Friction is the natural worlds way of holding back movement of an object or wearing that object down. Whether it’s the viscous effects of oil in an engine or the drag over an aircraft’s wing, this natural force exists all around us to keep things from working effortlessly. Sometimes it’s a force for good, for example when you apply the brakes in your car and the tires keep you from rear-ending the car in front of you. But most often it simply wreaks havoc.
So to does friction create havoc in the mind. I like to call it “friction of mind”, because it gives it a name. For me it shows up often times just when the work towards a goal is at its hardest point or when I’m faced with a multitude of tasks. My mind-friction begins dragging me towards less important tasks or rationalizing reasons why the work isn’t really worth doing. It simply wreaks havoc.
Designing A Way Around Friction
Engineers spend a lot of time designing means to reduce, or even overcome, the effects of friction. Thanks to this work, we get 10,000 miles between oil changes and the ability to fly non-stop between Denver and Munich. Designing a way to reduce, or overcome, friction in the mind requires just as much R&D and effort.
The most important step is identifying that “friction” is present and acting to wear you down. Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but the voice in your head telling you not to pursue playing piano or to stop working on a new professional certification is friction. It’s the same voice that tells you, you don’t have the time, energy, or skill to undertake something. This force is present in everyone and it’s there to take you out of the game.
Once you admit the friction’s there, working against you, you have a “thing” you can work around. For me, it’s a series of daily disciplines that I do religiously, regardless of where I am or how much I have going-on. It’s also a “ritual” I follow each time I sit down to write one of these posts. Why do I do this? Because it establishes a solid foundation from which I can work from each day, or in each writing episode. It’s my way of getting around the evil friction in my mind.
Your fight against friction in the mind, like mine and everyone else’s, will wage on for life. Acknowledging this insidious element for what it is, a natural force that will hold you back from achieving your highest potential, gives you the power to design around or over it.
Don’t Just Take My Word for It
I call this invisible, destructive force in my mind “friction”, and it’s something I’ve understood existed for several years. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I came across another name for this force by the author Steven Pressfield: “resistance”. He’s the author of the book “Bagger Vance” and many others. Through the posts I’ve penned to date, I’ve not recommended any books as must-reads….until now. I highly recommend reading Steven’s books The War of Art and Do The Work if the concept of ‘friction’ or ‘resistance’ is something you want to learn more about. Reading both several times has allowed me to kick-up my game in overcoming mind-friction and doing my work.
“If you’re paralyzed with fear it’s a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.” Steven Pressfield
Christian J. Knutson, P.E., PMP
The Engineering Career Coach