Obsession and dedication are two ways to get results, but only one of them offers any kind of freedom. Filling the gaps between what we want and what we have or where we want to be and where we are with more thoughts, more focus, or more concentration often seems like the only option. After pouring into every option within one’s control and not being able to achieve often leaves one with an impatience or tension over things they cannot change.
The feelings and effort associated with tackling these things we can control is called dedication.
Obsession is the feelings, thoughts and effort put into changing the things we can’t control. It leads to a lack of closure and creates more thoughts, feelings and emotions that often lead to more wasteful thought or harmful actions.
Now this understanding of dedication and obsession is not conventional. Some would argue that obsession is a constant preoccupation of our minds that inhibits thoughts of anything else. This can be true. However, there are varying degrees of obsession just like there are varying degrees of dedication.
It’s possible to be dedicated and obsessed, although being obsessed at all really isn’t any good for you.
Obsession easily disguises itself as creativity: “I think about X all the time because I’m trying to find new methods, perspectives, answers, solutions to attain it.” As if the struggle will be solved by only thinking more. Focusing your thoughts on the things that you can control takes dedication. Focusing on those basics, the fundamentals of your discipline, mastering them and moving beyond them does not require incessant thought, it requires hard work and deliberate thought, thought that is concerned with using what is available, rather than what is out of reach.
Dedication requires all the focus you have at your disposal. But to avoid being obsessed any extra energy left over should be spent making those efforts effective by keeping them healthy. So in some sense it takes time to make sure you are using time correctly. This is called discipline. Discipline is the vanguard against obsession that allows your efforts to be effective, rather than helpless. Disciplining your thoughts is simple, but not easy. So often obsession is rooted in desire, so the act of discipline is to change that root, by desiring something entirely different. Desire to work harder, desire to waste less, desire to struggle the hard way, desire not taking short cuts, desire to have something instead of just wanting it badly, change your desire and express it to transform your mind.
Discipline guards against developing idols in your life; the objects, people, substances and pursuits that take on supernatural meaning from what you believe they offer you.
This idolatry is the reconnecting point of your obsessive thoughts that think they have found a solution. They begin to redirect themselves to this idol and tell you that everything that comes from this is good or reasonable, when really, it’s just a bunch of helplessness rationalizing its own existence: obsession.
Obsession is thinking about things that you can’t control which is why if you ever obtain the object of your obsession, there is never any satisfaction. It’s a prison. It’s the obsession that makes us feel good, not the attainment. Satisfaction comes from effort, not the attainment. So simply attained, the object of any obsession will find itself quickly replaced to create the craving purpose again and again.