“Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us. Resistance means business. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.” -Steven Pressfield
There’s a war going on inside your head. It’s malevolent, conniving, and worst of all — it’s killing your work. It’s the resistance. We’ve all had it; the writer’s block, the fear, the inability to complete or finish projects.
Steven Pressfield’s The War Of Art gives this monster both a name and a face: it’s the worst kind of monster imaginable — the invisible beast of self-sabotage. Pressfield writes this masterpiece in a way that is incredibly illuminating, and dare I say it — life-changing.
So what exactly is the resistance? Pressfield describes it by saying, “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”
The resistance can take many forms. One way that I find it to be particularly interesting is through the appearance of fear. “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign.,” says Pressfield. Fear is a killer, but also a friend. Fear tells us what’s important to us, and in many cases, it tells us where to go.
What are you afraid of? What are you procrastinating on at work? Once you have identified the resistance, you can take steps to kill it in its tracks.
Overcoming The Resistance
Pressfield, being the no-nonsense kind of guy that he is, provides a series of strategies that you can take to slay the beast. Although he lays out several different ways of overcoming the resistance, here are three that I think really stand out.
1. Go PRO.
Pressfield is adamant that you have to think of yourself as a professional in order to overcome the resistance. He lays out the following manifesto for “going pro”:
- We show up every day
- We show up no matter what- “In sickness and in health, come hell or high water, we stagger into the factory.”
- We stay on the job all day
- We are committed over the long haul
- The stakes for us are high and real. “This is about survival, feeding our families, educating our children. It’s about eating.
- We accept remuneration for our labor. “We’re not here for fun. We work for Money.”
- We do not overidentify with our jobs.
- We master the technique of our jobs
- We have a sense of humor about our jobs.
- We receive praise or blame in the real world.
As you can see, Pressfield is serious about work: you have to be, or else the resistance takes over. Sit down. Do the work.
2. Embrace YOU INC.
Pressfield makes the point that you should think of yourself as your own company: You INC. Pick yourself, and suddenly the stakes become very real. Being the employee versus being the boss is a very different mindset.
In describing the difference, Pressfield says, “Sometimes as Joe Blow himself, I’m too mild-mannered to go out and sell. But as Joe Blow, Inc., I can pimp the hell out of myself. I’m not me anymore. I’m Me, Inc. I’m a pro.”
3. Be Territorial
According to Pressfield, there are two types of orientations: The territorial, and the hierarchical. Pressfield is adamant that artists are territorial in nature, and define themselves by thinking in terms of self-concept and the individual. The hierarchical orientation thinks in terms of the group and one’s standing therein.
“Of the two orientations, the hierarchical seems to be the default setting. It’s the one that kicks in automatically when we’re kids. We run naturally in packs and cliques without thinking about it, we know who’s the top dog and who’s the underdog. And we know our own place. We define ourselves, instinctively it seems, by our position within the schoolyard, the gang, the club.”
The artist is liberated from the good opinions of others. He doesn’t ask for permission — he gives it to himself. “In the hierarchy, the artist looks up and looks down. The one place he can’t look is that place he must: within.” In order to overcome the resistance, we must be territorial.
Go Forth And Conquer
This book blew me away. It made me reflect upon my own moments of indecision, procrastination, and succumbing to the fear instead of leaning into it.
We can go pro by showing up and doing the work. We can think of ourselves as companies. And we can start taking territory, instead of being dependent upon what others deem us deserving of.
I put these ideas into action every day. I have an inner dialogue with myself on an almost daily basis that says, “Seneca, get it together, you’re letting the resistance in; I’m a pro, and pros don’t do this.”
This book has helped me think differently — I know it will do the same for you.
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