Resistance is a huge force, not to be ignored. It will invent crazy things just to stop you from doing what’s in your best interest. It hides behind many different faces like fear, discouragement, procrastination, or self-doubt, to name just a few.
I would never expect Resistance to disappear entirely, but learn to recognize it and manage it, and you will win in life. You can learn how to ride this wave!
PAIN AND PLEASURE
We resist many things and for various reasons, but to put in a somewhat simplified way, we’re just afraid of the pain associated with an action and lean towards pleasure.
Many of us know what we want, but don’t realize many of our wants contradict each other.
We want to lose weight, but we also want to eat those chocolate ice cream. We want to save money but also want to buy new stuff. We want to work on our aspirational projects, but also to chill on the sofa and binge-watch our favorite shows.
The good news is that we can, to some degree, get all we want, if only we find the balance in our actions (not too much, not too often). A part of this equation would be to restrain ourselves from doing something (eating/spending too much), but the other should be taking action towards the desired outcome. Sadly, a lot of our dreams can only come true when we take action.
Our Resistance to change may manifest in a myriad of ways, and if you’d like to explore many of them, go get a copy of a powerful little book by Steven Pressfield, The War of Art. Read it, re-read it. Heck, just memorize the thing.
RESISTANCE DISGUISED AS PROCRASTINATION
One of the powerful ways Resistance stops us from doing what we should be doing is procrastination. As Pressfield writes:
“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”
SOME TRICKS TO OVERCOME RESISTANCE
- Start small. By staring small (like THIS SMALL), you can quickly lower your Resistance towards an action. See, it’s one thing to find enough willpower to go to the gym for an hour after an exhausting day at work, and quite another to start a mini workout at home when all you need is everything you already have ( minimal no or equipment, exercising while watching reruns of your favorite show, for as little as 2 minutes)
- Temporarily suspend judgment. You need to enter into a contract with yourself: set a timer and start working on your project, ignoring all the negative self-talk that is likely to appear. You can acknowledge its existence and move on. Remember that you can do something even when you do not believe it to be a success, or don’t feel like doing it. Think of it as an experiment and do it anyway.
To lower Resistance, is to (temporarily) suspend judgment. It might seem like doing something mindlessly, but it’s done by design, and its goal is to lower the fear of failure or success. Remember to focus on taking action and moving forward and on the possible outcome.
- Set a routine & find a trigger for your desired action to remove decision fatigue (trying to decide when/where/how you’re going to do something). Ideally, link your new habit to an existing activity like brushing your teeth in the morning or reheating your lunch
- Use diversion whenever your mind gets in the way of your greatness. Here’s how I see it:
I often find thinking about an action I resist more draining than actually doing it. We are often imaging how difficult something might be, how hard or exhausting. That’s counterproductive. Use this energy to do the work.
My trick? Set a timer to JUST START and take your attention off the task (if possible).
If you’re a driver, you probably often drive from one place to another on an autopilot. Well, you can do many things on autopilot too!
I’m a huge fan of mindfulness and generally increasing awareness in life, so how does that work with suggesting doing something mindlessly? Well, the problem is, the mind often gets in our way to greatness. Sometimes, to just get us going, we need to stop thinking (or, to be precise, overthinking triggered by Resistance) and start doing. There’s thinking, and there’s overthinking. Overthinking blocks taking action.
- Don’t strain your willpower. We usually have more willpower in the morning (whenever it is for you) than later. Try to do what needs to be done as soon as possible, don’t leave it until late. Later usually means harder. Harder often means never.
- Make it easier to swallow. Try action bundling: when possible, pair an ‚unpleasant’ action with a pleasant one. You want to link new actions to pleasure or a reward, so do whatever it takes. Assisting activities work as a painkiller to get something you consider unpleasant done. And often, once you get going, you gain momentum and no longer need that little boost.
I resisted editing thousands of photos because it was hard work. But I started to look forward to editing when I paired it with listening to great audiobooks!
Having a trigger helps and making things fun usually does, too. I can watch a show on tv (reward) but exercise during every commercial break (you can do a lot during that time).
When your brain learns that your new action is not too difficult or scary, you might not need this crutch anymore.