Turning Pro: embrace the calling of your soul

It doesn’t happen that often. But sometimes you meet someone or read a book that cuts through all your bullshit. And sometimes what they suggest is not that big a deal. Except that it is. To act in spite of what I’m thinking or feeling in the moment may seem straight-forward and easy. Until I’m thinking: no, the wind is blowing… it will not be nice outside when I go for my walk…. Just one more chapter before I go to sleep… I want to know what happens next even though I have to get up early tomorrow… Wow, I’m really craving something sweet now… let’s make something with lots of sugar in it… so what my clothes are tighter every time I put it on…

According to Steven Pressfield in Turning Pro there are two frameworks that we traditionally use to transform ourselves: We hate ourselves because we believe there’s something wrong with us that needs fixing or we hate ourselves because we believe we’ve done something wrong and need to be punished and forgiven to be fixed. Pressfield discusses a third option: we hate ourselves because we’re living life as amateurs. To change our minds, we need to turn pro. Similar to athletes turning professional (probably without receiving a big financial compensation, though).

As amateurs we have a few things “going” for us:

We’re terrified. We’re afraid of failure, of success, of looking foolish, of being excluded from the tribe, afraid, afraid, afraid. We permit that fear to stop us from acting. We take ourselves so seriously that we paralyse ourselves. We fear being different from others. And therefore end up being inauthentic. Because we remain someone other than who we really are. We continuously rate ourselves in relation to others. We lack compassion for ourselves. We live in denial and act by addiction.

Addiction doesn’t necessarily refer only to the usual culprits drugs and alcohol. Addiction is anything that you keep on doing without it moving you forward. What you get from your addiction, is an inability to do what needs to be done.

To feel ambition and to act on it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act means you turn your back on yourself and the reason for your existence.
Steven Pressfield Turning Pro

How do you turn pro? Here are some of his ideas:

Show up and do the work every day. Do the work for the work’s sake, not expecting financial reward or future fame. Be committed over the long haul. Forget about instant gratification… Act despite fear. Accept no excuses. Be dedicated to master the techniques. Don’t take failure (or success!) personally. Don’t wait for inspiration. Do it.

It seems clear that having a habit of doing and acting is the best way of transforming oneself into the best version of oneself. I find it ironic that even though I get an enormous burst of energy when I follow that unique calling of the soul – be it going for that walk in the gushing wind or sitting down for a session in front of the computer despite a yearning for vegging in front of the television – I still some days turn my back on myself and give in to the resistance.

This is a battle that needs fighting every day. There is no finish line. When you turn pro you get to recommit to your decision every day.

Elizabeth Gilbert calls the trusty kitchen timer an important tool in a creative person’s life. Set the timer for 30 minutes and do some focused work for that period. Do it every day. That’s how you learn discipline.

Right, so I’ve done my 30 minutes writing. Off to do some quilting for 30 minutes! 🙂



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