Pressfield’s advice is targeted at artists—writers, painters, entrepreneurs, playwrights, etc.—but are just as applicable for those that want to be healthier, happier and better human beings.
A word he is most famous for coining (or capitalizing) is “Resistance.” Resistance, as Pressfield defines it, is the inner hesitation and aversion to doing work that we all feel on a regular basis. It is the source of power that causes us to procrastinate and to watch Netflix instead of working. It is the joker that tells ourselves things like, “I’ll start tomorrow.”
And it is real. O boy, is it real.
As you read Pressfield, you will recognize what Resistance looks like for your life—it’s different for everyone. Maybe it’s going to the gym, or working on your research paper, or writing. Resistance shows up everywhere with one fundamental goal: to redirect you to the path of least resistance. Whenever you have the choice between doing what’s hard and what’s easy, Resistance will do everything it can to take the latter path. And for many of us, Resistance often wins.
The way to fight Resistance is to start recognizing Resistance when it shows up in your life. The more you can identify it when it is manipulating you, the better you will get at combating him. Because Resistance is so insidious, and comes in so many forms, it takes real practice to recognize and overcome it.
Here are some examples of Resistance in my life:
- Getting sucked into research and reading instead of writing
- Feeling the need to be perfectly organized before doing real work, and thus reorganizing my spreadsheet and “Do” list over and over
- Running errands so I can check off low priority tasks on my list instead of sitting in front of a computer where I am most productive
- And so on
I’ve been writing two hours a day for about two years now. And even though that’s a long time, I still struggle with Resistance each and every day that I sit down to do the work. Imagine that.
The deepest work in your life is always what you are most Resistant to because it requires the most creative energy expenditure. Your brain totals only 2% of your body weight yet consumes 20% of your energy. No wonder people try to avoid thinking: it’s exhausting.
Resistance makes you logon to Facebook instead of into your spreadsheet. It is what causes you to constantly check your messages and notifications when you are working. It is the essence of every distraction in the universe. Resistance is an aversion to doing, starting and finishing. And it never goes away. It’s always there. But you can get better at managing it with enough practice.
So how can you overcome Resistance?
Well, you can’t. Not totally, anyway. You just have to get better at breaking through it, and the first step is recognizing it. When recognize Resistance, you tell it to “GTFO,” and you get back to your work.
There is one thing useful about Resistance, though, and that is taking it as a sign that you are doing exactly what you need to do. When this happens, you use Resistance to motivate you, kinda like a form of validation for the work you are pursuing. But you still have to stomp it out so you can get to work.
Remember, Resistance will try to keep you from doing work, going to the gym, resisting dessert, making decisions you need to make, and so on.
The easiest way to recognize Resistance is when your brain knows you should be doing something, like going to the gym or skipping dessert, but your body is trying to get you to do something else, like not go to the gym or gorge on cake. When you feel this, it is Resistance. Take that as a sign that you need to do the opposite of what Resistance is urging you to do. Use Resistance showing its ugly head as a sign to do what’s right.
The next time you have a decision and your inner voice is telling you lies, tell Resistance to “get lost” and do what needs to be done. Use Resistance as a guidepost to point you in the direction of exactly what you need to do. Anytime Resistance tries to keep you from something, that’s your cue. Proceed anyway.