, even if the goal is to be a better person.
“Direction is greater than outcome.” – James Clear