The Buddha Mind And Finding Inspiration
Fighting The Resistance Within
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”—Confucius.
Often the journeys we undertake are long, hard, and lack any surety of success. We are faced with many choices as we move through different paths, and our minds start to get troubled and confused. We begin to worry about our past failures and believe in the narrative that we cannot succeed. As we get negative feedback from the world, we lose faith in ourselves and begin to distrust ourselves. Often, this leads to a loss in energy and motivation, making us question the true nature of the goals.
This blog post talks about empowering yourself with the “anti-resistance” force. The idea is inspired by the works of Steven Pressfield, who describes “Resistance” as the main force that prevents us from doing creative work.
The Anti-Resistance Framework
In his book, The War Of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about “resistance” - a force of nature that prevents us from getting work done. Resistance is the negative voice within your head that tells you that you are not good enough to achieve a specific result. It convinces you to believe in the idea that this is not a great time to be doing what you are currently doing. I believe that the force to counter the resistance also comes from within — “the anti-resistance.”
Have you ever woken up on a morning where you found almost everything seemed alright to you? Have you ever started a task filled with optimism that gets you to breeze through the task? I refer to Steven Pressfield’s idea of The Muse as Anti-Resistance. It is possible to build the strength to counter the force of “resistance” through a set of tools that can empower you to fight the negative energies.
In the next section, I discuss the framework I use to overcome the negative mindset and get the inspiration to achieve the goals I have set for myself.
Understand The Why Of Your Work
In his book, Find Your Why, Simon Sinek talks about the Golden Circle and relates it to the structure of our brain. He describes the Golden Circle as having three different layers. We start reasoning innermost to the outermost layers. The innermost layer describes the WHY (or the purpose behind our goals). The brain’s innermost layer consists of the Limbic System. This part of the brain deals with our behavioral and emotional responses. It focuses on the behaviors we need for survival: feeding, reproduction, caring for our young, and fight or flight responses.
The two outer layers of the Golden Circle consist of the What And The How of the goal that we pursue. This corresponds to the Neo Cortex of the brain. The Neo-Cortex is involved in higher-order brain functions such as sensory perception, cognition, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, and language.
While the analogy may not be apparent and may seem far-fetched, I believe something is interesting in making the comparison. The idea that humans understand ideas and concepts inside-outside and require a deep understanding of the purpose behind a pursuit cannot be ignored. In the course of any journey that we embark on there tend to be millions of times when the demons within our minds try to convince us to let go of the journey. How do we combat the demon? What tools can we build to strengthen our resolve and fight the thoughts? A good starting point is to believe in the WHY behind your pursuit. The WHY will propel you through the mental battles you’ve got to fight every day of the pursuit. In the next few paragraphs, let us look at some examples from history.
Mandela served 27 years in prison, split between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison, and Victor Verster Prison. Spending nearly three decades is a long time and a test of mental resolve and patience. Had he not believed in the fight against the apartheid movement, he would have given up on his journey. Did he have battles with the demon in his mind? Yes. Certainly, so. What would have helped him? Definitely, his belief in the vision of the movement that he was building and the support of those around him would have given him the strength to go through the hardships of prison life.
Building A System To Get The Work Done
It is good to have a mental setup that can take you through the hardships of long-drawn pursuits. However, just a strong mental model is not sufficient to fight through. It is critical for us to build an intense routine that helps us go through the periods in life when we are not motivated enough to complete our tasks. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear quotes - “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” The quote is attributed to the Greek poet Archilochus. He wrote, “We don’t rise to our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”
In general, there tend to be a few problems with setting goals. Goals tend to be time-bound, momentary, and limit your thinking. Furthermore, a winner and a loser tend to have the same goals set. What separates the winner from the losers is the discipline in the systems that the winners bring in.
One of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Phelps followed an extremely rigorous routine to prepare for the Olympics. While preparing for the Olympics, Phelps routinely trained in double sessions three times a week, and once every other day. He swam 80,000 meters each week and spent the rest of recovering with “ice baths, stretching, working with a trainer, or getting massages.
The most challenging battles that we are fighting are those in mind. Noone other than the Buddhist monks know it better. Let us have a glance at their routine.
4.00 am – The monks wake up and meditate for one hour, followed by one hour of chanting.
6.00 am – The monks walk barefoot around the neighbourhood while the local people make merit by offering them food.
8.00 am – Returning to the temple, the monks sit together to eat breakfast.
Before 12.00 noon – The monks eat a light lunch at this time. This is the last solid food they are allowed to consume until sunrise the following morning.
1.00 pm – Classes in Buddhist teaching begin. Some monks may attend school outside the temple.
6.00 pm – A two-hour session of meditation and prayer begins.
8.00 pm – The monks retire to do homework.
In certain traditions. The monks meditate 12 to 16 hours a day, and the rest of the day is dedicated to chores and sleep. The type of mental focus and dedication to their art and craft helps them get over the hardships of mental battles.
Holding Yourself Accountable
Building the mindset and a system to go through the daily grind of life in pursuit of your goals is a beautiful start. However, you cannot improve what you cannot measure. In his book, Measure What Matters, the legendary venture capitalist John Doerr talks about the OKR framework and the importance of keeping track of the progress you make. In the OKR framework, the O stands for Objectives, and KR stands for Key Results.
The OKR framework is a great tool for bringing direction, focus, and accountability to your daily routine. In order to understand this better let us take the example of improving one’s health is a goal and create OKRs for it.
The objectives in the OKR framework serve as the compass and give a sense of direction to your goals. These ensure that a group of individuals can align themselves to a common sense of purpose. One can imagine it as being the tenets of the constitution under which the team operates and serves to bind the team as a unit. For the goal of being healthy the objectives can be as follows:
Reduce overall weight.
Gain muscle mass.
Reduce fat percentage.
Get regularity in the sleep cycle.
Keep body active.
The key results will be a set of metrics that are quantifiable, and achievable within the context of the goals. The key results need to be clear, precise, and measurable. These help the team be data-driven, honest, and introspective. For the goal of being healthy the key metrics may be as follows:
Reduce weight by 10 pounds.
Increase muscle mass in the body by 5%
Reduce body fat by 5%.
Take 7 hours of sleep every day.
Walk 10,000 steps every day.
Systems such as the OKR framework can help you to remain focused on the goals and feel inspired as and when you start achieving the goals. An inspired mind without the necessary tools for success is a mind on the path to failure.
Thank you for reading the article. I hope you enjoyed it. Join the waitlist for my upcoming book if you enjoyed reading this blog post.