A well-defined enemy is one of the best things you can hope for in life. You need a good enemy to bring out your best. Without one, you’ll live a more comfortable but more mediocre life.

What’s an enemy? Someone or something that poses a threat to you, personally, philosophically, or existentially. You need one so you’ll have a reason to improve.

It’s not curiosity or an intrinsic desire to be a better person that causes people to seek out change. You know it as well as I do. People don’t like change. We like routine and comfort. Change is uncomfortable, so people tend to avoid it when possible. Enemies get people out of their comfort zone.

People change because deep down, they’re afraid. This primal emotion is what often motivates people to do the things they do. Eventually, most people fears are calmed by their day-to-day lives. They become comfortable in their situation. Comfort stifles innovation, dries up creativity, and leads to apathy and decay.
If you want to improve, you need an enemy. That enemy can be a person, a situation, or an idea that challenges you and makes you afraid. That fear will motivate you. It will lead you to seek out new knowledge or better ways of doing things so that you become stronger and more capable of taking on and even defeating your enemy.

An enemy brings you focus. An example: I weigh more than I would like to. If I’m comfortable with that, nothing will change. However, I suffered an injury a year ago and recovery has been challenging. Keeping this weight also means I may not be able to continue with activities I love to do. That is what I fear: the possibility I won’t be able to keep doing the things I love. The enemy now is the excess weight.

At this point, someone out there is probably thinking I shouldn’t consider my body an enemy. I don’t. I love it, but I also recognize that I need to treat it better. (Side note: Do you have something or someone you love in your life you could be treating better? If so, what’s stopping you?) Now that I have a focus, I’m learning how to treat my body better. I’m learning what it likes and what it doesn’t when it comes to nutrition and activity. The fear has given me a focus. That fear has given me the impetus to make positive changes.

Enemies Bring Focus – and Friends

If you’re fighting for something, you’re fighting against something else. Want to preserve a piece of ancient forest? You’re fighting for trees, for the environment, for the planet. That’s all well and good, but you’re also fighting against greedy corporations with no soul. When you have an enemy, you’ll be able to find allies more easily because chances are, there are others who have the same enemy. You know the saying: “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Not always true, but it’s one way to gain new supporters for your cause.

An enemy must be strong enough that defeating it will be a challenge. The adversity an enemy provides becomes a source of source of energy that allows you to change, evolve, and grow, transforming yourself or your organization into an entity that is capable of winning. You’ll find new techniques and tactics to vanquish your nemesis and accomplish your goals. You and your supporters will stay focused, knowing that with enough effort you and your cause will prevail. Without an enemy, there is no fear, no reason to act or change.

When you’re fighting against something, you’re tapping into stronger emotions than fighting for something. The threat of an enemy brings urgency to the fight. An enemy helps provide focus and clarity to your actions. In short, enemies propel you forward. You want to make a change? Start with figuring out what you’re afraid of and define your enemy. Your path forward will be challenging, but with a clearly defined enemy to beat, you’ll be more likely to persevere and overcome.

Ironically, your enemy may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.