Did you know Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five?
It turns out Henry Fonda was struggling with what Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, calls Resistance. This is a fabulous, must-read book I encourage you to read if you haven’t yet. And if you have, Pressfield just released another book called, Do The Work. I love them both!
What is Resistance?
Resistance is that repelling force that distracts us and prevents us from sitting down to do our best work. It usually occurs when we want to pursue anything creative, launch a new entrepreneurial venture, start a health program, overcome a bad habit, or put a stake in the ground to change anything for the better.
I’m familiar with Resistance. I recently had my own bout with it when I was, once again, looking to expand my team at Rita Hyland Coaching.
Before I hired my new Communications Director I procrastinated trying to “think it through,” (a commonly used tool Resistance employs as the ultimate distraction.)
I waged on, nonetheless. I did the work; I completed the process of posting, interviewing and deciding on who to extend the offer.
Then, it was time to make the hiring call to offer the position.
Suddenly, I had a touch of nausea, sprinkled with a pinch of chest palpitations which crescendoed into an ever-so-slight bit of hyperventilation. I was E-X-T-R-E-M-E-L-Y uncomfortable stepping off into this unknown territory despite knowing it was EXACTLY what I must do. Have you ever had that feeling?
I went through with the call despite Resistance’s antics, and hired my new Communications Director, Melodee, overcoming and winning the battle with Resistance—for the day.
What was interesting to me throughout the experience, was watching myself like a fish flailing on the ground desperate to get air.
Unlike the fish, however, the safety of my life was not threatened though I was acting like it was. I could see how irrational I was being, yet the thought of changing and expanding my comfort zone was creating a physical response both real and intense. None of the obvious logic could talk me off the ledge.
What I’ve learned is that there is a real physiological experience that takes place in our bodies when we seek to grow and expand. Simply put, a rush of serotonin and other chemicals enter the cells, sending messages that trigger the building of new neural pathways in the brain. I won’t explain it more scientifically that that. The point is our bodies engage in a REAL physiological expansion process.
In essence, moving through Resistance is like experiencing a growing pain.
So what’s the best way to manage a growing pain? Breathe. Feel the discomfort, but whatever you do–don’t run. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable for it is just temporary.
As we all know, growing pains pass. And once the pain passes, we have new stronger bones and muscles from which to catapult.
Pressman shares his rule of thumb: “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel pursuing it.”
So how do you know which project to tackle first? Choose the project that will stretch you; the one that is most scary and will throw you into unchartered waters.
And take note: if you’re paralyzed with fear, it’s a good sign. It shows you what you have to do. The more Resistance you experience, the more important the project or work is to you and the more you will gain from it once you do it.
You’re wrong if we think you’re the only one struggling with Resistance. It’s universal. “If you have a body you have Resistance,” Pressfield states.
I’ve learned the danger of Resistance is greatest when the finish line is in sight. That is when it is easiest (and most common) to deploy our safety nets and run. Be on high alert for this. Then sit down and do what you are being called to do!
It’s always a party on the other side of of Resistance!
P.S. Through May 30th, you can download to your Kindle a FREE copy of Do The Work by Steven Pressfield by going to www.amazon.com.