A few days ago, my friend Emily Lock of Mythbinder wrote a beautiful piece about her struggle with procrastination dragons. In my own piece about writing transformational characters, I wrote about dragons being a metaphor for whatever big, bad, epic struggle you face in life. And here is everything I’ve learned about winning the battle against your dragons.
You Can’t Defeat Them Alone
Your dragons know that if you fight them with your friends, you will win. They also know that they are more than capable of defeating you if you are alone. So they whisper words that make you worry that your friends don’t care, or that you shouldn’t share your work, that people won’t like you. They encourage you to isolate yourself. If you want to defeat the dragons and win the battle, you need to listen to the dragons. Just don’t do what they tell you to do.
Dragons Exist for a Reason
Truth be told, dragons aren’t really your enemy. They are guardians of the most precious of treasures. The battle with them is intended to strengthen you so that when you finally do take hold of the gold they guard, it doesn’t weigh you down and become a trap for you. Each dragon you face teaches you something new and valuable. Each prepares you for what lies beyond them in a different way. There are many dragons. These are just a few, the ones that are most likely to trip you up in your journey to becoming a transformational author.
The Dragon Named Doubt
Doubt is a dragon that perches on your shoulder and whispers in your ear, “Do you have what it takes?” If you listen to doubt, you’ll hide your work. You’ll trap yourself in endless revisions as you try to convince yourself that your work is finally good enough. And if you keep that work to yourself, as Doubt keeps telling you to do, you will never know just how good – or bad – it might be.
When Doubt encourages you to hide that work or that it just needs one more revision before you share it, don’t listen. Doubt’s job is to protect the truth. It is telling you that you don’t have enough information to draw a conclusion yet. So go get the feedback you need to find the truth. Go join a writer’s group and take that work before other writers. Let them assess it. Listen to their feedback. If you get negative feedback, evaluate it and find the truth in it, then apply it to your work. You’ll know where to improve it. If they give you positive feedback, you’ll know where you stand.
The Dragon Named Envy
Envy is a terrible beast. It is the guardian of dreams. It laughs when you bring friends to the fight. It knows that all it has to do is turn your team against each other and it can easily beat you all. If you listen to Envy, your efforts to join a writer’s group won’t do you much good. You’ll find yourself hating the writers that keep succeeding while you’re left struggling to get things done. The toxicity of Envy’s venom will leak out of you and into the hearts of everyone around you. You’ll destroy the group with it.
When Envy rears its ugly head, thank it for pointing out to you the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Then, remind yourself, “If they can do it, I can do it, too.” Instead of hating the person who achieved what you wanted to do before you did, or believing Envy when it tells you that they have something you don’t, draw closer to that person and learn from them. Ask them to share with you their story of how they got there. Chances are, they will be happy to share. You will learn from them and you will get closer to unlocking the secrets of turning their success into your reality. Best of all, you’ll have disarmed Envy completely.
The Dragon Named Greed
Greed is the easiest dragon of all to defeat, because it is small and puny. It comes out whenever you’ve been starving yourself of something you need to win your battles. If you notice greed rearing its head, it’s time to figure out which area of your life needs to be fed.
If, for example, you’re neglecting your body’s hunger for good food, you’ll end up stuffing your face with whatever junk happens to be handy. If you’re neglecting your body’s hunger for love, you’ll end up settling for whatever junk relationships come your way. Deprive yourself of any need and you’ll wind up stuffing whatever you can into the hole your trying to make the pain of your emptiness go away. Greed can make you miserable if you let it, but satisfy the needs that Greed is designed to protect and you will find it curls up and goes right back to sleep.
The Dragon Named Pride
Pride is one of the sneakiest of dragons. Its job is to defend Love. It works by flattering you into believing that you don’t need other people’s help. “Other people can’t be relied upon,” it will tell you if you’ve been disappointed by someone else’s failure. It flatters you into believing that you’re the only one that can be trusted, failing to remind you of the hundreds of times you’ve disappointed or failed other people.
“Nobody is as good at this as you are,” it will tell you, and so you don’t ask anybody else’s opinion or let anybody else help you. And you wind up losing every single time. “Nobody else knows what they are talking about,” it will tell you when you receive advice or counsel, and so you will ignore the advice because it isn’t what you wanted to hear and fall right into the trap that Pride laid out for you.
The reality is that Pride will keep you from reaching out to the very people whom you most need to help you. It will keep you locked up in a fortress built out of your wounds and your pain. Don’t let it lock you away. Don’t let it keep you from listening to good advice. Don’t let it keep you trapped and unable to break through to achieve the success you desire. You need other people. You need their help, you need their strengths, and you need their counsel.
The Dragon Named Depression
Depression is a sad dragon. Depression is the guardian of achievement. It slinks along the baseboards of your home, slides up your back, and coils around your neck. It peers at everything you do and says, “It’s not good enough.” When you look in the mirror, it says, “You’re not good enough.” It reminds you of every single time you’ve tried in the past and failed. It reminds you of every time you reached out for help in the past and got hurt.
It weighs you down and makes it harder to move. It blinds you to the presence of the people who love you and keeps you from being able to connect with them. “No one wants you. No one needs you. No one really cares,” it tells you even while people are reaching out and asking you to join them, even when people have asked for your help, even when someone is right there hugging you close.
The closer you get to success, the harder Depression works to keep you from getting where you want to go. When you recognize that Depression is on you, fight through its voice and admit that you need help fighting it. Refuse to listen to its voice. Refuse to give in to its whispers. Recognize that if Depression is there, that means something incredible is around the corner, waiting for you. All you have to do is keep fighting and keep reaching out. You’ll connect, you’ll win, and you’ll finally unlock the doors to achievements beyond what you’ve ever dared to dream before.
The Dragon Named Sloth
This dragon works to guard opportunity. Sloth works by convincing you to get comfortable and relax, stay where you are, and wait it out. “Just one more episode,” it will tell you. “We can do this tomorrow,” it will whisper. “No need to rush,” it will say. “Why start now? You won’t have time to finish,” it will caution you. And, if we give in, we miss out on meeting up with opportunity. We aren’t prepared to take advantage of it when it does come along.
Sloth is defeated by reaching out and getting people on your team who will hold you accountable. Work with them to be sure you’re checking in and making progress. Even small steps forward matter. Without someone else, or several someone else’s, to hold you accountable, it’s easy to let those goals you set slide through your fingers and never reach them. If nobody knows you have them, after all, nobody but you will know that you failed to achieve them. But when you have someone cheering you on, holding your feet to the fire, you’ll find that it’s easier to ignore Sloth’s invitations because you know you’re going to have to report on your progress and you know that when you do make progress, it’s going to feel great to hear your friends praising you for making it.
The Dragon Named Distraction
Distraction is the shiniest dragon of all, and glitters like a disco ball. It looks happy, but it is the guardian of Focus. Focus is the key that unlocks the doors to the treasures that await you.There are about 50 million things that you could be doing right now other than reading this article or writing. Distraction will dangle all 50 million of them in front of you. You’ll see an email pop up, a facebook message, a text, a phone call, or dishes and housekeeping will call your name.
Distraction is defeated by remembering why writing (or reading) matters. While you will need to turn off email, the phone, and everything else for a little while in order to focus your attention, it is the friends and family that are holding you accountable for getting things done that give you the strength to beat distraction. It’s true that Distraction is so bulky that you must slip by it one-by-one but it is the voices of your friends and family cheering you on that encourage you to do it in the first place.
The Dragon Named Vanity
Vanity’s the ugliest dragon of all. Her job is to guard beauty, and she does this by blocking your view of it. She can’t stand for you to look at anyone other than her. She demands your attention, commands your time, and will stop you from exploring beauty in your life and in your writing if you let her. Vanity encourages you to look for praise, to seek out approval and recognition, to waste your time waiting for that response to your latest post or your newest creation. She encourages you to make this writing thing all about you rather than about the readers your work is intended to serve.
You fight back against Vanity by focusing on the beauty of your readers, instead of worrying about your own. Seek to cultivate their beauty, to offer them praise, to provide the approval and recognition they need, and to do this whether or not you get a response to your post or your creation. Make the writing thing all about them and all about serving the people who will read your work, and Vanity won’t be able to block you from finding the beauty in life.
The Dragon Named Guilt
Guilt is a dragon that guards Transformation. It prevents us from growing into our best self by focusing our eyes on our past worst self. It convinces us that there is no point in changing, that there will be nothing good to come from it. It tells us that we will always be that fat, clumsy, greedy caterpillar that chews up everything around it and so we should just spin ourselves into a cocoon and hide there for the rest of our days. If we listen to Guilt, we will never find the courage to break free of the cocoon.
Making mistakes sometimes hurts other people. We sometimes hurt other people when Greed gets ahold of us and our hungers lead the charge. However, those mistakes don’t need to inspire us to hide. They are meant to encourage us to look at our lives and see what areas we need to make changes in to become our best selves. If you’ve been trapped in Guilt, admit what you’ve done and seek forgiveness from those you feel you’ve hurt. Don’t ignore Guilt. It won’t go away. Listen to it, and let it guide you to the area of your life that needs change. Then, grow into the beautiful butterfly you are meant to become.
The Dragon Named Wrath
Wrath is a dragon that breaths fire and consumes everything in its path. It’s job is to protect Justice, and it will leap out if it even catches a whiff of someone being unfair in the way they treat you or others. It will tear the people around you to pieces if it thinks they are guilty. It’s tempting to give in to Wrath and just let it get to work, but Wrath isn’t your friend. It will destroy your friendships with others and the smoke billowing from its nostrils will blind you to the way in which you contribute to the problem.
I’m not suggesting you should ignore wrath. It’s there for a reason. Justice matters. Justice is important. Justice is a treasure worth guarding. However, what I am saying is that once you have allowed Wrath to point out the injustice to you, you need to thank it for its work and send it back to doing its job. Understand why you felt this was an injustice, then make a plan to correct the injustice if it is truly worth your energy.
Sometimes you are being treated unjustly. Maybe someone criticized your work and you didn’t deserve the criticism. That’s okay. Learn from it. Seek counsel from friends on whether or not you have a legitimate complaint. If you do, address it. Ask yourself if you’ve ever done something like this to someone else. Remember how it feels, and make amends with the person you’ve hurt. Forgive the person who hurt you for being broken. If you don’t, ask for their help in figuring out where you went wrong and correct it. Apologize for the overreaction.
These Aren’t All the Dragons
There are always more dragons out there. And you’ll encounter them along the way. The important thing to remember is that all of these dragons are guarding something worth having – your future success. And you won’t conquer them alone, so gather with others who are on a mission similar to your own and get help.
Your Comments Are Welcome!
I’d love to hear what you thought of this article. What has your experience with dragons been?