In my early 20s I had a boss who would ask me every morning, “How goes the battle?” I had never heard that expression before, but recognized that he meant, “How’s it going?” At the time I was learning about neuro-linguistic programming and becoming attuned to people’s word choices, so it struck me as an interesting – and loaded – phrase. Then I began to notice how common it is for people to characterize life as a fight – an ongoing series of conflicts, something we need to slog through, with a risk of imminent danger and an us-versus-them mentality.
Even if we see ourselves as winning the battle, if we hold this perspective, there’s still a chance of getting ambushed, right up to the last minute. So, we must always have our guard up, sleep with one eye open, check our drink for poison, and so on. It causes chronic stress, and we’re never entirely free.
Meanwhile, there are people who see life in a more positive light – as a game, a gift, an opportunity to explore, connect, experience, and be of service. Are they naïve? Are they less successful? Are they blindsided by the unexpected? I don’t believe so. If anything, because their perspective isn’t innately stress-inducing, they have greater resources for adapting to whatever comes.
I encourage you to examine your relationship with the world. How would you sum up your story? What kind of words do you use, both to others and yourself, when you talk and think about your challenges and ambitions? How do you feel about others aiming for the same goals as you? What sorts of bodily feelings go along with this? For extra support in re-wiring yourself, check out our workbook, Freedom, and try doing it for a month.
If you do find that you’re harboring a “battle” mentality, I wonder if it’s possible for you to symbolically wave the white flag, saying to the world (and yourself), “I’m not at war with you.” I know the stakes feel very high sometimes, but what if. . . (1) you could clearly see that being in ongoing conflict is more detrimental than it is beneficial to you, and (2) you had an unwavering link to something you could trust, an assurance that you are fundamentally okay, no matter what.
We often speak of rousing our inner warrior and the term “warrior” comes up a lot in self-help books. The warrior archetype is deep in our collective consciousness. Everyone knows it. And there’s a good side to it. Often, we evoke the warrior archetype when we wish to inspire ourselves to be clear, sharp, and disciplined, to stand up for our values, to protect those in need, to be brave, to have integrity and honor. But the other side of being a warrior is, of course, that you’re at war.
How can we embody these virtues without the sense of perpetual conflict? We live according to archetypes all the time – father, mother, husband, wife, cop, healer, good guy, bad guy, peacekeeper, curmudgeon, artist – mostly without realizing it. The first step is to become aware of the archetypes we’re subconsciously abiding by. Just making it conscious starts the process of releasing us from an archetype’s limitations.
Second, we can begin to forge a picture of something better and freer than any single archetype – our own Highest Self. Who would you be if you were clear, lighthearted, determined, loving, creative, peaceful, spiritual, purposeful, artful, present, honest, forgiving, kind, and brave?
Contrary to what your mind might say, that’s not too many virtues for one person to possess. You’re already somewhere on the spectrum of embodying every one of them. Whatever you dub this most-evolved you – Highest Self, Noble Leader, Queen/King, Divine Being, etc. – know that this is something you can freely choose at any moment.
Spend some time visualizing and feeling into this Highest Self. Imagine that she/he is just waiting for permission to step into the driver’s seat. When your small mind takes over and your habits run you, the Highest Self is nudged into the backseat. It may take some conscious surrender to let go of your default program and allow the better You to be in charge.
Another visualization you might find useful is to see yourself in the center of a circle of many different versions of yourself – all the possible ways you could be. Look around and see if you can spot the one that is the clearest, highest expression of your virtuous essence. Make a choice, and step into that Self. Try doing this every morning for a week and see what changes.