Last year I became more aware of how often people say that want something but then fail to act on it. Part of what caught my attention was how frequently it occurred with my coaching clients…even high achievers; maybe people like you?
The other thing that caught my attention was when I took a look at myself….through the lens of my task list in Nozbe. Why had some simple tasks tasks taking less than 15 minutes to complete not yet been done? Since this seems to be a universal experience, the next shoe to drop was the question “Why?”
Not getting everything done on your task list happens to everyone and isn’t a big deal. What was a big deal was how some of my tasks had been carried over from week to week, a few from the previous month and a couple from….well, let’s just say a long time. I then recalled that I had this same experience with some important goals of mine, which took the topic beyond just getting my attention. It now it had my focus.
Moving my focus from the “What” to the “Why?” of this kind of procrastination, I was reminded of this simple fact: in any area of life in which I want to accomplish or change something, I’m never gonna feel like it….all the time. This is especially the case with things that require short-term discomfort for long-term benefit. Instead, I want to hit my inner snooze alarm. The other fact is that when I’m trying to accomplish a new skill or change behavior I’m a novice, which means making frequent mistakes and continually experiencing the unfamiliar, neither of which are much fun. The third is a factor called “The Resistance”, or just “Resistance” for short.
When you experience Resistance first-hand you wonder how the heck it can be so powerful and at times pervasive. Part of the reason is that people are unaware and it goes unrecognized. Steven Pressfield has done a great job of describing Resistance in his book The War of Art if you want to know more. While Resistance may be simple to identify, it’s hard to overcome.
First, recognize Resistance for what it is and adopt a mindset that you will often have force yourself to get started in order to get what you want. It won’t be fun, isn’t always easy, but it is very simple: just DO SOMETHING! Here are are 6 practical and simple ways that have helped me force myself to get started, get some traction and overcome Resistance:
- 4 Second Pause– Put a gap between your response to whatever stimulated you in the first place. This may seem counterintuitive since I just talked about doing something. But for many of us, our immediate words and deeds are often based on habit or in response to our emotions.
- 5 second rule- When you get an impulse to do something you want and need to do, take some action on it within 5 minutes….anything, writing it down, list your steps, make a call, etc. Simple movement toward what you want harnesses your mindset with your physiology and moves you to action. Wait any longer and your brain’s processing will essentially pull the emergency brake and you likely won’t do anything.
- 2 minute rule- A staple of David Allen’s GTD system. Once you know something needs to be done, ask yourself if you can accomplish it in 2 minutes or less. If so, just do it (whatever “it” is).
Three other ways for overcoming resistance (taken from Mel Robbins TEDx lecture “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over”) include getting:
- Out of your head- Take control of your self-talk instead of it talking control of you.
- Past your feelings- Experience your feelings, but don’t listen to them; tell them where you’re going to go and they will follow (sometimes kicking and screaming, but eventually they will get in line).
- Outside your comfort zone– As Michael Hyatt says, the really important stuff in life happens here and if your going to accomplish something significant, you’re going to spend a lot of time here, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Or, as one of my kids learned to say after they joined the military, learn to “embrace the Suck”.
Finally, even if something seems risky and uncertain, if want it, you’re called to it, then go for it and “Just Do It”. Michelle Cushatt has listed at least 3 lessons and benefits of letting go and diving in.
Ok, now that you know what Resistance is and how to overcome it, there is still one thing you need in order to get what you want: get over the satisfaction that you know what to do. Knowing isn’t doing. You have to take action and find out what works best for you. Knowledge isn’t power, making the right decisions coupled with action is.
Are you getting what you want these days? if not, what the next best step you could take to get you moving in the right direction? If your making progress, have you used any of these six techniques or others not listed here that have been helpful? Please leave a comment, I’d love to learn more about your success and so would others.