Five Strategies to Conquer Internal Resistance

Ah, late January.  All that New Year’s motivation is starting to wear off, and your resolution is becoming more difficult to sustain.

Obstacles are rearing their ugly heads like monsters ready to attack—you overslept, you have a project due, the news hijacked your brain.  You’ve plateaued.  You lost your drive.

This is all normal.  

They are part of what Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, calls The Resistance.  We resist doing our best work so that we can protect ourselves from the judgment of the big, bad, scary world.  What if I give my best and they don’t like it? we think.  It’s such a terrifying thought that we avoid doing our best.

But put the world aside for a minute—don’t you deserve to see what you’re capable of?  If that time is going to go by anyways (and it is), how do you want to spend it?  Wouldn’t it be better for your self-confidence, for your self-knowledge, for your self-trust, if you could stick with your commitment and give your very best?  What if you’re capable of more than you know?

So how do we face the resistance?  Here are five proven methods to conquer it again and again.

1. Rehearse obstacles in advance
What obstacles are likely to keep you from practicing?  Tired?  Lack of time?  Forgetting to start until it’s too late?  Come up with solutions in advance, or ways to avoid the obstacle entirely.  Then, when it shows up, you’ll already know what to do.

2. Intentions, not commitments
A broken commitment feels like a failure, and can cause us to give up. An intention, on the other hand, can’t be broken.  If you intend to practice every day and you miss a day, you haven’t failed. Your intention still holds, and you can honor it by practicing again today.  It’s a small shift in thinking that can change your trajectory.

3. Focus on one part of your intention at a time
I often see commitments that look like this: I will practice every day for an hour.  That’s actually two different commitments: “every day,” and “for an hour”.  It doubles the Resistance.  I recommend you focus on the “every day” part.  Establish the habit of facing one part of your Resistance—getting started—and eventually you can expand the time.

4. Apply a Growth Mindset
Learning to face The Resistance is a skill, it’s not something we’re born with.  If you find yourself thinking “I just can’t stick to anything!” when you miss a day, remember that all skills take time, even learning to stick to a habit.  There will be some bumps along the way as you flex and grow your ‘intention muscles’.  Come to expect them and harness them to practice resilience.

5. Treat it like an experiment
Play with the different parts of your practice intention like a chef trying different spices or a scientist collecting data.  If 11am didn’t work, try a different time.  If the practice room is dreary, try a different location.  Are you practicing too long and ending in frustration?  Maybe try shorter sessions.  Or if you feel like you’re not accomplishing enough, try making them longer.  Sometimes a tiny change can bring new life to your practice session.  And if something doesn’t work as expected, it’s not a personal failure or even a failed experiment—it’s just a piece of data that you can use to come to a new hypothesis.

Hopefully these ideas help invigorate your practice and strengthen your resolve.  

Facing the Resistance is at the heart of any creative work.  It’s difficult, and it never goes away completely, but the good news is, the lessons you learn will stick with you.  

They will become a core of self-confidence, self-trust, and self-awareness that you can carry with you into other parts of your life.

And the more you face the Resistance, the stronger you’ll become, and the more you’ll grow.

Thanks for reading.


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