Reason, Passion, and Following Through

If you don’t follow through, you don’t give yourself a chance.  Dreaming up the idea is good, taking action is great.  However, in order to bring that good idea to life, you’re probably going to have to keep taking action for a long time, and often with no small amount of blood, sweat, and tears.  It doesn’t matter if your idea is a little dietary change or a big new business; follow through can get you the result you want, valuable life experiences, strengthened relationships (with others and yourself), and a stronger platform and reputation. 

Unfortunately, sometimes we really can’t follow through because life just won’t get out of the way.  We run out of time, money, sanity, or other resources we need.  Shit happens and that’s a bummer.  But what about when we have every ability to follow through, and when it comes down to it, for whatever reason, we just can’t.  What’s up with that?  I’ll let Aristotle take it from here.    

 Aristotle, from the days when everyone had one name and was made of white stone.  

Aristotle, from the days when everyone had one name and was made of white stone.  

Akrasia: the state of mind where someone acts against their own self-interest and better judgement, loosely translated as “lacking power”.  We all know this one, it’s that intoxicating state where self-sabotage comes so easily.  According to Aristotle it’s a part of the human condition, and part of life’s adventure to overcome it.  Put simply, an “akratic” state happens when the emotional part of us overrides the rational part.  We’re behaving akraticly when we choose the instant gratification of a cupcake or a TV binge over the long term gratification of better health or a completed project.  There’s a lot of nuance that I’m not going to unpack here, but I hope you get the gist.  One of joys of adulting is that we have the opportunity to master the balance between emotion and ration, passion and reason.  I’m not usually one for quotes, but this is one of my favorite passages on the topic from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. 

If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in the midseas.

For reason, ruling also, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction. 

Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;

And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes. 
 From the folks at www.crusisingworld.com, and also my dreams.  

From the folks at www.crusisingworld.com, and also my dreams.  

That last line really gets me.  This description is just one way to visualize how to balance reason and passion in our lives, a task that feels near impossible some days.  I really like this line because of the latter part however, the idea that every day passion burns itself out and rises again.  I’m an optimist, and I like the idea that we get a new opportunity every day to strike that balance.  Some days it’s easy and some days we don’t stand a chance. 

Aristotle did us the favor of describing the opposite of an akratic state, called enkrateia, loosely translated as “in power”.  In an enkratic state, we are empowered to choose actions that truly benefit our future selves, and are more genuinely self-governed.  A noble goal, and one that I would be happy to help you reach.  Write me via the “contact” page to set up a consultation!