Fear & Other Tough Stuff: resistance

Steven Pressfield popularized the term resistance in The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

I nearly had whiplash the first time I read this book from nodding so enthusiastically in agreement. It’s one of those life-changing reads.

Very simply put: Pressfield says we encounter the resistance any time we try doing something important.

I’m feeling resistance

Well, lately I’ve been thinking about a new service offering. And it’s brought up a lot of resistance.

Not from others, but from myself.

  • Sometimes the resistance sounds like fear. You’re biting off more than you can chew.
  • Sometimes it sounds like doubt. Who do you think you are to try something like that?
  • Sometimes it sounds like a big, fat limiting belief. Other people can do that because they have a larger community, more resources, a tech background, etc.)

So the resistance is strong right now.

Another voice weighs in

But every now and again another voice can be heard.

And here’s where it gets interesting: I can mistake this second voice for resistance if I’m not listening carefully and paying attention because it also voices concerns and questions.

But it sounds different.

It comes from a place of curiosity rather than scarcity. Resourcefulness rather than less than.

It asks:

  • Have you considered the time this will take?
  • What kind of resources would this require?
  • Do you think you might need to learn more about forum software?
  • What will this means in terms of your marketing skills?

This voice wants to help me think through things so I can make a good decision. It wants to help me prepare in order to build something.

It doesn’t start with the conclusion: Do Nothing. It doesn’t naysay in order to tear down before I’m even started.

I call this other voice, this firm but gentler voice, D.D.

For Due Diligence.

Resistance versus The Other Voice

So how do we know the difference between resistance, which needs to be pushed through because it wants to keep us small, and The Other Voice, which can be incredibly useful and help us make good decisions?

How do we know when fear and doubt are trying to keep us playing small versus when fear and doubt point to very real gaps in our knowledge, skills, and abilities—or are legitimate warning signals to proceed carefully?

I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing the difference just based on how the voice makes me feel.

Resistance feels lousy

Because the resistance voice feels lousy.

It’s not encouraging, doesn’t seem to think I’m all that resourceful, and doubts my ability to handle whatever unfolds.

It sounds like that person you try to avoid who’s always critical and never encouraging. Who loves to focus on what isn’t possible and can’t be done. You know, that person who puts words to every fear, doubt, and limiting belief you’ve ever had rattling around in your head.

The Other Voice feels more curious and less critical—even as it’s posing tough questions.

This voice thinks I’m creative and resourceful, while at the same time shining a light on very real gaps in my skills and knowledge. It points out things I hadn’t considered, but seems to give me the benefit of the doubt about my ability to handle what comes along.

4 questions to uncover resistance

If feeling alone doesn’t distinguish between stifling resistance and useful due diligence, here are 4 questions that will help:

  • Is this the voice that tries to keep me from doing anything, everything? Or is this the voice that tries to point me in the direction of the right things to do and try?
  • Is this the voice that believes I’m less than—less than creative, less than resourceful, less than whole? Or is this the voice that believes I’m creative, resourceful, and whole—even while I may have gaps in my knowledge or skills?
  • Is this the voice that wants to avoid failure at all costs and is geared toward not even trying? Or is this the voice that embraces learning and growing happen outside the comfort zone?
  • Is this the voice that wants a crystal ball to prove it will all work out in the end—before even beginning? Or is this the voice that’s open to taking the next step forward to see more clearly what’s next?

Obviously knowing if you’re hearing resistance or the other voice of due diligence isn’t the end of the story. Regardless of which you’re hearing, there’s more to be done.

But it’s clarifying to know whether to put your energy toward pushing through resistance or doing due diligence to understand where you need to upgrade what you know and know how to do.

Does the resistance voice make you feel lousy too? How do you know the difference between resistance and due diligence? 

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