In this post, I give you radical permission to do what you want! How will that help you reach your big life dreams? Read on!
I share with you about the Inner Taskmaster and the Inner Rebel and how they both sabotage your dreams. I start the conversation about two different kinds of willpower and which one will help you.
And best of all, I give you a radical, delicious assignment that will help you live guided by heart, so that you can create a gorgeous, joyful, soulful, fulfilling life.
This is the third in a series of posts on Enthusiasm vs. Willpower as we walk our heart path toward our dreams. To read the second post called The Shining Bridge to Reach Your Dreams, click here. To read the first post called Enthusiasm vs. Willpower: Surprising New Discoveries, click here.
Ok, let’s dive in!
Two Kinds of Will
There are two kinds of will, and they are very different. They come from different places within us and have vastly different effects on us and our lives.
Most of us have an internalized drill sergeant or taskmaster. This part of you is not your friend or ally. Many people think they need the taskmaster to get things done, stay healthy, exercise, eat right, write their book, accomplish anything meaningful. This is the first place they turn to within when trying to get themselves to do something. And it’s a mistake.
Many people rely on this inner taskmaster, and at the same time fight against it, their whole lives, falling on and off the wagon of whatever program they have set for themselves. And feeling terrible about it.
“If only I could be more disciplined,” they believe. And so, they renew their efforts yet again, and fail again, lowering their opinion of themselves once more, as well as their hope for the future.
They continue this cycle, despite the fact that it is not working, because it is all they know to do.
When I work with people on unleashing their creativity and living their heart’s dreams, I often have to begin by helping them send the inner taskmaster on a one-way ticket to the Bahamas.
The Taskmaster and the Rebel
The taskmaster always conjures our inner rebel. No one likes to be pushed around. When pushed, we push back.
So, the rebel comes to our defense when the taskmaster is ordering us around.
The rebel does not want to do anything the taskmaster says and will sabotage its efforts, making us do the opposite, wake up later than we intended, stay up too late watching movies, get on the internet when we intended to be painting. . .
If you understand that the rebel always accompanies the taskmaster, you will understand and have more compassion for your own cycles of hard work and conscientious effort toward your dreams and goals and then goofing off, letting every distraction and passing pleasure come in the way of those dreams and goals.
What If You Only Do What You Want?
I often give my students the radical assignment to do only what they feel like doing for three weeks (or much longer!)—no shoulds or have to’s, no self-betterment programs, routines or healthy habits, unless they truly want to do it. (Note: This does not include if you have a job you need to go to or kids to take care of, but does include anything and everything else that you put upon yourself as a must or should.)
This practice helps put our hearts, our love and joy, our curiosity, passion and self-kindness back in the driver’s seat. And it can lead us back to doing our creative play from genuine love, desire and enthusiasm.
Be patient with this assignment. If you have been ordering yourself around with your taskmaster for years, it may takes months of letting yourself lie on the couch and read trashy novels before an honest desire to do something else can be felt and followed. The time spent will be well worth the result.
If you are patient enough to let yourself do only what you really want, you will be surprised and amazed at how clearly your own loves, passions, desires, interests and gifts begin to show themselves. And how easy it is to do them.
How I Healed Myself
I did this practice of only doing what I wanted (outside of work hours) for months after I dropped out of graduate school in music.
I was at sea in my life, having lost my clear direction and my ability to create music with love and joy. I had no idea what to do next. I was afraid if I did not keep driving myself with that fierce inner taskmaster who had gotten me to accomplish so much for so long, all I would do is lie around eating bon-bons.
Strangely, that is not what happened.
I did lie on the couch a lot, reading. And I went to a lot of art movies.
But, I was reading poetry and novels, translating poems for fun, reading the dictionary to learn new words and the etymology of words, writing in my journal, writing poems, seeing amazing films, going for long walks, going to literary events.
And still, I thought I was doing nothing, until a friend pointed out how consistently I was focused on writing, story-telling, words, art. That is what I was choosing to do. I couldn’t even see it. I thought I was just lazing around.
If You Have a Strong Inner Taskmaster
So, the first kind of willpower is the taskmaster. And it is an unhealthy and unsustainable kind of willpower that will have us cycling between striving and exhaustion, between accomplishment and disappointing ourselves. And all the time we will be being mean to ourselves.
If you are familiar with this kind of willpower, I urge you to try the experiment to do only what you truly want to do for a month.
See what it shows you about your real inclinations, desires, passions, pleasures. See what you learn about being with yourself in a wholly new way, a loving and compassionate and open-minded way. See what you learn about your own cycles of energy and how to ride those waves instead of fighting them.
If, on the other hand, you have a stronger inner rebel than taskmaster, then you may already indulge in your passing whims and surface-level desires but rarely touch something deeper or stick with anything. You flit around and change course constantly. You find it hard to stay with any program, project or routine.
If that sounds like you, you particularly need the second kind of will, which I’ll share in my next post.
We all need this second kind of will to reach our dreams. Stay tuned!
To your true heart’s desires,