Let's say you've decided to start an important new project. Or maybe a business. Or an entirely new career. The very next thing you do is take a deep steely breath and go for it with fierce determination, right?
This is when every fiber of your being tries to throw you off course, hammer on the brakes, and sabotage all of your efforts. Welcome to the resistance. This is when you try and busy yourself with other important things (and also many non-important things) in order to avoid doing the one thing you're terrified of doing, even though you desperately want to do it.
In The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, author Steven Pressfield says, "The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it." That's absolutely been true for me, and it's been true for the people I coach, as well.
I recently designed an online course for aspiring career changers. I love that project with my whole heart and soul. I felt called to do it. And yet I fought it. HARD. I busied myself with other things. Even when I set aside time to develop the course I found every excuse and opportunity to stray from it. For example, here are some of the things I did to avoid working on the course. This is just in ONE DAY:
- Gave myself a pedicure.
- Watched last week's episode of The Bachelor.
- Had a bowl of Cap'n Crunch.
- Stared into the open refrigerator.
- Made guacamole.
- Ate entire batch of said guacamole.
- Made brownies (do you see a theme developing here?).
- Went on a Starbucks run.
- Bought another new notebook.
- Filed new notebook with several other unused notebooks.
- Checked email every 5 minutes.
- Watched a video of a wild gorilla reunited with the man who raised him.
- Googled "how many calories are in an entire pan of brownies"
- Organized my closet.
- Watched a TED video.
- Watched five more TED videos.
- Bought 12 domain names I'll probably never use.
- Took nine photos of my cat. Instagrammed one.
- Started a new project.
- Tidied my desktop.
- Found 14 abandoned new projects on my desktop.
- Read yesterday's paper.
- Make a to do list (because there's nothing like making a list of the stuff you need to do instead of actually doing it).
My point? I know just as well as the next person exactly what it feels like to very actively and persistently resist something you want.
We often resist what we desire most. Why? Because the stakes are so damn high, that's why. We're all secretly scared that if we go for it we'll fuck it up. What if I suck at this? What if people think I'm an idiot? What if I change my mind? What if I fail?
Resistance is just one big chronic case of the "what ifs." And the "what ifs" are paralyzing.
So what's a person caught in the grip of resistance to do? First, notice the resistance. Second, call its bluff.
You'll have to say things like:
Listen, Resistance, I know it's technically possible that we received a life changing email in the past five minutes, but frankly the chances are slim. How about we try and work for just 30 minutes and then we can have an email break? M'kay?
-- or --
Hey, Resistance, that looks like a delicious batch of brownies you've whipped up there, but didn't you just scarf a whole batch of guacamole? I think you're trying to avoid working on that scary thing you want to do. Step away from the baked goods. Back away slowly.
-- or --
Whatcha doin' there, Resistance? Scrubbing the toilet? Checking your email? Going shopping? Watching internet cat videos? Cleaning the fridge? Rearranging your closet? Checking the score of last night's game? Watching old Seinfeld reruns? All of those things are very nice, but is it important that you do them right now, or are you avoiding something?
Moving through resistance is like playing a game of Red Light, Green Light. It happens in short, choppy bursts. Just as you get going you'll come halting to a stop. Then you'll feel safe taking a few steps forward. Until you don't. And this whole cycle will repeat itself until you're at your destination. Getting there doesn't require that you conquer your fear or proceed in one fluid motion, just that you move through your resistance, choppy and spastic though it is.
Give it a whirl. And, hey, if you try and fail I've got brownies.
This is an adapted excerpt from Careergasm: Find Your Way To Feel Good Work.