Resistance is one of the most useful mental models I ever picked up.
Steven Pressfield first coined this term in his book, The War of Art.
“Every time you want to go from a lower level to a higher level — becoming an entrepreneur, get in better shape, meditate, be an artist — the Resistance will ALWAYS attack. Every writer or entrepreneur feels the Resistance every day.”
Recognize each thought as it comes up, he said. Identify the thoughts that are the resistance. Say, “That’s the Resistance.”
“There’s no way to get rid of The Resistance. Be aware of it. Say to yourself, these thoughts won’t help me achieve my dreams.”
He posits that The Resistance is the thing keeping us from getting shit done.
It’s why we procrastinate and rationalise. It is that self defeating, self sabotaging, mental chatter keeping us from starting, getting the steps in consistently, and get to the finish line. Some people call it writer’s block. I like to think of Resistance as the child of impostor’s syndrome and perfectionism.
He gave a name to that intangible demon, allowing us to recognise, put ourselves at a distance from it, and most importantly interact with it.
I saw it when I kept on editing a draft because it’s not good enough yet. I saw it when I spent days planning, reading, and researching when I know deep inside I am just procrastinating on that email. I saw it when I kept checking my phone, cleaning up my desk, take care of mundane errands instead of contacting guests for the podcast.
It’s the late Sunday evening dreadding the coming Monday morning. It’s the negotiation monologue before putting on your running gears. It’s the fiddling with playlist in between sets at the gym.
You know them so well.
How to tame the demon of Resistance? According to Pressfield: you “Turn Pro”.
TURNING PRO IS FREE, BUT IT’S NOT EASY.
When we turn pro, we give up a life that we may have become extremely comfortable with. We give up a self that we have come to identify with and to call our own.
TURNING PRO IS FREE, BUT IT DEMANDS SACRIFICE.
The passage from amateur to professional is often achieved via an interior odyssey whose trials are survived only at great cost, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. We pass through a membrane when we turn pro. It’s messy and it’s scary. We tread in blood when we turn pro.
WHAT WE GET WHEN WE TURN PRO.
What we get when we turn pro is we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and live out.
“In his heart, the amateur knows he’s hiding. He knows he was meant for better things…If the amateur had empathy for himself, he could look in the mirror and not hate what he sees. Achieving this compassion is the first powerful step toward moving from being an amateur to being a pro.”
“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones. We can trade in the habits of the amateur and the addict for the practice of the professional and the committed artist or entrepreneur.”
Many of us struggle with The Resistance in our own personal endeavours, goals, and creative works. We would set out with an want, a goal. We buy all the gears, do all the busy work, all excited. We do it once or twice, then when we get the chance. We get sidetracked, bored, or discouraged. We then deprioritise it, we quit, or completely forgotten about it.
We are motivated but not committed.
In an interview with Marie Forleo, Steven Pressfield made one comparison that captures the essence of “turning pro”: Treat it like a day job.
A really easy way to see this is how we show up in our day jobs. You just show up and you do the work no matter what. It’s how everything gets done. You don’t necessarily always feel like it, but you show up and you get it. You make it happen.
Most of us are able to “Turn Pro” in our day jobs. Sometimes it’s mind numbing, and pure drudgery, but they are expected. So you show up and you do the work no matter what.
There is no space for Resistance. It’s non negotiable.
We believe our lives depend on it. We are commited. We are serious.