“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
This quote comes from Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art which explores what keeps creators from actually creating. There are a lot of things that can keep us from doing what we have to do. We joke a lot about being lapsing procrastinators. But if we look a little harder at procrastination itself, we’ll see that it’s more complex than it seems. Procrastination is Resistance. And Resistance has many faces.
Getting cold feet
When you put something into the world, when you create something, you’re putting a piece of yourself “out there” for everyone to see. That’s absolutely scary. In fact, it’s downright impolite. But when you’re in the middle of creating something and you think to yourself, “Wow, this is embarrassing. Who am I kidding?” or “Nobody will care about this anyway. I’m wasting my time,” just know that that’s Resistance talking to you. You have two choices then: either listen to Him and toss your project in the trash — or tell Him to shut up and put your work into the world anyway.
Not good enough
“I don’t know enough to write about marketing,” “I’m not qualified enough to offer my services to that organization,” “This website I designed just isn’t good enough.”
Perfection is overrated. Don’t judge yourself so harshly, and get rid of those impossible standards. There’s an old joke that goes something like, “A British man is a good playwright if he writes a good play every once in a while. An American is a good playwright if his last play was good.”
Having high standards itself isn’t bad, but when everything you do has to outshine what you last did, then you have a problem. Remember, that the “perfect final draft” and the “perfect moment” don’t exist. Don’t let Resistance and His mask of perfection run your life.
What if I change my mind later?
Yeah, what if you change your mind later? What if you write and publish something that you completely disagree with tomorrow? What if you take a job that after a few months you decide you don’t want to do anymore? What if you start programming an app only to realize that it’s way too much work than you’re willing to do?
Again, perfection is overrated. Life is messy. And as the wise Hannah Montana said, everybody makes mistakes (everybody has those days).
It’s way better to start something and later abandon it than never try in the first place. At the very least, you’ll learn a thing or two about what you don’t believe in or what you hate doing — which is actually incredibly valuable. And maybe you’ll come to find out that you were worried over nothing. Don’t let Resistance scare you with His questions of “what if”.
Just not enough time
A lot of people say they just don’t have time for something. They’re then usually referred to some time management blog or “how to cut crap out of your life” book. But sometimes time management isn’t the solution — uncovering the face of Resistance is. “If only I had time” can often be a cover up for the real reason why you aren’t doing something. It’s the “sorry bro, I can’t hang out after school because my mom said no (insert sideways glance here)” excuse that you give to yourself.
If you keep telling yourself that you don’t have time for something, try to look a little deeper at what is really stopping you. Maybe time management is the solution. Or maybe you’re afraid of looking stupid, not being good enough, or changing your mind later.
“Listen, I just don’t have time to do it properly.” See above. Perfection is overrated.
Resistance tries to keep you from doing good work by constantly pointing to the clock. Don’t let Him convince you that you don’t have time if you actually do.
“I should make use of my parents’ network and go into their line of work even though I’d rather branch out into something unrelated on my own,” “I should go to college even though I really don’t want to. I mean, I have a scholarship,” “I should take this job I don’t want because everyone says it’s such a great opportunity.”
Sometimes our heads get cluttered with everyone’s thoughts and ideas but our own. You should do this. You shouldn’t do that. You’re so lucky. Oh, what a wonderful opportunity! Blah, blah, blah. Even if it’s just ordering chicken nuggets at a steakhouse, think about what you want to do, not what you ought to do.
Recognizing a good or unique opportunity is great, and it’s also great to stretch yourself and try new things. But you shouldn’t guilt yourself into doing something you’re not keen on doing solely because “you’re so lucky to have this opportunity”. Resistance says the word “should” a lot. Listen out for it. And then remember that choice you have: either toss your dreams in the can or tell Resistance to back off.
Get out there and go create something!
Resistance will do anything to keep you from putting good work into the world. Realize that He’s a pretty crafty guy. He has many faces and many tactics. Learn to recognize them, and get up the courage to tell Him to shut up so you can go create something awesome!
“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” — The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Today’s post was a guest submission from Leisa Miller, a 20 year old American currently living in Warsaw, Poland. Leisa is a college drop-out, autodidact, world traveler, polyglot, classically trained violinist, phonetician, and writer with (in her words) “entrepreneur-ish tendencies”.
Follow Leisa’s blog Fishing for Failure at leisamichelle.com or check out her previous post on the Praxis blog. If you want to submit a guest post to the Praxis blog, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.