It’s 4:15 AM as I’m writing this. I’ve been awake for the past 45 minutes, methodically working through my morning ritual that helps me prepare for the day. As much as I may want to on mornings like this, I never hit the snooze button. Never. Doing so would be a submission to a malevolent force that has caused more disappointment and discouragement in my life than any other source… my own laziness, or what one of my favorite authors describes as Resistance.
Resistance is the primary obstacle that impedes us from evolving to become our best selves and maturing to become the person we all sense that we have the potential to become.
Steven Pressfield is probably best known as the author of the book The Legend of Bagger Vance, which was adapted into a hit movie starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. He has produced numerous best-sellers, many of which are action packed tales of historical fiction set in Ancient Greece.
It’s in his concise book called The War of Art that he introduces his notion of Resistance.
“Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.”
As a fitness coach, I see Resistance disrupting the progress and momentum of my clients all the time. Once you’ve become attuned to it, you’ll begin to notice Resistance weaseling its insidious way into your own life.
Often, it takes familiar forms such as fatigue, procrastination, and substance abuse. In my life, it shows up primarily as distraction, which begets procrastination, but which at its root is actually laziness.
When Resistance is at its most deceitful and invidious, it shapes itself into justification. We are capable of justifying practically anything to ourselves. We will make every attempt to do so. For a time, we might even fool ourselves into believing our self-justifying decisions. But, invariably, we know. We know that we let ourselves down. Again. In the deep of night when we can’t sleep, we recognize what we’ve done. And we grieve a little, for the lost opportunity to move a step closer to that person we want to be and whom we know we possess the potential to become.
In the interests of time, I will expand upon each of these in later posts, but for now, I’ll highlight three of the most prevalent Resistance-born justifications that I observe as a Fitness Coach and Trainer:
- Caregiver guilt… whether they’re a working Mom, stay-at-home Dad, babysitting grandparent, or loving and attentive spouse, these good people always prioritize the needs of others over their own. Of all the possible justifications, this is perhaps the most plausible. Because it’s noble and admirable. If they ever do put themselves first, even if it’s for just a few minutes, they often feel guilt. To these kind and generous souls, I ask this one question… Who will do the work when you’re no longer able to because of your own poor health or physical and spiritual exhaustion?
- Busy-ness… in this hyper-active life that we all seem to lead nowadays, we have too many priorities. We do too much. Think of your To-do list. How many tasks have you got listed there? How many priorities are you juggling? Ironically, the Latin origin of that word, priorities, did not have a plural expression. There were never priorities just priority. It’s singular, or it should be. Having multiple priorities results in having no priority. We diffuse and dilute our energy and give too much of our attention to the urgent at the expense of the important. To these good people I ask… What’s the one thing that you could be doing, right now, that would make the most substantial improvement to your life and bring you the most contentment and peace of mind? OK, now cross off everything else on your To-do list until you’ve completed that.
- Pain… “Paul, when I move my arm like this, my shoulder hurts. I don’t know what I did to it, but I started feeling it about a week ago, I think when we were doing those Thruster thingies. It’s been getting worse and keeping me up at night. I think I need to take a break and not work out for a while.” I’ve commented on this before, at length… pain is a part of our lives. If we’re fortunate enough to live past the age of 40, pain will increasingly become part of our everyday experience. It sure has for me. Because of that, I have a deep well of empathy for those who are suffering. Yet, I have an even deeper well of admiration for those who soldier on in spite of their discomfort and troubles. So, to those contemplating “taking a break” for a few weeks from training I ask this one question… What about the rest of your body? OK, your shoulder hurts. That’s real and we should take appropriate precautions. But you’ve got two legs, a core, and the other shoulder. Why can’t you work on those while your shoulder heals?
When we’re honest with ourselves, our justifications are little more than excuses. They are Resistance leaning its full weight upon our conscience, hoping to derail us, hold us back, and discourage us enough that we’ll want to quit. It wants nothing more than to keep us from becoming who we were meant to be, who we dream of becoming.
And so, in those chilly predawn mornings when my alarm wrenches me awake, I push back on Resistance and refuse to hit snooze. It’s a small one, but that first victory of the day, at it’s very beginning, emboldens me to believe I can win again later when I inevitably face Resistance again, usually in the form of digital distraction.
I’ll expound upon that subject in my next missive, Driven to Distraction.
Until then, I encourage you to reflect for a moment and identify the ways in which Resistance is present in your day-to-day? Where does it show up most regularly? Who is it that it’s obstructing you from becoming?
Be strong, have fun,
- Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art. New York: Black Irish Entertainment, 2002. Print.