“Resistance is the response of the frightened, petty, small-time ego to the brave, generous, magnificent impulse of the creative self”
Do the Work, page 63
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve being actively working on a project for a long time, putting your time and effort, your sweat and tears and your financial resources into something that you know will make the world a better place? You are about to approach the finish line, but then all of a sudden, something happens. All sorts of thoughts begin to rush through your head and you begin to question yourself and all your hard work. Such thoughts as “What in the world am I doing?” “This is the stupidest thing I have ever thought of….” “I cannot believe I invested so much of my own money and time into building this thing/book/play/song/business…” “Why didn’t anyone stop me?” “What was I thinking?…”
If any of the above thoughts have ever entered your mind, then you have come face to face with the Resistance. According to Steve Pressfield’s book Do the Work, the Resistance is an ensemble of counterproductive thoughts that emerge in our minds with the aim to extinguish our creative ideas and prevent us from finishing our projects. Do the Work is designed with one purpose: to let us get back in control of our creative minds, break free from this Resistance, and ship our final products.
Meaningful Work Can Lead to Resistance
“Resistance is a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”
Do the Work, page 6
Now that we know what all these unproductive thoughts are, we can use the following tools to identify the characteristics of Resistance. We’re experiencing the Resistance when:
- We start to question ourselves and the foundation of our projects too often
- We feel negative energy flowing around us; we seem to lose our passion for the things we used to love doing everyday
- We become easily distracted and we start to procrastinate in order to avoid working on our ideas
The hardest thing to do is to realize when the Resistance is working against us. Once we are able to identify it, then the fight becomes a lot easier to win.
Conquer It Once and For All (Or Not)
“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
Do the Work, page 9
When we understand that the Resistance is present, it is much more manageable to get back on our feet and re-immerse ourselves in that passionate state of mind that led us to start our projects in the first place. Here are three ways to fight the Resistance and never allow it to control us again:
- Stay stupid: Don’t allow yourself to think too much about the projects; instead concentrate on actually doing things
- Trust the Soup: Trust that source of inspiration for our initial idea, and realize that we cannot control nor predict everything
- Understand that we are not alone at experiencing this Resistance. All great and successful artists/entrepreneurs/writers, etc. have experienced (and conquered) their own Resistance
It is also important to understand that the Resistance is always present. Its sole purpose is to get in the way of our creativity and prevent us from finishing something significant. Even after we conquer it once the Resistance will come back and haunt us during each and every project we undertake. However, the mere realization that we will eventually confront it during difficult times, gives us sufficient power to ensure that its effects are minimized and our projects no longer get (fully) derailed.
Be Ready For It When You Least Expect It
“Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies.”
Do the Work, page 12
The Resistance does not necessarily emerge when we’re about to finish something. Unfortunately, it can also prevent us from actually starting a project. Just remember the last time you had a great idea you were really excited about. But, when it was time for you to take the plunge, something in the back of your mind told you that maybe, after all, it was not such a big idea and that you should not go ahead and pursue it. It could have been a thought about a potential failure, questioning whether you were the right person, or maybe a doubt that your idea had no potential. Either way, you now know what you were faced with and, unfortunately in that case, the Resistance succeeded.
If we want to be able to accomplish anything significant, we have to be willing to fight the Resistance all the time. The good news is that from the moment we understand what is controlling all these unproductive thoughts, we will stop doubting ourselves and keep working on our project/book/play/song/business, etc. In addition, each successive conflict becomes easier and easier to win.
“We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.”
Do the Work will help anyone get unstuck and back on their feet in pursuing their passion and completing their projects. If you enjoyed Pressfield’s previous book The War of Art, you will enjoy this one even more. Do The Work is a fast read (98 pages) and in my opinion is a lot like jumping into an ice-cold lake: it wakes you up, makes you forget about all the none-essential things you were doing before, and forces you to understand that you are not alone in experiencing the symptoms of Resistance. But perhaps most importantly it inspires you to return to your projects full of passion and the strength to carry on and finish.
“Because finishing is the critical part of any project. If we can’t finish, all our work is for nothing.”