What’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and harder to kick than a bad habit? Resistance. The tension you feel when faced with the decision to pursue your life’s work or to maintain the status quo.
Did you know Hitler wanted to be an artist? At 18 he took his inheritance, 700 kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Have you ever seen one of Hitler’s paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. It seems it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance writes Steven Pressfield in his powerful book, The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks And Win Your Inner Creative Battle. Pressfield holds no punches as he highlights Resistance as the enemy of creativity and illustrates how to combat your inner Resistance.
I’m fascinated with the idea of Resistance because as the old saying goes, “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” Resistance is a familiar foe in my work. So for me, The War of Art serves as a stark reminder of the power Resistance’s has to disfigure my life. Below is what Pressfield teaches about Resistance and how to overcome it.
Just as Resistance has its seat in hell, so Creation has its home in heaven. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.
WHAT IS RESISTANCE
Resistance by definition is self-sabotage. Resistance reveals itself in our lives in many forms including: procrastination (the most common manifestation), rationalization, cruelty to others, willing endurance of cruelty from others, chaos/disorder, drama, and grandiose fantasies.
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.
WHAT RESISTANCE DOES
The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. Resistance knows that the more psychic energy we expend dredging and re-dredging the tired, boring injustices of our personal lives, the less juice we have to do our work.
Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: It uses his/her own enthusiasm against them. Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an overambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. It knows we can’t sustain that level of intensity. We will hit the wall. We will crash.
The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.
HOW TO BEAT RESISTANCE
The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.
The professional conducts his business in the real world. Adversity, injustice, bad hops and rotten calls, even good breaks and lucky bounces all comprise the ground over which the campaign must be waged. The field is level, the professional understands, only in heaven. To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the professional it’s his vocation.
There’s no mystery to turning pro. It’s a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our mind to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that.
Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work. Give it all today and be back tomorrow.