Anyone familiar with the blog word and blogs about blogging has read their fair share of productivity information. They might even be tired of it. I even wonder if anyone is more productive for 90% it.
I’ve never started the day with a tough decision over whether I should check Twitter or start writing, and I bet few people have such a problem, yet the market feels flooded with productivity gurus. I know what I should do. So do you.
If there were no Facebook, Twitter, email, YouTube, Words with Friends, television, a kitchen pantry full of treats, or friends to complain to, I still wouldn’t get anything done. I’ll just go find something else to do.
Those distractions aren’t a real problem. You aren’t easily distracted because of anything. You merely allow yourself to be distracted.
This post is an homage and a review in the form of an article of Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art, a book dedicated to recognizing and overcoming that insidious inner force Stephen calls the Resistance.
Resistance is an invisible, omnipresent force that antagonizes anything we set out to do that might push us through any groundbreaking outcome. It’s quiet and seemingly nonexistent until you try to do anything worthwhile (like write, learn a new instrument, or start a business). Then it turns into a savage ogre, ready to destroy any ambition you thought you had at the outset.
The problem isn’t the Resistance itself, it’s cowering in fear and submitting to the Resistance.
This ogre raises his fists warning you not to take one step further. Sometimes the beast seems harmless and even gentle: “You’ve been so busy lately. Wait until tomorrow.” “You deserve a break. Take this day off.”
Other times, fear is its tactic: “Do you really think you can get this business off the ground?” “What will wife, your family, your friends, or coworkers say?”
The thing with the Resistance is that it doesn’t really do anything but keep making strange complaints and warnings if you move forward. Any endeavor to do anything out of the ordinary, or anything in which you might grow, mentally or physically, the Resistance is there to crush all hope, or pretend that that hope shouldn’t exist.
But there is one simple tactic you can use to overcome this Resistance, but while it is simple, it’s not necessarily easy.
I’ve hung rain gutters since 2006. It’s a cruel, depressing job, and if your kids should ever come home to tell you that a rain gutter company hired them, you should beat them over the head with a club. It might knock some sense into them, or disable them so they won’t have to install rain gutters.
One of the first things I had to learn when installing a piece of gutter was how to bend over at the edge of a roof. That’s right, you put one foot on the edge (no rope), kneel down, lean forward (the scary part) and pull it up (this makes it even scarier on steeper roofs).
At first, anyone learning to hang rain gutters while on the roof is reluctant—and with good reason—to hang any part of their body over the edge of a roof.
But here’s the thing: that’s what you have to do if you are going to work on the roof (the fast way). You have to lean forward, as if you might fall forward off of the roof, to hang the rain gutters. This takes at least a few weeks to get used to.
You do something similar with Resistance. You must go straight into it—into the scary part—if you are to going to do it.
Go straight into the Resistance. It’s dark and scary in there, but I promise you’ll come out alive.
There’s another common phrase for this Resistance: the lizard brain or reptilian brain. It’s the part of your brain that that will merely accept comfort and compromise. That is its range.
Just pushing into this stagnant pool of misery isn’t as easy as it sounds. The Resistance—the reptilian brain—is the sneakiest, most diabolical thing you’ll ever feel when doing anything new or big. No big shot, bureaucrat, or whining family member will ever drag you down like the Resistance, which won’t defeat you unless you accept it’s cries.
So how exactly do I push through it? You must be vigilant. It is unseen and unheard, but it is as patient as you are and packed with excuses. If you’ve been riding in the Resistance long enough, this requires deep introspection and meditation. You have to be aware of its voice, because it will return in any form with any excuse, fear, or denial to set you back.
I recommend doing anything that will put you into a deep awareness of your own inner state—your own consciousness. This can include meditation, self-esteem building, or simply jumping right into one thing you know you’ve wanted to do for months or even years, like exercise or learning a new instrument, anything to break the daily grind of work-TV-sleep.
If you want a more specific method to become more aware of the Resistance and the forms it takes, I recommend Nathaniel Branden’s Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. Nathaniel Branden is the renowned expert of self-esteem. You can also click here for his free sentence completion exercises. These exercises are designed to bring your awareness to the thoughts and feelings inside you that are hindering you from your ability to accomplish what you want and keeping you from believing you can do the things you want to do.
If you enjoyed this article, you’ll enjoy Pressfield’s book a lot more. I couldn’t express the message of his book as well as he did, so I recommend you pick up your own copy. It’s what inspired my to write 3,268 words today. Enjoy.