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Taking on a meaningful project where you're facing resistance ... do you just force yourself because you feel like you should, or because you want to be disciplined?

This works in the short term, but not the long term. We will give up eventually, and feel like we failed.

In this episode, Leo looks at how to work from a more inspired place.

Topics Covered

  • The common approach of forcing oneself to work on a project without feeling motivated
  • Moving from coercion to inspiration for long-term meaningful projects
  • The importance of generating internal inspiration rather than relying solely on external sources
  • Finding your deeper reasons and inspiration for the project
  • How to keep your vision and possibility front and center to combat resistance
  • Continuing to feel inspired and connected to the project's purpose
  • Practicing this process daily, even if it feels challenging at first


Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast, where we dive into how to work with uncertainty, resistance, and fear around our meaningful work. This is for anyone who wants to create an impact in the world and cares deeply enough to do the work. I'm your host, Leo Babauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog.

Hello, hello, hello. Okay. So in this episode of our podcast, we're going to talk about vision, inspiration, being pulled forward into the meaningful work that we want to do through our resistance, which will be there into what we want to create. So let's imagine you said I'm going to create a book. That was the project that you chose.

We talked about how to choose a project in the last episode. Go watch that or listen to that if you haven't already, but let's say you've chosen a project and it's write a book. And so what we're looking at here is how, well, first of all, how do we get motivated to do that? You know, it's, it's one thing to say, this is what I want to do.

And then it's another to actually feel motivated as you do it. I'll share with you a little bit about how most people do this and especially how I do it. So this is. Not, I'm not talking about you people, I'm talking about me first and foremost, but also about how this is very, you know, this is very common, how most of us do it.

We say, I want to do this. I want to do this project. I want to write this book. And then we say, okay, what do I need to do? I need to sit down and write every day. So I sit down and I start writing. The morning comes to write and I sit down and I'm like, Ah, feeling some resistance. And then I said, well, I committed to doing it.

So I'm going to actually do it. So I just like force myself. I just make myself do it. And I personally am someone who's very reliable to do that. I can push myself to do something pretty well. I've kind of trained myself to do that, but that's not necessarily a helpful thing. It's not bad. Obviously me being able to push myself, that can be really helpful sometimes when it's, when it's called for.

But for a long term project, for something that's really meaningful, what we can see is that I'm coercing myself into it. I'm kind of just making myself do something that I don't really want to do. And the reason why I really don't want to do it is because of the resistance and my fears. It's like, ah, I have to do this.

And, but what if it turns out bad? And what if people don't like it? And so the resistance comes up. That's all of this, these objections to it, all the reasons why not to. And then, you know, I don't necessarily have a good reason why do it, but I, I have the resistance and then I say, but, but I said I would.

So that's my why. I said I would. I committed to it. I should do it. These are the kinds of places that we often will come from, and it will be a very uninspired way of doing it. And we can do that, you know, if you do habit change, you know, I want to like run every day. Okay, great. I get up, I'm like, oh, I don't want to run, but I'm going to make myself and then just get up and do it.

This is kind of the eat the frog kind of approach to productivity, which is, Eat the frog means do the thing you don't want to do first in each day. We feel like productive when we do that. We get something really hard out of the way. Something really cool about that, but the bad thing is we're like forcing ourselves to eat a frog.

We don't want to eat a frog and we can. We can force ourselves to do that, but how long can we do it? And what I noticed is that I can do that for a while. And then I start to either get burnt out or I lose motivation. I start to resist, resist, resist even more. And then eventually I'll stop. And I can actually go much longer than I used to be able to, and probably more than maybe the average person.

I would imagine actually a lot of people listening to this podcast are like that. You can go. Longer making yourself to do, doing something that you don't want to do, that you're resisting in this kind of place of like, Oh, I should do it. I said, I would, I I'll do it. That's not a very inspired way of living.

And we can, we can do that in all places in our lives. And what we come up with is a life where we're just. Getting through things just doing it because we should not feeling lit up about life. We do it in one place We're probably doing it at a whole bunch of other places Which means our whole lives are this and so in this episode what I want to talk about is Another way of doing it.

This is something that I personally struggle with and so I'm working with this I have been working with it for a while and I'm still working with it. It's not like I've like Figured it out. Solve the problem. In fact, it's not necessarily a problem to be solved. So, what is this new way? Well, it's inspiration.

Inspiration is, is often thought of as something external. Like this is, you know, I'm gonna read a cool book, watch a TED talk, watch a YouTube video, and I get inspired. And that does happen. We get inspired by Seeing someone do something amazing or hearing some words that feel encouraging or somehow They connect us to something that feels really possible for us like oh, yeah, I would love to you know Get really fit and run an ultra marathon.

That was one thing for me and I did it so external inspiration It can serve as a little bit of a spark sometimes But when we feel resistance, and we are up against it, and we don't really want to do it, and we're like about to force ourselves, coerce ourselves, that external inspiration often won't do the job.

And in fact, it also leaves us reliant on something outside of ourselves. Not that being reliant on something outside of ourselves is necessarily bad. It's not always available to us. What is always available is something that we can internally create. We can generate it from within ourselves. And that is something that, not, not just that you can rely on, but that you can call up when it's needed.

And so what is that internal thing that we can generate? It is, what do I want out of this project? What do I want to have, you know, be created in the world? What would be amazing for me? What would I love to have that doesn't already exist? What would be possible if I actually created this book, not just the writing of the book and having it in my hand, but like, maybe it's going to inspire others, maybe it's going to inform others, educate them, expand their possibilities.

Maybe it's going to make them feel something, some emotion, some magic, some joy in their life, some wonder. And so this is what could get created from the book. It's not just that I have the book checked off and I've done it and I've accomplished it, but that the book is empowering some possibility in the world that I want.

That can feel really inspiring. And so what we want to do is come up with like, what is it that I want here? So before you start you might write your inspiration. Write it out. A couple paragraphs, a half page, a full page, 10 pages, whatever you want, or record it for yourself. This is the thing that I want.

This is the reason I'm doing this. This is what would get me up in the morning at 5am to like work on this, to create the time that I need to. This is what's going to get me through my inspiration is what I want to create the possibility in the world that I could feel when we connect to this possibility.

We can be really inspired. It's something that we've generated and then we can say yes This is what I want. I choose into that. I'm a huge. Yes a hell Yes, as Derek Seavers will say either hell Yes, or no is what he says. I love that because it's like I want to be a hell Yes to this project and you can't just like tell yourself.

You're a hell. Yes, you have to see The vision for what you want to create, the inspiration, the possibility. And so you might write down inspiration, and then what's the possibility you want to create. I want to, you know, inspire the seven year old Leo who didn't have this in the world and have a role model for this.

Or who didn't believe in himself. I want, I want him to believe in himself. I want, you know, I want women to start to trust themselves more. And so this is something that would be like, yeah, I do want that. I could feel it in my heart and in my gut. When you can feel it there, that's when we know we have some inspiration and that's something you have generated yourself.

And so in the morning, when you wake up and you're like, ah, I don't feel like it. I'm feeling, so that's the resistance, right? I don't feel like it. Here are all the reasons why I can put it off till later today. It's okay. You know, all of these things we tell ourselves. When we have that resistance, what we can do is look at the thing we've written out and put that somewhere front and center.

Put it in front of your desk, put it on on your bathroom mirror, or on your nightstand, or... You know, somewhere where you're going to see it, your lock screen on your phone. This is the thing that's going to inspire you. This is your vision. This is the why you want to do this. This is why you care why it's meaningful.

And so we want to generate that. And then we want to put that front and center and connect to that so that we can feel lit up some days. You just won't have that. And you're just going to like. You know, get yourself through it, or you just won't, you'll just kind of like, ah, I'll do it later. That's gonna happen.

But if we can connect to this lit up ness, this inspiration, this vision and possibility, then we can start to take on our resistance and take on the purpose work from a place of I am inspired. That's a different way of doing things. Okay, so what can you do from here? What's the Thing to take on. The thing to take on is look at your project that you've chosen and then start to ask yourself, why do I want to do this?

Why do I care? What's the possibility that this would create for me if I were able to do this? Maybe it's something that's going to create for others. What's my reason here that makes me, that's going to make me get up at 5am? What makes my heart sing about this? What would be amazing? What's the possibility that I see?

And start to write it out. You might resist this, And if you do, what you want to do is find an inspiration to do this, and the inspiration might be, it's not, I'm not doing it because I should, but because I want to be more inspired in my life. I want to not just go through and course myself to do stuff, not just get through my day.

I want to be lit up and inspired and, and just more connected to what I really want to create in the world. And so that's the reason to create this vision for yourself, this possibility and write it out. That's the why to do the why to write out the why. And so we have a reason to write, sit down and write out our inspiration as opposed to, I should, this is what Leo said I should do.

And then we go and do it. And what's the reason to do my project. And beyond that, what you want to do is practice actually getting up in the morning or whatever, whatever time you're going to take on this project. And actually, Look at that inspiration look at your possibility and vision and use it to to call you forward and what I'll say is You won't be good at it at first writing it out or using it if you know if you're like me So maybe some of you are like, yeah, that was easy.

That was amazing and these are people who are already very connected to possibility and inspiration and They just, you know, are. They, they learn to like be that way. But for people like me, who I imagine a lot of you are like me, for people like me, we have learned to not do that. And we just push ourselves to do something, or we just don't do it.

And so to actually practice feeling inspired, to be lit up, is going to take some practice. It's going to take some generating something from within yourself, creating something new. And that's not going to feel right. You will probably feel like you don't know what you're doing and you're mucking it all up and you should just quit.

And I always say, keep going, keep practicing this, practice it every single day and see if you can feel lit up, even for a moment, access your heart, even for a moment. And I believe in my own experience, and I believe for you, that you will start to feel that more and more, you'll start to feel more. It doesn't come easy.

It won't happen necessarily the first time. You might feel nothing. Keep coming at it. You will find your heart in there. You'll find your fire, your lit up ness. That's what I would say to take on. If you have any questions, please email me. Podcast at zenhabits. net you can ask questions, you can tell me how things are going, you can share your story with me, and I might share them here on this very podcast.

Next time we're gonna talk about structure and commitment. So exciting, lit up stuff. Thanks for listening. I'm Leo. I Absolutely love working with you in this podcast. I love getting your emails and your comments Please continue to do that and thank you for being a part of this with me

If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast in your favorite podcast app If you found this episode useful, please share this podcast with someone, you know, who cares deeply. That would be really meaningful to me. And if you'd like to dive deeper with me into this work, please check out the blog at or get in touch at leo at 

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Intro music composition: Salem Beladonna & Robrecht Dumarey

Editor: Justin Cruz