Photo credit: Matthieu Comoy
Two weeks ago, my “surrender” message hit home for a number of you. It seems a lot of us are learning when it’s time to let go so we can allow life to flow and love to help us along.
Over the years of designing my career, doing my self-work and especially stepping out to risk-take and live out loud, I’ve found another force gets in our way. This one pushes on us from the outside as opposed to coming from within.
It’s called resistance, and it loves to team up with inner control to mess with our heads and stop our creative dreams in their tracks.
Whether you’re starting your dream business, writing the book or screenplay you have inside you, learning to play the piano, or trying on a healthier lifestyle, you’ve encountered the force of resistance.
You know you have if you do any of the following at the exact time you’re about to start working/writing/painting/exercising…
Clean out your drunk drawer
Say to yourself “I’m just not feeling it today – I’ll start my business tomorrow”
Take a nap because today seems like a good day to work on your sleep habits
Cyberstalk your ex
Google meaningless shit
Numb out with reality TV
Decide NOW is the time to clean out your inbox
Shop/binge on sugar/masturbate/drink/____ (fill in your favorite here)
If you’re doing any of those in the face of working on your life’s art, your soul work, your pro calling, or your commitment to self-care, you’re battling resistance. And, sorry to tell you, resistance is winning.
The good news is you’re not alone. So not. I’m right there with you; I face resistance every day. Every. Single. F-ing. Day.
I remember an especially resistance-heavy, pre-Covid morning I had earlier this year. It was a Monday which is one of my content days. I love creating content. It gets my creative juices flowing, and alongside coaching and counseling, it wakes up all my core desired feelings of self-expression, connection and joy.
So why then did I drive to three different Starbucks looking for just the right one to do my work?
· Starbucks 1 - only had one functioning bathroom so I obviously can’t create there.
· Starbucks 2 - only had a communal table available so hard pass.
· Starbucks 3 – ahh, just right…oh wait, why is this old dude coming by my table telling me jokes about my Mac running on apple juice? Get it? Apple juice. (face palm)
This not-strange-to-me time wasting and mind fuckery was me wrestling with resistance. Sure I still blame Starbucks’ plumbing issue, but what was really happening is I was encountering the unseen, unheard but completely felt force that doesn’t want me putting my soul out there – resistance.
My journey with resistance.
I first learned about resistance when I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This is a must-read if you feel called to be a creator, a business owner, a self-developer, or a deep lover of any kind. The gist is that your ability to successfully create what calls to you is not about the creating itself; it’s about learning how to start creating. How to sit down to create – to write, to paint, to play, to make, to love.
Pressfield defines resistance as “the most toxic force on the planet” that stands between the life we live and the unlived life within us. He also describes it as invisible, impersonal, insidious, and for better or worse, internal. Yep, it lives inside us. Inside you. Inside me. I still blame Starbucks.
For me, that unlived life started calling me around 2013 when I realized being a full-time therapist and grad school professor wasn’t the end of my professional road. My creative muse started nudging me toward building a different kind of business – one that called deep on my courage to bring more of myself to the table to create personal growth experiences for clients.
This nudge felt – feels – deep. Soul-based, spiritual even, and like my moment of truth.
And like clockwork and just as Pressfield said would happen, I immediately faced the most powerful opponent ever. As I began to heed the call, follow the muse and start my dream personal development business, resistance reared its ugly head.
Procrastination, diversions, preoccupations, giving in, giving up, walking away…all of it showed up. The more I felt the call coming from deep inside of me, the more I feared it and tried to bail. And the more I feared it, the more resistance got the best of me.
The more you love your art/calling/enterprise, the. More important its accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it and the more resistance you will experience facing it.
- Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
What kept me going and what brought me back was knowing I was dealing with resistance. By naming it for what it was, I realized that it was only showing up because I was truly onto something. That’s the hidden beauty of resistance – its intensity proves the magnitude of your inner creative calling. I took its presence as validation of my dream even while it wanted to tear it down.
And despite my Starbucks sidetrack today, I don’t let it get in my way nearly as often as I did in the beginning. It’s a work in progress, though, and that’s okay.
Your resistance and how to fight it.
How does resistance show up for you? More importantly, why is it showing up? What are you creating – or wanting to start creating – that is being blocked by resistance?
Whatever it is, that’s your work. That’s your art. Your creative dream. Your muse is nudging you. Heed the call.
Easier said the done, I know. But not impossible. Not at all. Creators, lovers, leaders, builders around the world, right now, are putting resistance in its place and getting down to business.
The next time you feel the dread, the push back, the distraction, the call to give up, or the call to organize your iPhone contacts, try the following experiments…
Use rituals. Choose a special place to work in, light a candle, say a prayer to the muse, wear your lucky hoodie. Whatever you do, make your work time and space and process sacred.
When the thoughts and urges to bail show up (and they will), pause, take a breath and say to yourself “this is resistance talking, not me. It’s here because this is important to me.” And keep it moving.
Acknowledge the fear. Resistance feeds on fear. Your fear of it, specifically. Fear is part of the game. It's normal. Learning to work with it is critical to your creative success.
Remember you’re not alone. Everyone like you, pursuing a dream, is also facing resistance.
Learn to tolerate a little misery. This is the feeling that accompanies starting, of sitting down. Starting doesn’t feel good. It’s mundane. In fact, it sucks. Embrace the suck. It’s temporary. (Resistance tells you it’s not though).
Do the work. The work being to show up and start. This is your work. It’s for you. You GET to do this.
Do it for the love of the game, not for what the game will get you. The results, the recognition (if you need that), and the money will take care of itself. They’ll come from your showing up each day – with and for the love - doing the work.
Be a pro. As Pressfield says, a pro commits. Goes all in. You’re a pro at your day job so be a pro at your dream job.
Pushing through creative resistance isn’t easy, and we can’t hack our way out of it. It’s not for the faint of heart but since when are you faint of heart? Winning the daily battle with resistance takes Big Heart Energy. Embrace yours and get to work.
In creative solidarity,