Every Monday evening, after finishing one hour of training in Savate (French kickboxing), we’re invited to stay for an extra 30 minutes of sparring. My initial intention every time is to stay, because sparring is the most valuable type of training I could do other than actual boxing. However, when the hour of training ends and the time comes to make the decision I start having thoughts like: “I’m quite tired though, and I feel like I’ve trained enough anyway”, or “I’m a bit hungry, so I should go and have dinner now.”. Sometimes that rationalizing voice wins and I actually go home. Other times I ignore it and make the right, although uncomfortable choice and stay for sparring.
This kind of scenario shows up in many different contexts. This is an internal self-sabotage, and it manifests itself as the negative voice you hear in your head whenever you’re about to do something difficult or uncomfortable. Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, calls this The Resistance. In a mythical fashion, he describes it as a universal force whose sole mission is to keep things as they are, whether through rationalising, by inspiring fear and anxiety, emphasising other distractions that require attention, or as an inner critic.
“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”
I love this idea, mainly because by thinking about those negative voices and tendencies in this way I can separate them from my own self, from who I really am. It’s easier to recognise them and think “Oh there it is, that’s The Resistance. No thanks, I’m still gonna go to the gym.”
“Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
One important reason I think being aware of and fighting the Resistance is the fact that repeatedly overcoming or falling prey to it becomes an ingrained habit. Without being mindful of this process, something like procrastinating every day on our important tasks can become a strong habit that over time becomes more and more difficult to break.
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
I highly recommend reading either The War of Art or Turning Pro, both by Steven Pressfield. They’re both short and easy to read, with a Zen-like brevity and simplicity.