I recently read a book that had a powerful impact on me as a writer, entrepreneur, and Christian.
It is called The War of Art, which is a play on words from the classic Art of War. It was written by Steven Pressfield, the popular author of Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, and Killing Rommel.
Pressfield writes to other authors and artists about how to overcome what he calls the Resistance and become what you are meant to be. In his words,
“If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius.”
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
What is the Resistance?
We experience the Resistance any time we attempt to better ourselves or live out our calling. It is manifested in acts that choose short-term pleasure over long-term growth. The Resistance aims to prevent us from doing our work.
The most common form of the Resistance is procrastination. We feel it constantly throughout the day. It stems from a fear, whether we realize it or not, of doing what we are meant to do.
For a writer, the Resistance is anything that prevents her from writing her book.
It is fear.
It is excuses.
It is the challenge of a seemingly insurmountable task that will day months and years to complete. She gives in when she chooses two write a 140 character tweet rather than writing her book.
The Resistance from a Christian Perspective
I haven’t spend enough time with these concepts to accurately associate Pressfield’s Resistance with Catholic theology. I think he rightly points out that Christians would mistakenly call it the devil. I believe Satan fuels the fire, but he doesn’t start it.
The Resistance begins with us and our fallen human nature. God never intended for us to experience the Resistance. I think it is what Catholic theologians would probably call “concupiscence.” It is what the early Church fathers probably referred to as “the passions.”
Whatever it is, the point is clear: the Resistance does everything it can to stop us from becoming fully alive.
Exercise: Identify the Resistance
This morning or this afternoon, keep a piece of paper or notebook at your work station. Every time you feel the Resistance kick-in (that is, any time you feel tempted to do something other than your work) write it down.
Create a list of the distractions, mostly internal, that pop up as you try to do you work. It doesn’t matter what work you are trying to do. The Resistance will be there pulling you back.
My Resistance List:
For the first time this morning, I wrote down every time I felt the Resistance kick in. It was incredible how often I was attacked. I wrote down thirteen separate occasions with some occurring multiple times.
Here are some of the things that tempted me and almost stopped me from doing my work:
- checking email
- checking Facebook (for work and for personal)
- checking web analytics stats
- checking my junk email (where I subscribe to newsletters)
- avoiding my Evernote Projects and Next Actions list
- checking Amazon for free eBooks
- ignoring emails that require a response for a later time (even though it takes less than two minutes)
- thinking about being home with my kids
- hunger for a snack–a granola bar perhaps?
- self doubt
What sparked these feelings of the Resistance? Each time the Resistance attacked, I showed these signs of vulnerability:
- transitioning from one project to the next
- getting stuck on the “next action” for a project
- making a mistake on a project (leading to self doubt)
- seeing only ten minutes until lunch time
- anger and disappointment in an organization
- waiting for a webpage to load
- finding a great article about a topic I love
How will the Resistance manifest itself in your life today?
Write it down.
Identify the enemy.
Be ready to fight back.
(By the way: I’m forcing myself not to read Steven Pressfield’s two other similar books, Turning Pro and Do the Work, because quite frankly as powerful as it might be to read them right now, I’m afraid it might be the Resistance that is pulling me toward them. Right now, I have work to do.)