The War Within Us

What Is The Meaning of the Cover?

Image by Author | The War Within Us

There is an internal battle going on within us every day. At least for me, this is true — the pull in either direction to be lazy and do nothing or be productive and get things done. I’m sure that all of us have dealt with this struggle occasionally.

I am not talking about taking a much-needed break after being productive because we all need our downtime to recharge and be ready to get back to work. Instead, I’m talking about having a string of days where you don’t get anything done–this is The War Within Us.

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote: “All men are bred for war.” So what kind of war are you going to fight? Will you constantly fight against everything around you, or will you fight against the war within you?

What I’ve realized over the years is that the critical piece to winning this war is discipline. The samurai, in my opinion, are one of the best examples of discipline I have found. And so, I wrote two books about the connection between the principles they lived by and how we can use them to improve our daily lives. You can find my first book here:

Miyamoto Musashi wrote a short text a few weeks before he passed away. This short text, addressed to one of his students, was comprised of 21 precepts on how to live. The title of the text was 独行道 (Dokkōdō), translated to English becomes The Art of Walking Alone.

独行道-dokkōdō: the art of walking alone

Two topics I have been writing about over the last year are work-life harmony and self-leadership. So many of us want connection in our lives that allows us to live one life that doesn’t feel like a conflict between work and personal time. This harmony, however, is not going to come without intention.

We must learn the importance of self-leadership and leading ourselves well to find the work-life harmony we seek. Additionally, it will make it difficult for us to lead others well because we will have difficulty keeping ourselves above water.

Photo by Ty Crump on Unsplash

Interestingly, the Dokkōdō was written by Musashi in an isolated cave in the middle of the wilderness. When I think about this, it makes me wonder if this was intentional on Musashi’s part to emphasize the importance of the text.

But let’s break down each kanji character to learn more about what the Dokkōdō means.

独-hito: single, alone, independent

This character reminds me that some of the best battles that are fought and won happen when no one else is around. We want to jump for joy and share this excitement with someone, only to realize we’re alone.

Maybe because we often struggle with things no one else knows about and don’t share our truth. Or perhaps it is because sometimes we don’t want to ask for help to get through things. Whatever our reason for going alone, building habits and behaviors that serve us well is critical to our well-being.

We won’t see the success or harmony we want without constructive habits and behaviors. The Dokkōdō is a road map to help you do just that.

Image by Author | Foggy Ridge line trail up to Easton Glacier basecamp on Mt. Baker, WA

行-yuku: going, journey, action

You have likely heard that life is a journey, not a destination. Or perhaps it is a marathon and not a sprint. Musashi understood this, given that he was writing this text at the end of his life.

I wonder if he got to the end of his life with a long list of things he still wanted to accomplish, but the text would tell me that he was content with where he ended up. We all have our journey to live out in our daily lives. How much better would it feel to be satisfied with where we are?

The steps we take on our journey and our actions directly result from the behaviors and habits we nurture internally. So if you are not happy or content, it is time to look at your habits and behaviors, make some tough decisions, and start the change process.

道-michi/do: the way, the path, method, art

I am not here to tell you I have found the secret to living life with work-life harmony. The truth is there are many ways to see the results you want. I will tell you, though, that it is essential to follow a methodology to find the path you seek.

If you’d like to learn more about my views on finding more work-life harmony and learning how to lead the self first, you can grab a copy of my book when it comes out on 4/15/2023, buy a copy of my first book “Always Improving: Lessons from the samurai,” or follow me on social media.

2 thoughts on “The War Within Us

  1. Thank you for another thought provoking message Steve. I like how you use the kanji characters of a Japanese word to tell a story!


    1. Thank you Kathy, I appreciate that.


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