Somewhere inside your head, my head, and everyone else’s head is a traitor. Meet the Resistance.
The job of the Resistance is to keep you where you are. Because where you are is safe, and it’s pretty tough to fail when you’re standing still.
What the Resistance looks like
- When you stare, paralyzed, at the signup page for your first marathon, telling yourself that the jump from 13.1 to 26.2 is just too great, that’s the Resistance.
- When instead of just choosing a race, you research it to death until you finally decide on doing nothing, that’s the Resistance.
- When you want to stop eating animals or putting junk in your body, but all you can hear are reasons why you can’t — your family, your work schedule, your friends — that’s the Resistance.
- When you give in to the craving and eat the junk, that’s not the Resistance. But when you bought the junk at the store because you knew you’d be craving it, that was the Resistance, doing its best to keep you the way you are.
It’s easy to recognize the Resistance when it shows up as fear. It’s a lot harder when it’s in disguise.
Have you ever noticed that when you finally sit down (or stand up) to do something that’s important to you, that’s when every distraction in the world shows up?
You sit down to read, and you realize you’re hungry. Or thirsty. Or that there’s a show on now you can try to catch while you read.
You open up your computer to write, but first you check your email. And then Facebook. And then you remember that bill you have to pay, so you do that.
You’re ready to start a new training plan, to really get yourself in shape. But you know, you really could use a new pair of shoes before you start. Or maybe you should just wait until next week, after that big thing that requires you to eat / drink / be busy is over.
See what’s happening?
These are crucial moments. They’re crossroads, where you’re just about to do something that literally changes the direction your life is headed. And this is when the Resistance gets really clever.
I’m just recovering from a bloody battle with the Resistance myself. You see, I’m very fortunate to have recently been able to make this internet thing my job. My real, only job; my source of putting food on the table for my family.
Naturally, with this new importance of what used to be just a hobby, I decided I need to start treating it right.
So I made the website look better. Then I caught up on the 350 emails sitting in my inbox.
But then before I could sit down to write, I organized my office. After all, the creativity’s gotta be able to flow.
Then I cleaned up my desk.
And then I moved icons around on my computer screen.
Though I didn’t realize it, this was all the Resistance. Given the new importance of writing, it became scarier (and harder) than ever before. And good old Resistance showed up, innocently enough, in the form of easy, mindless stuff that was seemingly good. Necessary. Urgent!
I’ve faced similar things with running, and you probably have, too. You know you should be running. You even want to be running. And yet, for a variety of reasons (some of which sound really, really legit), you’re not running.
It should be called runner’s block. It’s no different from what writers and artists face. In both situations, the hard, essential thing — the reason all the peripheral equipment, plans, goals, and talk even exist — is the one thing that’s not getting done, and you can’t explain why not.
How you beat the Resistance
During my little bout with all of this, I read all about it (another form of Resistance, I suppose). Steven Pressfield is the guy who coined the term, in the War of Art.
And, after 160 pages, I’ve learned that the way to beat the Resistance as it tries to keep you from running, working, or anything else, is ridiculously simple, and disappointingly non-shortcutty:
Act. Do whatever it takes to get yourself to do it one time. Then again. Then again.
With writing, it’s about sitting down for a few minutes every day to produce something.
With running, it’s about getting out the door and putting one foot in front of the other. For five minutes even, if that’s all you can mentally commit to.
Do it one time, and all the sudden the Resistance doesn’t look quite so big and bad.
Then when you go to do the important-but-scary thing again the next day, it’s just a tiny bit easier. And then with every word, step, mile, blog post, and workout, you build momentum, until your mojo is undeniably back.
So next time you’re ready to do something that matters — something that’s hard, maybe even scary — be aware that the little diversions that pop up to prevent you from acting aren’t just innocent coincidences. They’re the handiwork of the Resistance, and their sole purpose is stop you from doing something great so you take the safe, easy path instead.
And if you don’t recognize that and take control, rest assured, the Resistance will.