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Isn’t it fascinating how the minute you start moving in the direction of your inspiration – whether it’s to get fit, pursue a creative dream, start a business, or meditate more – a sticky, doubt-inducing, wave of fear and distraction rolls in and tries to throw you off track?
I’ve heard people describe this feeling like an elephant is sitting on them making it so they simply can’t do what they had intended to do. Or that an invisible, tentacle-like force takes over them when they’re close to a significant forward movement, clouding their focus, making them feel insecure, seducing them to make poor choices, and diluting their fire to a puddle.
In my own life I’ve observed this convoluted, self-defeating phenomenon for years, completely not understanding how I can want a skill, expression, or manifestation so badly that the fulfillment of my life feels like it depends on it, while more or less sitting there, distracting myself with something else, letting time pass, and wondering if it’s ever going to happen.
Steven Pressfield, who has written the glorious books The War of Art and Turning Pro, calls this muddy force we each experience Resistance. It’s as if you’ve got your foot on the gas and Resistance steps in, attempting to slam on the break, turn the steering wheel off course, or throw something in front of you to blind you. As personal as these moments feel, as much as we can interpret it to mean we suck, are untalented, or are on the wrong track, Pressfield’s view is that Resistance is universal. It feels personal because it plays off our weaknesses, but it’s a universal force akin to gravity that influences each of us – especially every time we try to expand or raise a part of ourselves to a new level.
Here are 4 tips to move through Resistance and bring your goals and dreams to life.
1. You are here to do and create amazing things. The more fear or Resistance you feel about your creative dream, the more essential it is to your growth… so go for it!
It’s not selfish to paint your masterpiece, take care of your body, start your business, produce your video, or any of the other things you feel drawn to do. You didn’t come here to be a wallflower. You came here to share your unique light and expression with the world. Expressing yourself is putting your self-acceptance and self-love into motion.
If you think of the many, many creations you have personally benefitted from that other people have made, you begin to see that your contribution, in all the ways this has and will come through, is just as vital. We are all essential threads in the tapestry of life. Any voice that has anything other than this to tell you is not a voice that’s for you, nor is it a voice you need to listen to.
“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.” -Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
2. Learn how Resistance works in your life and read The War of Art & Turning Pro
Got addictions? How about procrastination, not following through on things, endless personal drama, filling your time with things you don’t really care about, hanging out with people who bring you down and using them as an excuse, showing up inconsistently or not at all, making your personal process your creative project instead of your true dreams, feeling like what you’re doing is so important you don’t start, avoiding elevated people who make you see and feel how much Resistance is influencing you, telling yourself you don’t care when you do. I could go on but you get the point – Resistance has a lot of tactics, and this is just a few of them.
You can’t change a pattern if you don’t see it. But you can observe Resistance’s antics in your every day life, get hip to how it tries to play you, and practice choosing what truly serves you. You can also read The War of Art & Turning Pro, which I can’t recommend enough. They’re short and go straight to the heart of the matter. I felt electric while reading them, like a laser beam was slicing through the fog of my self-defeating patterns and connecting me to the clarity of my creative fire.
That said, one of the women in a recent Mojo Call said she keeps The War of Art on her desk and begins her workday by stating a clear intention for her day, making a list of what truly needs to get done, and then reading a few pages from this book to snap her out of any lingering Resistance and get her in the zone. Everyone on the call thought this was a great idea because, like lint, Resistance keeps coming back. Each day, there it is again. But having a daily reminder to pull you out of its spell is extremely useful for staying aware of its game and rooted in what your true priorities are.
3. You are here to awaken. Resistance and ego can be powerful teachers, if you look at them that way.
To me, Resistance and ego are synonyms. The process of waking up to who we truly are, that we’re all here learning to do, is a game of polarities, contrast, and identification. We are all under the spell of ego to varying degrees. We lapse into identifying with it and doing what it says. Then we snap out of it and come back to our clarity, seeing ego for the not-us that it is. As we keep doing this, seeing more of who and what we are not, we learn more of who we are. Every moment is an opportunity to be aware of this forgetting and remembering cycle we get into with ego and to come back to our authority, clarity, and truth.
As frustrating and relentless as Resistance and ego can be, they’re amazing teachers because every moment they’re asking us to be grounded, present and rooted in our own authority, for what we do not choose for ourselves, they will choose, through their many tactics, for us. To me, this is an amazing opportunity for spiritual development because it’s happening every single minute and the power to choose is absolutely in our hands.
4. Devise an experiment to face resistance and cultivate your ability to show up regardless of what it throws at you.
Educating yourself about how Resistance works is great, but at some point you have to start intentionally facing it to show yourself that your power of choice is stronger than it’s grip on you. This is the moment to choose something you’ve been wanting to do – do a fitness bootcamp, take music lessons, write 1,000 words a day toward that book you want to write – set a particular schedule or time frame to do it, get the support you need to see it through, and practice unwaveringly showing up for it.
I won’t lie to you and say this will be easy because it won’t be. Every day will be a pull between you showing up and Resistance trying to pull you off track. But the fact of the matter is: Resistance’s power over you is an illusion. It only has as much power as you give to it. Every day that you’re able to show up in spite of Resistance’s antics is a day that you have said YES to you, that you’ve invested in yourself, moved your goal forward, shown yourself that your word has power – and tipped the scales on Resistance.