Every time I sit down to write I encounter resistance. Resistance, which Steven Pressfield in his wonderful book The War of Art defines as “an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”
Calling this procrastination just doesn’t do it justice. Today it has taken me till 2.05 in the afternoon to get myself to sit down and start writing. My circuitous path has taken me from making the bed and straightening out the kitchen, to writing a proposal for a client (which in all fairness could have waited), trying to get my inbox to empty, booking a pedicure, walking to the store to buy a birthday card, then wrapping a gift to go with it and taking it to the post office, sending flowers to a friend, taking a trip to the library, popping in to have a quick look at the new season fashions in my favorite clothes shop, updating the grocery list, buying and consuming a brownie and reading the paper online.
Resistance is cunning. It rarely shows itself in recognisable form and in many cases its shape shifts. I can give you very logical and compelling reasons for why it was important that I do all the activities I’ve listed above, but at the end of the day, it’s all resistance.
Resistance is insidious. It’s incredibly easy to allow it to take us away, day in and day out, from the work we are here to do. Today’s deferral till tomorrow or next Monday very easily morphs into days and weeks of not doing the things we say are most important to us.
Resistance is uncomfortable. It has to be – if it didn’t feel so difficult to do the things that are most important to us, we’d all spend our lives focusing on our priorities and doing the work we’re meant to do and making a huge contribution to the planet with incredible ease. And let’s face it, that would detract hugely from the learning available in being human!
But here’s the good news: resistance is also the most exquisite and affirming of signals that we’re on the right path. Whenever I encounter resistance (read I’d rather do anything else but this thing right now) I know it’s precisely the thing I need to be doing. Whether that’s writing, having a courageous conversation or exercising – all things I make the most elaborate fuss of avoiding and all things I would definitely lump in the category of my ‘work’ here on the planet.
I’d wager that nobody who has done anything significant in their lives has done so without facing up to, and carrying on, despite their resistance. Because resistance never goes away. If we’re lucky it may become somewhat easier to handle over time as we become more familiar with it, but that’s the best we can hope for.
Learning to lean into our own resistance (i.e. our own fears – it’s too hard, I won’t be any good, I’ll be humiliated, others won’t like my work) and take action anyway is a critical rite of passage in bringing our work to the world. It’s a lifelong lesson. But at midlife, recognising what’s going on, smiling at our response (instead of beating ourselves up) and kindly turning ourselves back to the work we need to be doing, is vital if we are to be in integrity with ourselves and make the contributions we are called upon to make.
So as we all approach the week ahead, let us be on guard for resistance and allow it to guide us to the work we need to be doing.
We’re keen to hear how resistance shows up for you. Please share your thoughts below.