Writing or fighting? How leaving the battle frees us to do our best work

by Joanna Pieters | Follow her on Facebook here

‘Four kilometres’, intoned the voice on my running app. ‘Twenty-four minutes and fourteen seconds’. If you’re a runner, you’ll know this isn’t exactly Olympic speed. But I realised that I could, possibly, run 5km in 30 minutes, which is what I was doing a year ago, before I got lazy and and too often gave into coffee and my desk instead of the call of the pavement.

Within reach, then. But I’d have to keep running pretty fast

I picked up the pace, telling myself I needed to do it to hit 30 minutes.

It felt really hard work, though.

Hey, my legs objected, this is too difficult. So I tried a different approach, and told myself that I’m obviously in great shape, since I’ve run so fast already, so the final kilometre is going to be fine.

Result! It felt easier, and faster too.

But it was still tough to keep up, so I decided to try something else. I consciously let go of the idea that 30 minutes was important. I’d won anyway, because just trying would be great exercise, and I’d be stronger and fitter for next time.

And straight away, I found myself going faster still, without any mental fight going on.

My time? 30:00:00.

I didn’t change anything except my conscious thinking about it, and the messages I was sending to myself. But without letting go of the importance of the goal, I doubt I would have achieved it.

The goal or the work?

Some goals serve a purpose.

Others can trip us up without intending to.

The trick is to decide which you need at any point.

Sometimes we fight so hard that our energy goes into the battle, not the work.

I’d set myself a writing goal for Easter, but I’ve been berating myself that I’m about to miss it. Instead, I realise that I’ve won anyway. I’m nearly there. A few more days won’t matter, provided I keep going. 

I can use that energy to do the work, not think about doing the work.

We don’t always know which approach we need until we try it. And it will change. Sometimes the battle has to happen. Sometimes we’re fighting a shadow, after all.

But it’s always worth asking: is your energy being used in the battle, or the work?


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