“Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.” —Steven Pressfield
Have you ever hit a wall when sitting down to work on something? Even when it was something you wanted to do?
The other day I sat down to work on an assignment from my writing coach. Now you need to know, I love working with my coach and feel inspired and challenged by our work together. I’m very committed.
Yet picture this: I’m sitting down to the time I specifically set aside to write, and here’s the thought that comes into my mind, “I don’t want to do this right now, I think I’ll put in a load of laundry instead.”
This is my version of resistance sneaking in, masquerading as something else. And unless I catch it, it’s a slippery slope that can lead me astray from my commitment to writing every day.
Having lots of practice, I’ve learned that there are ways to deal with resistance and win.
But before I show you how, let’s take a quick look at some of the ways resistance shows up.
The Characteristics of Resistance
It’s true that sometimes we resist things because we have no interest in doing them, even though it’s something that needs to be done.
At other times resistance shows up when we’re involved in working on our writing, our art, a project, or a deal we’re putting together for a new client. We’re actually doing something we want to do and yet resistance keeps us from stepping into our flow and getting it done.
Resistance shows up in spite of our intention, and it creeps in so subtlety that often we aren’t aware it’s there at first. It’s like an intangible presence that shows up in our thoughts without any warning. Once it shows up, our focus wants to go in a different direction.
And because it sneaks in, it can be tenacious. Before you know it, you’re answering emails, calling a friend, going online, and starting anything other than what you want to get done.
Beware of Self Judgment
At this point, it’s easy to slip into self-judgment about not doing what you intended. The thing is, when you start telling yourself things like, “See, I can’t get anything done,” or “I’m not good at this,” it just feeds the resistance and reinforces it.
So when you begin judging yourself—stop, take a deep breath, and take a look at what’s coming up for you.
Is there a Benefit?
Ask yourself if there’s a benefit to the resistance you’re feeling. Is it telling you something?
Maybe you’ve sat at your desk for too long and need to step outside, breathe some fresh air, and come back with a fresh start.
Or you might find that the resistance is there because what you’re working on is bringing up some old beliefs. Beliefs you’ve held onto that no longer serve you. Something like, “I’m not smart enough,” or “everything always takes me so long.”
When you run into an old belief (and we all have them), the most important thing is to recognize it for what it is. Forgive all judgments, and know that these old beliefs are just thoughts—and that you can let them go. Because after all, they aren’t really true.
Once you do that, the resistance dissipates.
Reconnect to Your Why
Be serious about what you want to do and ask yourself, “What am I resisting?”
Reconnect with your “Why.” Reconnect with the reason you’re doing what you’re doing. When I stick with my writing practice every day, it helps me to remember that I want to be a good writer and that this is part of my process.
The thing is that even the most mundane tasks can transform when you connect them to the bigger picture of what you want to achieve.
Acknowledge that you’re feeling resistance and keep going. Resistance feeds off negativity and judgment, which turns into procrastination (i.e. the never-ending cycle of über-resistance). Be positive and lighthearted, knowing you’ve got this, and the resistance will pass.
If you detour from what you’re doing, get back to it as soon as you recognize the signs that you’re off track. And most of all, know that resistance is bound to come up now and then. The trick is recognizing it for what it is and choosing to not engage too seriously with it—while still staying true to what you want to accomplish. In that way, you’ll break through it every time.
Please share your ways of working through resistance.