I love this quote and the picture is pretty cool too. The dragon obviously is a metaphor the most difficult things in your life that you must deal with, and proactively fighting the dragon versus defending yourself from it are two totally different things.
Defending yourself implies that you are under attack, that you don’t want this fight, but now you have no choice. You are not the aggressor, you are the victim. Attacking the dragon before it comes to you implies several things, one of which is that you understand the problem this is causing in your life, and you are taking action to defeat it. You have prepared, you have studied the enemy and you know a thing or two about it. You know it has weaknesses, vulnerable points that can be exploited if approached correctly. YOU have become the aggressor. This entails a very different mindset.
Any time you have difficulty to face, you have to be brave. Bravery is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to act and perform despite the fear you feel. The hero and the coward feel the same thing, but only the hero takes action. Confronting the dragon on his turf is giving you some advantages, including the element of surprise, in your favor. To switch from speaking metaphorically to a real life example, every year that I prepared to play in the annual Flagstaff Racquetball tournament, I viewed it as fighting the dragon.
I had plenty of personal baggage (dragons) that I had to slay as part of my process in winning that tournament:
I had to be in super condition. The event is at roughly 6500 feet of elevation which makes not only the lungs burn, but the ball react differently as well. I would arrive two days early to adjust to these new conditions, where others would show up “day of” and hope for the best. I always played two divisions, so I had twice as many matches to win. Many times I had to defeat my doubles partner in singles, and then turn around and play a doubles match with him an hour later. I hated playing against him, but loved every minute of playing with him.
I had to manage my energy. This event was a combination of a lot of things in one long weekend. I would stop and fish on the way up in Oak Creek, play a round of golf on Thursday, and go out every night. I wanted to make all of these things part of the event each year, so I had to manage this as well as possible to not burn out or be depleted going into the racquetball matches. By Friday night when the tournament started, I was ready to go.
I had to manage my emotions. This is not something I was very good at during this time frame of my life. I still don’t think I do a great job of it, but I have improved over the years. Coaching as forced me to do a better job, of leading by example. I, like everyone else, was fighting battles that no one knew of, and in many cases battles that had absolutely nothing to do with racquetball. The toll this took on me was evident, and it took two weeks to recover in some cases. The swirl of emotions I put myself through had more impact on me than the physical output did. This was my dragon, my biggest challenge. To my credit (I guess?), I learned to win despite not ever gaining control over my emotions. This made it harder and it detracted from the experience to say the least.
Regardless of the dragon(s) you face, you can learn from my experiences and mistakes. There is so much more you can do, handle, and change than you ever thought. What seems a daunting task, once broken down into steps, suddenly is a manageable work load. If you need to change jobs, start looking while you still have one. If you need to enhance your degree to get out of the job you’re in, or to change fields altogether, get to work. Thirty-five credit hours for a new degree seems like a tremendous amount of work, enough to deter you from ever starting. But you CAN handle two or three classes at a time.
Take action; attack the problem, do not wait to defend yourself.
Here is a very different example, but the same approach would apply. If you get cornered by someone while you are out, and it appears you are in physical danger with no way to run or to talk your way out of it, then strike first. Your aggressor was expecting (hoping for) and easy target; you flip that dynamic by punching them in the nose and/or kicking them in the groin instead of waiting to defend an actual attack from them. In most cases, it does not take that much to deter a would-be attacker, you just have to show you are willing to stand up to them. It’s more trouble then they had planned for, and they will have to weigh the pay off of this new situation.
If you struggle with anxiety or lack of confidence, you need to make those feelings isolated and unwelcome in your head. You need to create an environment that they will not want to reside in. Practicing things like meditation, positive affirmations, and visualization of the person you want to become are a great start to defeating this dragon. But you do have to attack it. You can’t wait for those thoughts and feelings to show up and then play defense. You need to fight them on your own terms. Journal, get a therapist, talk to your dog, whatever it takes, but get those thoughts front and center and start to slowly but surely dismantle them. They didn’t get there overnight, so don’t think one good therapy session is going to cure what ails you. It will take diligence, but think of the pay off of that work…
As the old saying goes, everyone is fighting a battle you are unaware of. Which means that you are not alone in this fight. You DO have to fight your own battle(s), but you are not alone in doing so. Everyone is (should be) doing the same You will have good days and bad, successes and failures, but as long as you are still in the fight, you have a chance to win. Write that on your bathroom mirror so you see it every day. Keep the long play in mind, this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. In many of the finals I won in the Flagstaff tournament, I would lose the first two games in a best-of-five match, getting my ass kicked badly in the early going. And then it would happen…my opponent would let up, make an error or miss an opportunity, and I would capitalize. I saw a glimmer of hope, and that was all I needed. If I could win game three, I was still in the match. Typically I would dominate in game four; the reality of him being so close to winning and being done seem to get the better of him. I had breathed new life into my chances, so I came out guns blazing. He could feel things slipping away. To his credit, he would fight back in the tie-breaker (fifth game), unwilling to just roll over. I would have to earn it, every time, usually by two points after a two hour battle. And I did. This pattern repeated itself every time I played this opponent…
It’s the same for you, regardless of the actual fight you are in, the same holds true. Keep moving forward, keep yourself in the mix long enough for things to bend in your favor. Give yourself a chance to come roaring back and take over. Allow yourself a shot at pulling off an amazing comeback. Position yourself to be victorious, first and foremost by never giving in.
And I hate to break it to you, but there will be more dragons to slay. Life is like that, and there is not much you can do to change that fact. BUT…how you prepare and how you attack these problems will make all the difference. Your mindset is 90% of the battle; once you get that under control, you are off and running, sword in hand.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.