Do you do hard things even when you don’t want to?
Or do you give in to feelings, flights of fancy and momentary urges?
Even when we have a life plan in place for achieving our goals, on any given day, the struggle is real.
Conscientiously working through your to-do list can seem pointless in comparison to kicking back and watching TV.
But after succumbing to transient pleasures the guilt steadily builds. Another wasted day that could have been put to better use, you think.
So, why is taking positive action so hard?
Mainly because of our distorted view of time.
You see, on any day, the actions we perform don’t amount to much.
They’re not world-changing and generally don’t produce immediate results. Especially the actions that are good for us.
I mean, you won’t experience the added life longevity today when you go for that run.
That reward, like so many others, is delayed.
But the activity is essential nonetheless. When we don’t work out, we slowly slip down the slide of physical and mental ruin.
Often engaging in these activities feels like running up an escalator the wrong way.
Much effort is needed just to stay where you are, but when you stop trying, you regress pretty quickly.
So, aside from remaining conscious about the prism of time, what else can we do when the urge for instant gratification arises?
Sharpen the sword
On the days where I just don’t feel like it, in those throwaway moments of weakness, I like to imagine a Japanese Samurai sharpening his sword.
Every day he works the blade, lest he need it unexpectedly.
Even though times are peaceful, the village must be defended from threats.
This is of course, an analogy to life. At any given moment, we can be assaulted by hardship.
People lose their jobs, homes and loved ones constantly.
Putting effort into the coping strategies we’ll come to rely on, ahead of time, can therefore serve us well.
In this way, the exercise and meditation you do today go a long way in inoculating you against the trials and tribulations of tomorrow.
But that’s not the only benefit of sharpening the sword.
Honing your skills also allows you to slowly cut away whatever stands between you and your goals.
Whether that’s writing a book or creating a business, sharpening your abilities allows you to master each component of the task.
Working with a razor edge allows you to make significantly more progress through the jungle of ambition on any given day.
Although the going will undoubtedly be tough, maintaining your tools through consistent practice is fundamental to success.
So how often must we work the blade?
The daily practice
Sharpening your sword is a daily exercise.
Miss one day and it won’t matter, but miss too many and you become blunt, unready for the challenges that await.
In this way, sword sharpening becomes its own meditation, a way to create subconscious patterns of pure instinct.
Your daily activities become a ritual of honing the metaphorical weapon of mind and body.
In this way, you slowly emerge, chrysalis like, as the peaceful warrior, ready to face any challenge.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey employs a similar metaphor, called Sharpen the Saw, but this applies more to self-care than the general approach of keeping yourself sharp in all areas.
“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.”
If anything, I regard Sharpening the Sword more akin to Greasing the Groove, which is a fitness technique used to incrementally gain strength through improving neuromuscular efficiency.
Ultimately, the analogy you use doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you. Daily practice makes perfect.