Steven Pressfield writes about watching a famous trainer work with his thoroughbreds. To Steven’s surprise, the trainer takes great pains to make the training sessions “fun” for the horses. The trainer explained:

Horses understand the whip but I don’t want a racer that runs that way. A horse that loves to run will beat a horse that’s compelled, every day of the week.

S. Pressfield in Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work

What’s true for horses is true for you and me.

Too often the compelling voice of “should” plays in our heads: You should be further along…You should be more like so and so…Mom / the Boss / the Editor says you should…Necessity says you should do this, not that. “Should” is a loud, ever-present whip. Its fearful, urgent considerations hijack our focus and our lives.

The truth is, we hate “should.” It exhausts and depletes us. However, we use it to keep going in the parts of our lives it already controls—the parts where we are operating outside of our true heart. Unfortunately, a whip breeds the need for more whip.

Love, however, energizes and renews us. We, like racehorses, were born to do what we love.

If we are going to fulfill our destiny as co-creators with God, we must live and act out of love. Jesus said: As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9 NIV)

I’ve also discovered the whip can interfere even when I am doing what I love. One of my joys is choosing and placing words on a page so that an important point is made crystal-clear. I am thrilled when someone is helped. However, “should” causes me to write less:

You should reply to these emails right away.

You should call her back right now.

You should do work that is more lucrative.

You should write more like so and so—he’s so awesome.

You should get more done in a day than you do.

 The pressure of the whip makes me question myself and what I’m doing. Back off! I tell this internal nemesis. I’m doing what I love—this is what I’m here for!

 I must train myself to run free, without the whip.

 You ask: “Are you saying we can live carelessly, without concern for food and shelter and caring for our dependents? Just go off and do anything we please whenever we want?”

No, no. However, consider this:

  • Review your entire life from as far back as you can remember up until now. When did you feel the most energized? The most truly alive? The most you?
  • What was happening during these times? What were you doing?
  • How can you do more of that now?


You were born to run fast and free.

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photo credit: sufw (creative commons)

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