We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt about what it takes to create lasting change in our lives.
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Over time, though, I began to feel a growing resistance. I complained to Socrates, in spite of his dark look. “Soc, you’re no fun anymore. You’ve become an ordinary grumpy old man; you never even glow.”
He glowered at me. “No more magic tricks,” was all he said. That was just it — no tricks, no sex, no potato chips, no hamburgers, no candy, no donuts, no fun, and no rest; only discipline inside and out.
You’ve probably heard the saying that everyone is an optimist in the first four hours of a diet. So when we make positive changes, take on new disciplines, or start new exercise routines or dietary regimens, we begin with enthusiasm and may even experience positive results in a relatively short time.
But inevitably, over time, we hit plateaus and find that with the peaks come valleys. Our disciplines are no longer new; they become routine (after three days or weeks or months or years). And at some point the initial passion or motivation wears thin. It’s no longer fun telling friends about our new and exciting enterprise. All that’s left is us and the daily decision to persist or not.
At this point in my training with Socrates, the newness had worn off and I had to confront my rising resistance and waning excitement. In this phase our old, familiar, and generally easier lifestyles call us back to the way things were. Fits of nostalgia fill our fantasy lives as doubts arise. After all, what was so bad about the way things were?
Applying willpower against the inertia of old habits is like applying friction to roll a boulder uphill; it creates psychic heat that has a purifying, empowering effect. But it burns just the same, and we hear the siren’s sweet song, urging us to go back to the familiar, to be like everyone else, to be welcomed back into the fold, to take the pressure off.
Thus, to stop engaging in a destructive habit, such as smoking or binge drinking, it isn’t enough to stop just once; we have to stop ourselves again and again, each and every time temptation arises — even when no one’s praising us or cheering us on except ourselves. At times like this, remember these words attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “I desire so to live that if at the end, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me.”
From the transcendental view, whatever we do is perfect (no right or wrong, only consequences). We each have our own choices to make, our own lives to live. But at certain decision points, when we don’t know which path to take, it may be helpful to ask, “What do I want to look back on ten years from now? What if my children faced this choice? What choice would I wish for them?”
Character is revealed through the choices we make under pressure. The choices we make and the actions we take after the honeymoon is over — when motivation fades and doubts arise — are the true tests of character. If our behaviors are aligned with our highest aims, despite resistance or boredom or fear, then we continue to persist just one more hour, just one more day, along the peaceful warrior’s way.
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Dan Millman, a former world-champion athlete and college professor, is the author of numerous books, including Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior, The Four Purposes of Life, and The Creative Compass. His writing has inspired millions of readers in more than thirty languages. Visit him online at www.danmillman.com.
Excerpted from the book Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior
, copyright © 2006 by Dan Millman.