Habits for Combatting Resistance

As I discussed in last week’s article, “Resistance” was coined by Steven Pressfield to describe the inertia that gets in the way of our most important work. If you missed last week’s article on recognizing Resistance, read it here.

My own personal story: I’ve long had a writing habit. I like how I feel when I write regularly. Writing clarifies my thinking and makes the rest of my work better. And yet I haven’t written anything publicly since my last book in 2017. Why not? Because of Resistance. Here are some habits that can help.

Ask yourself “why”

Ask yourself why you are resisting. Despite writing on the Internet since 2007, I don’t create nearly as much as I want to. Among other things, I have a handful of books that have never been published. 

One reason I don’t share more is shame. I’m avoiding the shame I’ll feel when I publish this newsletter and find a typo immediately after, or when I declare something that, looking back a decade later, I’ll cringe upon re-reading. For me, examining that shame has been a key to unlocking Resistance. 

Another reason I don’t create more is that I frequently compare myself to other people. My father is a better writer than I am. My friend Todd is more even-tempered.  Ryan Holiday reads more than me. These comparisons put me down, without motivating me towards a path towards greater efficacy or change. 

What are the reasons that you aren’t doing your most important work?  The underlying reasons will be different for you, but the better you can get to understanding those emotions or motivations, the closer you’ll be to overcoming Resistance.

Make it tiny

I’m currently writing 2 hours every day, but I didn’t start there. A few months ago, I challenged myself to write for 10 minutes each day. That escalated pretty quickly to 20 minutes, and then eventually into an hour, then two. 

The key, throughout this process, though, is that my baseline has remained the same: 10 minutes a day counts as success. Otherwise, it is too easy to fall out of the habit and not come back again tomorrow.

For more on this idea, watch BJ Fogg’s Tedx talk on flossing one tooth.

Make the tiny habit inevitable

As my friend Michelle says, the goal is to make a habit so small, so tiny, that you can’t help but to achieve it.

  • Instead of trying to go for a three mile run, make a habit of stepping foot outside.
  • In lieu of aiming to clean out your entire closet, pick one item to donate each day. 
  • Rather than answering all your email, just read one.

I’ve been journaling for 30 minutes each morning for years. To start writing for a wider audience again, I substituted 10 minutes of journaling for 10 minutes of writing instead.

Make the small habit so small that accomplishing it is practically inevitable.

Stack your habits

To start a new habit, especially one you’ve been avoiding, add the new habit you just after something you already do regularly.  This is “habit stacking.”

For me, my writing habit comes just after journaling. I journal each morning, so it wasn’t all that difficult to add 10 minutes of writing immediately after my journaling habits. By stacking the new habit immediately after a pre-established habit you are better able to do it.

Decide what you are going to give up

I learned during my 30 days of mediation that to add something substantial into your life requires that you also give something up. 

To begin writing every day, I removed 10 minutes of journaling, so as to carve out the time. What are you going to give up in order to take on something new?

Whether you call it Resistance, writer’s block, or inertia, we all have habits we want to pursue and that we’ll go to great lengths to avoid. Identify those obstacles and then take small steps to combat Resistance, and maybe you’ll finally be able to begin. Thanks for following along! 

See you next week,
Robin

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