Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.
First, Know What You Want is about finding out what you want and about choosing to pursue it.
Last Wednesday night I was talking to a group about the difference between mood and desire, between following what you feel like and following what you truly want. When someone piped up:
“But it’s hard to do what you want rather than follow your feelings isn’t it?”
Yes, it is. You’re inside an animal body sending you information all the time through your feelings. You’re wandering around inside a body interested in short-term gains and it’s insistent about getting those needs met. Your body believes if you do something outside it will change how you feel. For example, if you put sugar in your mouth you will feel better. So your feelings will give a loud push to do something external to get more pleasure or avoid pain.
The other bit though, the bit that is you, the bit wandering around inside this animal body has a truer sense of what will benefit you. This is the part you are hoping to train so it’s voice becomes louder. This bit concentrates on what you really want. Sometimes to do this you have to disregard the chatter from your body.
Perhaps a personal example will help.
Saturday morning at 6.30am I’d dropped my youngest off at swim training and retired to my nearest office (i.e. McDonalds) for coffee and to do my morning pages. Black coffee in hand I wandered outside, lit a cigarette and stood in the rare sunshine (this is the UK) enjoying the first rush of caffeine and nicotine, notebook and pen on the table.
Then came the moment of choice, do I stand and sip in the sunshine? Light another one? Or go inside and write? My body was clear on the issue – warm sun on my face, coffee right temperature, first ciggie glorious. I should stay outside.
But I’ve met this impostor before. Capping my coffee I walked to the door and went inside. On the way, every part of my feelings and body cried out to stay, to smoke, to chill in the sun. Ignoring the noise I sat down and started writing.
This is a rare example of me choosing to go with what I really wanted. I’ve done it often enough to know the long-term benefits of writing morning pages outweigh the short-term gain of a moment in the sun. I know if I had stayed outside, time would run away, morning pages would remain unwritten and next time it would be even harder to resist. But I still had to fight to do it. And as usual, the fight stopped the second I picked up my pen.
Follow me for the rest of the day and I’m not so good, often choosing short-term pleasure over long-term gain. And that’s the point.
This stuff is hard. I’m not promising it will be easy if you decide to move in the direction of what you want. It might not. The resistance is strong sometimes.
Look into your own heart. Even though you’ve only read a few paragraphs into this article, unless I’m crazy, right now a still, small voice is piping up, telling you as it has 10 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!
Yes, acting in favour of your true desire can be tough but if you want more of what you really want, it’s hard to see any other choice.
Here’s a longer thing I wrote on choosing desire over mood.
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