Commit to the Path (獨行道 3)

This is number 3 of my series of posts on Dokkōdō.

Dokkōdō (獨行道is a short work written by Miyamoto Musashi (宮本武蔵) a week before he died in 1645. It consists of 21 precepts. [It] was largely composed on the occasion of Musashi giving away his possessions in preparation for death, and was dedicated to his favorite disciple, Terao Magonojō. “Dokkōdō” expresses a stringent, honest, and ascetic view of life. ~ From Wikipedia

3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.


Note: This is sometimes translated as “Give no preference to anything” or “forever maintain an unbiased disposition”.

Derek Sivers has a philosophy that he teaches. If something isn’t a “HELL YEAH!” then it is a “no”.

The more we say “yes” to opportunities, the less we are giving ourselves the opportunity to focus our attention and energy.

We have a finite number of hours in the day. We have a finite amount of energy and will power. The thinner you spread those finite resources, the less impactful and focused you will be.

To make a difference — socially, economically, physically — you need to leverage all of your available personal resources to aid you in that endeavor. In this case, an abundance of opportunities and commitments is a detriment to your ability to be a force for positive change.

Increasingly we are provided avenues for us to divide our attention. We are given technology, relationships, and programs that promise to help us make our lives better but ultimately distract us from doing those things which are most important.

Your path doesn’t need to be world-changing. It can be as simple as tending a garden, or learning to dance, or improving your health. Your destination is important and relevant to you. And whether you are still unsure where you are going, or are already on your way, a committed focus to your path — known or unknown — is the only effective way to move forward.

There are two modes in life:

  1. We are seeking our path.
  2. We are traveling our path.

For the seeker, it may seem that exploring as many opportunities as possible is a good way to determine where you should go. Schools often use this approach by requiring a broad-based education. But I’ve never found that taking on every activity that comes my way is the best way to find my path.

Seeking is not the same as wandering.

Google Maps doesn’t give you every possible path to your destination. It gives you the best path based on expediency of time and resources. I find that focusing on the destination — who you want to be and how you want to impact the world — and then determining which roads lead there, is more effective.

Even if you don’t know the specific address of your destination, knowing whether you are traveling north, south, east, or west, can at least start you on your path.

Even if you don’t know the destination, you can start in a direction.

For those traveling a path, then your challenge is to recommit to that journey every day by saying “no” to those opportunities (i.e. distractions) that come along and try to entice you away from it.

There is a simple compass you can use to make sure the opportunity allows you to stay on your path or is taking you away from it.

If you have a partial feeling and you don’t feel a “HELL YEAH!” to move in that direction, then your internal compass is telling you it is not the right path.

Say “no”.

At first, fine-tuning your compass to move in the right direction may be difficult. Through a lifetime of following distractions you may have lowered your sensitivity to that feeling.

But, like any skill, the more you do it, the better you become.

Your ability to be who you wish to be is determined in large part by your ability to follow your path, and to avoid partial feelings that may distract you along your journey.

I said earlier that there are two modes in life: the seeker and the traveler. In reality, there is just the traveler, because even if you are seeking your path, you are still traveling on a path of seeking.

We are all on a journey. But our progress is a result of our ability to focus and remove distractions and obstacles from our path.