If there is one thing we all need to overcome it’s resistance. I’m NOT talking about ohms– the opposition to current flow in an electrical circuit. The type of resistance I’m talking about is the one we suffer from when we procrastinate or put off tasks that are essential to our creative or personal growth. Of course, what we resist persists–unless we do something to change the status quo. There is always a reason for our hesitancy or reluctance. The challenge is getting to the source of our discomfort to see what we can do to calm the beast that’s preventing us from moving forward. Sometimes, there is a good reason we refuse to change, but most of the time, it comes down to fear of the unknown and false expectations about what we perceive the future holds.
No one likes to admit that we’re afraid, but if we look closely at our resistance, fear in any of it’s disguises is usually the source. Anxiety, angst, dread, panic, self-judgment–what ever you call it, fear is the epicenter of our unwillingness to move forward. Here are some of the unconscious beliefs harbored by the little monster called fear. I’m not good, smart, clever enough. People will make fun of me if…There’s not enough time to…Other people are better at… You get the idea. The truth is, our subconscious programming is alive and well sabotaging our efforts and preventing us from moving forward. How it plays out in life is different for everyone.
For example, it took me years to begin writing my adoption memoir. I was so afraid that my story wasn’t compelling enough, that I wasn’t a good enough writer, that I would never find a publisher. Then, one day, it occurred to me that I could just write the memoir for myself. I could write my story for my eyes only. Instead of putting undo pressure on myself to live up to a lofty expectation, I could write a little every day and see where it went. I could take a writing workshop and get feedback on my work. I could fill in gaps in my knowledge by reading books about writing fiction. Eventually, I built up enough confidence to share my writing with other writers and the smartest thing I did was work with an editor. Step-by-step, I overcame resistance and self published my book.
Self publication led to book marketing and new options for resistance opened up. Book in hand, there were new fears and challenges to overcome. But here’s the thing — knowing that resistance is inevitable makes it manageable because even thought the monster looks different, it’s always the same–fear. What if I couldn’t sell the 3,000 books I ordered? What marketing strategies among thousands would work? Would my book tour be successful? I was afraid of failing and I was also afraid of success. My book was raw and I felt vulnerable, afraid I’d told too much of the story, afraid I was too honest. I also didn’t have a clue about book marketing and my fear of failure was very real.
I knew I was dealing with the monster of fear who manifested as resistance and procrastination. That monster would always be lurking in the shadows. So, I decided it was time to come up with a strategy for taming the beast once and for all. Turns out, resistance is strongest when there is a lot to gain or lose, but it dissipates and practically disappears when what needs to be done is broken into a tiny task, the smaller the better. So, I started limiting my tasks. Today I will email two adoption agencies and tell them about my book. Or, today I will introduce myself and my book to one local bookstore. One or two tasks at a time became three or four and eventually I was able to spend half the day on marketing. Eventually, I sold all 3000 books and I kept fear at bay.
That was twelve years ago. Since then I’ve encountered resistance multiple times. It’s always about some sort of fear–real or imagined. In every instance, the solution is the same: break the task down into tiny puzzle pieces and move forward one little piece at a time. The next time the dynamic duo, resistance and fear, turn up for you, take a moment to consider your options. First, ask yourself, What am I resisting? Then, identify the fear. If it’s not justified, move forward. Finally, take one tiny action.
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Jan Fishler is the author of Searching for Jane, Finding Myself (an adoption memoir), Don’t Stop Now: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life, Flex Your Writing Muscle (365 Writing Prompts), and PTSD: Lessons From Vietnam. She is a motivational speaker who also teaches writing classes online. More about Jan at www.JanFishler.net.