How to Identify Resistance and Do Your Most Important Work

We all have habits and behaviors that we acknowledge are important to do – and which we will come up with any justification to avoid. Cold calling a sales prospect, a difficult conversation with a loved one, or your least favorite chore.

I feel most alive when I do two things every day: my movement practice and writing. But, just as I procrastinate before getting into my cold plunge, I can come up with an infinite number of reasons to avoid sitting down to write. 

I haven’t written regularly since since 2017, when I published Responsive: What It Takes To Create a Thriving Organization. And the process of finishing Responsive was so painful that afterwards I stopped writing altogether. (Much of that challenge actually came because during that same period I sold Robin’s Cafe while going through a very difficult breakup. It was a difficult year.)

This spring, I’ve finally built back my daily writing habit and recognized that the real reason I haven’t written regularly is “Resistance,” which was coined by Steven Pressfield in the The War of Art, to describe why we don’t do our most important work. 

In today’s article I’ll break down some habits and tactics for recognizing Resistance, and then next week I’ll share habits for overcoming Resistance.

Identify Resistance

The first step is to identify Resistance. 

It’s taken me six years to realize that writing every day was something I was avoiding. Having identified that, I can now begin building habits towards writing more regularly.

Whatever the thing is that you’ve been avoiding, ask yourself if the underlying reason you’re avoiding that behavior is Resistance?

What’s your most important work?

You know the most important work that you need to do. When you find yourself coming up with any excuse to avoid taking that action, that’s a good indicator that you are succumbing to Resistance.

Look for the moments of pride or excitement in your life. These might give an indication of what you could be doing more of.

One question to ask yourself is “What are the habits or behaviors that you would like to do more of – but aren’t?” 

What one action will move everything else forward?

In work, and in life, there are always a few actions that will have an outsized impact. 

  • the person you most need to call
  • an email that you’ll feel relieved having sent
  • the sale you need to close
  • the unopened pile of bills to pay
  • the one food you need to cut from your diet

Whatever the thing is that creates the biggest point of leverage in your personal or professional life, chances are, if you’re not taking that action, the reason why is Resistance.

What are you already doing (at least in some way)?

Many of my proudest professional moments in the last decade have incorporated writing:

While I haven’t published a book since 2017, or published on my blog consistently in years, I do write – and I feel good when I do.

How does this make you feel – afterwards?

Practice things that are hard, but that leave you feeling great afterwards.

While I love the taste of a good cocktail, I stopped drinking 18 months ago because I’d consistently sleep poorly.

By contrast, getting into my cold plunge is really hard beforehand, but when I get out, I feel absolutely fantastic.

Fear is a good north star

Fear is often a good guide for what to focus on. 

Of course, a fear of heights shouldn’t automatically dictate that you take up BASE jumping, but there is always a kernel of directional focus behind what you are afraid of. 

Follow your fear.

What did you want to be as a kid?

What did you want to be when you grew up? For me, it wasn’t a writer, but a drummer or a professional skier. In other words, an entertainer.

The thing I like most about writing – or creating at Zander Media, for that matter – is creating content that helps people to connect and enables change.

While there isn’t a one-to-one correlation between what you wanted to be and Resistance, there can be clues from your history.

 

That’s it for now! Next week, I’ll share some habits for overcoming resistance. Meantime, though, respond back to this email and share something you’ve been avoiding!

Best,
Robin

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