Waboom! The epiphany descends, a glorious new creative idea. In a Technicolor flash I see the spectrum of my next great screenplay, sure to be success, the best I’ve ever done. I scribble down the first few lines and resume my day, satisfied I’m still on track towards my dream of becoming a filmmaker of fame and fortune. Then, as usual, life gets busy. A few days pass, I keep telling myself I’ll wait for the right moment to sit down with the project, to devote some real time to developing it. A week passes and then another, I start to doubt that the idea is even worth it. A month later, I find the scribbled page of my notebook with the original flash. Damn, this is an awesome idea. I’d been had, and it wasn’t the first or the last time…
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance”.
Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art
You’re too tired, too busy, too distracted. The idea is so good that you need to just do one more thing before you really really start. It’s too noisy outside, you’re suddenly hungry, the fridge really needs to be cleaned and oh wait, your pants are too tight.
Sound familiar? These are all symptoms of resistance, and you are wise to get to know your foe before it totally derails you from ever knowing the feeling of realizing your potential.
Resistance is an unconscious mechanism that will do anything to stop us from achieving our evolution, be it spiritual, creative or making our mark on the world. Stephen Pressfield’s creative handbook, “The War of Art” goes into great depth of exploring where and how this nemesis plays out. He describes creativity as a war, and as his 5th century predecessor, military strategist Sun Tzu states in “the Art of War”, it is always wise to both know your enemy and yourself before going into battle.
The Many Faces of Resistance
Remember, Resistance is unconscious. Would we stop ourselves from achieving our true potential? Nevertheless it is a worthy opponent and is often fueled by our underlying fears. The antidote? Do it anyway! Call the job lead, go to the event, take the singing lessons. No one is immune to resistance; those who succeed in achieving their goals have often built the strength to forge ahead, to know the many faces of their enemy.
Procrastination, selfdoubt, fatigue, drama (getting pulled into yours or others) are all familiar tropes of resistance. It can get tricky sometimes, like when resistance often tells you that it would be easier NOT to do the task at hand, which is probably true. But is life most satisfying when it is easy? Do we grow and thrive when everything is a mouse click away?
And how about when reality doesn’t behave? You finally psych yourself up to go to the gym and a massive rainstorm comes down as you go to catch the bus. Or your computer crashes when you sit down to write the first draft of your book. Is this the universe giving you a sign that it’s not meant to be, or is it resistance? The answer: Get wet and start your first draft on paper. i.e. Do it anyway and see how good you feel on the other side!!
We all have our weak areas that the opponent will seek out. Get to know how resistance shows up for you and what it feels like when you are in it. I know that resistance comes in as fatigue and even physical pain for me. My strategy: take little bites everyday. I won’t let resistance take a day of writing from me, even if it’s just 20 minutes at a time. And if I miss one, I am more ruthless to make up the time the next day. Know your blind spots and make a plan. I had a friend who was always late for her meditation classes. Her approach? Leave an hour earlier.
Ultimately consider Pressfield’s suggestion to “use it as a compass.” When resistance shows up, it means you’re onto something really good. If it persists, you are really going strong! As you continue to build up your ability to face it and conquer its temptation, the more you will be able to feel your Genius and follow her guidance.
For more tips on living spiritually strong, check my post The 5 keys of the Spiritual Warrior.
~Level 1 and 2 teacher