Over lunch a couple weeks ago a friend and I chatted about doing work that matters. There is a huge tension that exists between the endeavours we want to take on and actually accomplishing them. While this tension is frequently attached to “creative” endeavours – that book we want to write, that documentary we want to produce – it also plagues anyone who wants to do something significant, like running a marathon or starting a non-profit. It’s relatively easy to do what’s asked of us, get done what needs to get done. But when it comes to the stuff that we really want to do, the stuff that gives life to our souls and changes the world, we all experience this tension, this huge obstacle that keeps us standing still.
Steven Pressfield, in his little book The War of Art, calls this tension Resistance. Resistance comes in the form of our myriad of excuses, distractions and preoccupations. To overcome it he prescribes adopting the attitude of a Professional. The Professional must produce. Regardless of how he’s feeling that day or what the weather’s like, he must get the job done. Pressfield, a writer, talks about the necessity for him to write every single day:
“How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.”
For me Resistance has many faces. Often it looks like checking my emails as I sit down to write that blog post, until the 30 minutes that I should have been writing have been wasted poking around jumping from link to wall post to Twitter stream. It also looks like having so many personal design projects I want to do that I never get started on any of them.
What does Resistance look like for you? What do you do to overcome it?
My wife has found that the battle to overcome Resistance starts from the moment she wakes up, and that one victory often leads to another. Working out in the morning will lead to doing the art project or taking the photographs in the afternoon, for example.
My hope is that we’d take on those projects that scare the hell out of us and that we’ve put off for a long time and have a million excuses not to do, but we know deep down that we need to accomplish. The world, and your own soul, are begging for nothing less.
(I know many of you have stories of overcoming Resistance to start blogs and businesses, to take photos and write books and music. Share your story in the comments below.)