“Your words have no meaning. They are empty phrases we can’t relate to. What we need is your experience.”
It was my first workshop and I had been crushed by the truth. And I knew it. They wouldn’t have to tell me. Like everyone who is striving after a worthwhile endeavour, I have to push against my fears and weaknesses trying to drag me down and stop me.
The black hole – our everyday enemy
Anything worth striving for sits outside a vicious black hole. Good habits, worthwhile projects, essential duties. We aim to implement or progress on them in our daily lives, but we tend not to. Not because we don’t want it. It’s because of the glaring gap between knowing and achieving; acting. In the end, it’s only consistent action that will get us to the realization of our desires and dreams. What stops us from acting are the pullback forces that sit in the center of the black hole.
The center – where our fears and weaknesses reside
It’s here everything collapses. Time, light, our lives. If we paid attention in school, we know the center to be the place with the highest gravity and density. In our model of the black hole, it’s the place where our scope of experience is the smallest. Whatever endeavor we aspire to undertake, we all start in the middle; with no experience and strong forces keeping us put.
Like in real life physics, the further away we get from the center, and the bigger our scope of experience gets, the less powerful the pull forces drag on us. Simple. In theory.
Embarrassment. Fear of failure. Self doubt whether we can really push through. Near the center, we encounter critique and discouragement from other people. We lack experience and can’t share our ideas and beliefs authentically. But we can talk about nothing else, as we have not done or finished anything. When striving for a good habit, we encounter forces like laziness and social pressure. Lack of knowledge or bad habits tend to get in the way, too.
All pullback forces vary in their frequency and power, are stronger and more present during certain times. Together, they mix into a poisonous cocktail which keeps us from becoming our best possible selves.
Pushing forward with sheer willpower is a task for Heracles. The mortal make use of push forces to keep moving. We don’t have to wrestle the black hole with our bare hands.
9 items to fight the gravitational forces of the black hole
Item #1.) A purpose – the jetpack
The engine to keep us moving. In moments of despair and hopelessness, we go back and remind ourselves of our purpose, of why we are pushing in the first place. Why do you pursue project x? Why do you want to pick up habit y? Whatever we do, we should determine a clear purpose first. If we embark on a journey without answering the why first, it will be much harder to fight the forces pulling us back and push through hardships which are certain to arise. Besides, everything is more fun with a jetpack.
Item #2.) Dissatisfaction – the hostile planet
Without dissatisfaction, there will be no change.
I shamelessly stole this premise from a great friend. It underlines the whole concept of our voyage. If we are satisfied with our current situation, why should we strive to change anything? Oftentimes, we find dissatisfaction to be a driving force itself. Although we might not know why and where we are moving, we move out of aversion for the status quo. Name what you pi**es so you of so you can strive to fix it. It will give you clarity and build the foundation for a vision.
Item #3.) A Vision – the planet we want to inhabit
If we don’t know what we are looking for, we will have a hard time trying to find it. A vision is what we ultimately strive to achieve. A dream we want to come true. Often a goal grander than ourselves. Commonly applied in projects, we can make use of it to implement good habits. How does the future you look, feel or sound like after having consistently executed the activity? Describe the moment or day the project has proved to be a success.
The more senses we can activate to create a crisp image, the more powerful this item becomes. Whenever we feel lost or stuck in the process, our vision is there to remind us of where persistence will lead us.
#4.) Goals & a roadmap – a map of the galaxy
The galaxy of life is a big and dark place. It’s easy to get lost and lose sight of our vision. To stay on track, we need a map to know where to go and how to get there. A map gives us crucial benefits along our journey; clarity and a strategy. Jointly with a purpose and a vision, we know why, where and how to move.
Determine goals that will move you towards your vision. What are the objectives and milestones that will move you towards your goal? A common tactic is to have SMART goals and a roadmap to structure our journey. But keep in mind that planets and stars move. And where now shines a bright star, it might extinguish, leaving nothing but darkness. Our goals and possibly our vision will change. We can’t and shouldn’t plan everything.
Item On #5.) Internal & external rewards – the stars we aim for
It’s the shining stars we strive after. The further away we get from the center, the more experienced we become, and the more success and positive reinforcements we will encounter. They have to be deserved, thus we should celebrate them accordingly. Reflecting upon our successes serves as a strong push force. It boosts our motivation and assures us of heading in the right direction.
But stars differ. Some are brighter than others. We have to differentiate between stars that shine by themselves and stars needing an external source of light (real life physics don’t apply in Wolleworld).
The outcomes of pushing against our fears and weaknesses. The exhaustion after a hard workout. The feeling of accomplishment after a productive day at work. Or the calm and present mindset after a yoga session. What are the possible sensations of the activities you strive to follow?
It’s the results we see that come from experience and deliberate action. Financial success, popularity, recognition. They tend to be our first and the major push force for many. But understand that no external motivator will ever be as strong as an internal motor. A jetpack or pounding heart (item no. 9, wait for it) will always beat the fleeting boost of a star. We should strive to move away from aiming at external successes and see them as a pleasant side product.
Item #6.) Fear setting – the torch against the night
It’s darkness we fear. The undefined we avoid that paralyzes us.
Named must your fear be before banish it you can.
Define your fears on paper, look for ways to prevent them and think through how you can repair the damage in case your fears materialize. This, again, will give us clarity and tell us what to do when we feel succumbing to our fears. Some are real, but we shouldn’t conclude so before having shed light on them with our torch. Very often will we realize that most things are not as serious as we make them to be.
Read more on fear setting and it’s benefits here.
Item #7.) Role models, mentors and friends – astronauts to guide you and voyage with
What a terrible place the galaxy of life would be if we were alone. But we are not. There are role models and potential mentors that have traversed the path we are on. They pushed through similar hardships, overcame the same fears and can teach and motivate us to do the same.
Besides, there are astronauts sharing our vision and moving towards similar stars. Look for role models, mentors and friends to join forces, exchange ideas and grow jointly. Together, it is easier to fight the black hole.
Item #8.) Social accountability – flipping the magnet
We can either succumb to the pulling force of social pressure. Or we can use it to drive us towards action. Choose to share our intentions and goals. Or keep quite and disappoint none but ourselves.
By publicly committing to our intentions and goals, we reverse the pulling force. Use social accountability and embarrassment to keep us moving. We don’t want to be seen as the person who always claims and never does. Share what you aim to do and achieve with family and friends. You will be amazed by the power of social accountability.
A word of warning; this item should be used in moderation. By claiming to much before doing anything we might (1) aim for unrealistic stars and (2) break under too much pressure.
Item #9.) Love for the process – the heart that never stops beating
If we enjoy fighting against the physical pain of exercise, or find pleasure in solving complex problems, we found love for a process outside our comfort zone. These are the things we should continue to pursue. What activity could you do over and over again others seem to struggle with? Is there a seemingly uncomfortable activity you love doing even after a hard day of work? Tales often remind us of how powerful love truly is. And tend to forget how hard it is to find it.
Rarely do we stumble upon it. What we have to do is embrace the grind. Deliberately aim to find things we enjoy in the activities that make us uncomfortable. Often, love arises after persevering through hardships, standing up after failures and seeing progress after consistent execution. Till we love the process, we have the other items to keep us moving.
These are the 9 items to fight the gravitational forces that keep us from greatness. If you know more, I encourage you to reach out or share your ideas and opinions in the comment section. Be my astronaut so we can learn how to fight the black hole together. In the end, that’s all we can do …
The paradox of the black hole
We can’t escape the pulling forces. And we can’t fall into the bottomless hole either. It’s here the metaphor of the black hole breaks. Life is motion. Without a pulling force, there is no pushing force. Without growth, there is no decay. In between is where life happens.
The very act of pushing forward and striving for experience is what makes our lives worthwhile and memorable. Every move we make is an experience that adds bits and pieces to who we are. And nobody, not even the black hole, can take them away.
We shouldn’t and can’t push forward constantly. Periods of comfort recharge our battery. If deserved, they are the pleasures that make our pushing joyful in the first place. Treat them like guests who settle down despite having nowhere to sleep. They will slowly take over if we let them. Don’t allow them to lodge. But if they happen to stay overnight, enjoy their company to the fullest.
In the end, our journey is about living with the forces of the black hole. The items are there to help us fight our fears and weaknesses. And knock them out to aim for the stars …