I don’t care who you are. I don’t care how much you’ve accomplished. There is always forever one thing standing in your way. As soon as you start to commit yourself to doing something, you’re going to face a force like you have never known (author Steven Pressfield literally calls it “evil”). It cannot be negotiated with. It cannot be appeased or bribed. It wants to destroy you and everyone who has tried to do anything important has felt it. It is called resistance.
Resistance will take many forms. Both internal and external. It will take whatever form it has to take to prevent your from achieving what you want. It will whisper “well, I don’t have to do it TODAY….”. It will make you lose your keys, it will make you forget to make a call, or suddenly need to take a bathroom break (even though you just went 10 minutes ago). It’s just your brain playing tricks on you. It’s all resistance. If you’re going to beat resistance then you should get good at recognizing it. This article is dedicated to three of the most common forms of resistance and three very simple (but not easy) ways to overcome them.
Tell me if this sounds like someone you know. They like reading about cars they can’t afford. They plan trips they aren’t going to take. They buy clothes for a lifestyle that they don’t live. This form is resistance is called fantasizing. Now, there is nothing wrong with setting big goals. Sometimes the bigger the better. But if you find that you’re spending more time day-dreaming than day-working then you’ve found a form of resistance. It’s candy-coated so you feel like you’re actually doing something, but you really aren’t. You’re just eating your ice cream first and then getting surprised when suddenly you’re not hungry enough for your broccoli. Remember, you have to manage your temptations. Put simply, if there isn’t a direct connection between your inspiration and your perspiration then you’re spending too much time in Neverland.
I love reading biographies. I love learning about other people’s lives in the hope that their story can somehow inform my own. However, there is a difference between being a seeker and being a stalker. The difference? You’re stalking if you obsess about someone’s Facebook pictures, consider People magazine literature, or feel personally invested in the Forbes 400 (even though you have absolutely no connection to anyone). If you find yourself emotionally involved with the lives of other people – who you do not PERSONALLY KNOW – then you’re a stalker. You’re a seeker if you have the balls to ask a local entrepreneur for some advice. You’re a seeker if you role model your life after someone you admire. You’re a seeker if you write an email to an author to share how a book impacted your life. Those are genuine connections and you should do them as much as you can. So, please go out and network. Make friends with people who are doing the things that you’d like to be doing. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that when a celebrity likes your Facebook post that it means anything.
You have lots of things to do but you don’t want to do them. Enter: something “interesting” to do. Let’s clear this up quickly; “interesting” should never be your criteria. Unless, you’ve done your work for the day, then you can’t afford to be “interested” in anything not directly related to accomplishing your goals. This is just another form of resistance and one of the most powerful. While fantasizing and stalking may be pretty easy to identify, distractions can be anything from “really needing” to hang out with friends to suddenly feeling really tired as soon as you get to work. I’ve had the experience of suddenly remembering all of the errands I need to do as soon as I sit down to write. It’s no coincidence that these memories seem to be triggered only when I’m writing something particular difficult. Also, avoid the word “multi-tasking” at all costs (it just means that you’re doing more than one thing badly at a time).
So, that’s it, the three most common forms of internal resistance that you’ll face. I’ve said before that you are your own worst enemy (7 Ways to Be Your Own Worst Enemy) and you’ll have to get better at calling out your own BS. I will cover several ways to fight resistance, including the ONE thing you must absolutely do, but I’ll leave that for Part 2. For now, just pay attention to how resistance works against you. Every person has their own special devil on their shoulder. Get to know him. Get to know him very well.
About the author: Chris Cowan is an executive coach and an expert in adult and organizational learning. He is currently working as a consultant with the Federal government. He has previously worked for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Leadership Development and the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Previous consulting clients include, Fannie Mae, Samsung USA, the United States Air Force, and Microsoft. He has written or co-authored 13 articles on adult learning and is a certified action learning coach and training evaluator. Chris received his Masters from Harvard in 2005 and is currently writing his dissertation on transformational leadership at the George Washington University. He currently drives a 2008 Dodge Viper. Feel free to contact him with questions at Chrcowan@gmail.com.