“Turning Pro” to Go with the Flow

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.

Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second we can turn the tables on Resistance.

This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

– Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art” 

Last night I had an interesting conversation with one of my roommates. We traversed a variety of topics, ranging from the meditation habits of Kobe Bryant to what it truly means to go with the flow in life. At one point during our discussion, I started telling my roommate something I had never talked about with anyone before (mainly because I thought it would make me look like a crazy person). It went something like this:

Sometimes there’s this noise in my head. It always starts when I know I should be working on something – whether it’s writing, making a video, or going to the gym – but I don’t do it.

First come the thoughts, hollow rationalizations whispering inside my head. I know I should be taking action but I’m trying to deny it. As my denial continues, emotions like anxiety and guilt join those thoughts, increasing the noise from a subtle murmur to a distracting hum. It’s not long before the noise becomes overwhelming. My mind feels scattered and focusing is nearly impossible.

At this point I have two options: escape into mindless distractions (watch Netflix, get on my phone, blast some music) or do the thing I know I should be doing. I’m quite familiar with the first option. It’s the easy fix, but it’s also temporary. As soon as the distraction is over the noise comes back.

But every now and then I summon the willpower to choose option number two. I glue my ass to a chair and just write. I set up my tripod, turn on my camera, and just start talking. That’s the magic bullet. It doesn’t even matter if the work I produce is any good; within minutes the noise subsides. I’m left with an empty mind.

Last week I wrote about my growing interest in going with the flow. I sometimes envision that as a state of content laziness, an avoidance of the work and responsibilities that are supposedly causing me so much stress. Yet it’s that very avoidance that inevitably leads to the noise in my head, and thus more of the stress I want to escape.

So if avoiding action isn’t the key to going with the flow, does that mean taking more action is?

Not surprisingly, I’m turning to a book for the answers I seek. That book is Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.”

I first read “The War of Art” during my senior year of college, but only recently did I realize how valuable it is.

Pressfield begins the books by talking about resistance, the invisible force responsible for all of our creative blocks. It’s the voice in our heads that tells us all the reasons why we can’t achieve our dreams. It’s the inner saboteur that makes us rationalize and procrastinate. It the reason so many people “die with their song still inside of them,” as the saying goes.

Fortunately, Pressfield spends the rest of the book describing how to conquer this destructive foe. He gives plenty of great advice, but most of it can be summed up with two words: turn pro.

Turning pro means treating your creative work (or any work/activity that pushes you to grow as a person) like you would your job. No matter how bad you feel or what rationalizations your mind tries to create, you always show up for work. Rain or shine. Excited or miserable. You show up because it’s your job.

It means sitting down every day to write. It means going to the gym on the days you’re supposed to. It means taking action towards your goals, even when your thoughts and emotions are doing their best to make you do the opposite.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “That’s a nice concept and all, but what does it have to do with going with the flow?”

In my earlier post on going with the flow, I talked about how non-resistance and being present to the moment seemed like the best ways to do that. Ever since I discovered “The Power of Now” I’ve tried relying on those things whenever that noise in my head appeared. However, those things haven’t been very effective. The only thing that has ever been able to quiet my mind in those moments is doing the work I’m avoiding.

That tells me that things like acceptance and mindfulness only make up half of what’s necessary to truly go with the flow in life. The other half? Turning pro. It’s counterintuitive, but dedicating yourself to the work that truly matters to you is just as important as learning how to take it easy.

Of course, this could be completely subjective. But I know from personal experience that I am the most relaxed after working on my passions, even if resistance tries to convince me otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on ““Turning Pro” to Go with the Flow

  1. It’s an interesting thing, believing that avoiding action means going with the flow. I’ve had this belief somewhere as well. But to be honest, the lethargic people are usually with much more resistance and avoidance than the ones who are working towards something. Yet again, you made me think of people who are using their work as the avenue to avoid that thing they know they want/have to do, which always entails following their dreams. Maybe it doesn’t have to do about action or non action as much. Like you said, you could very well be watching Netflix. It could be being at peace with where you are in this very moment; and when an inspiration reaches you of wanting to be doing something right now or wanting to be somewhere right now and your doubt keeps you where you are, that doesn’t make you lazy, and it certainly doesn’t make you go with the flow. You simply are afraid of moving forward. And I think it’s good to be working towards something, but that would have to also include having fun as in laying on a beach doing nothing. I think my most complete thought from reading your post has been that going with the flow means not second-guessing yourself! You think you should write- you go write. You think you want rest, you rest. How simple is that! All the other thoughts that go on in the head are just noise that delays the inevitable. No wonder you hear it as such!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I get what you’re saying about it not necessarily being about taking action or not taking action. I think what matters most is following your core desires. I’ve just found that waiting for inspiration to work towards my goals is one of my most common forms or procrastination, and it’s more often caused by fear of failure/not being good enough than the actual desire to relax and watch Netflix.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am in Neale Donald Walsch’s mailing list, and part of his last email was this:

        “Know…that creativity is not something you wait for. It is
        something that waits for you.

        You must decide to be creative, not wait to be. You
        must challenge yourself. Pick up the brush. Grab hold
        of the camera. Turn on the computer. Start cooking
        the meal. Get to the workplace early. Propose the
        solution. Advance the idea. Become the answer.”

        That phrase impacted me a lot. Creativity is waiting for me…to be in a place to use it? Because of course, creative energy is never scarce; in fact it’s forever there. You have to tap into it, and that means, holding the brush and pushing the button and writing the first word!
        I just found this take on more meaning after your input!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, wanting to do it IS an inspiration! You say waiting for inspiration is not an option. But what if that idea that is stuck in your head that you have to do something IS an inspiration?!

        It won’t make you sit (or go out haha) and make you do that thing most of the time. That has happened to me, where the enthusiasm is so strong it’s like a current is taking me! But other times it’s simply up to me to follow through with the idea that’s in my head of doing that thing! And I think twice (and more) about it because it’s not as strong and I’m doubting myself mostly. But I have to do it to actually let it become bigger!

        Like

  2. Melanie

    You make some good observations. I’ve been avoiding study for about a month now, I’m just not feeling it. I love my degree and find most of the work very interesting, I don’t actually know why I’m avoiding it. It’s not even procrastination, it’s denial and avoidance lol. You’re absolutely right that I need to turn pro – in fact this is how I got such good marks last year, because I did sit down each day by 8:30am and work until everything was done, and often work some more. This year I’m just struggling to be bothered to do that. After reading this I think I’ll just change my thinking about it. Whether I want to do it or not it has to be done, so just sit down and do it, the same way I would my job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can definitely relate to how you’re feeling. That pretty much summed up my whole college career. But yeah, it really is crazy how a simple mindset shift can give and extra boost in the discipline department. Let me know how it goes!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Narrowing My Focus | An Appetite For Beauty

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