Your Resistance Brain Stops You From Being Awesome (And How to Fight Back)
Many people have two lives. The life they live and the other life they aspire to live. Between the two stands Resistance.
You probably have a vision of the person you want to become, the work you could accomplish, or the perfect future you want for your family but for some reason, you never get to even give it a go.
Resistance is an active and relentless force whose sole purpose is to stop you from becoming your best self and from achieving your higher goals.
It’s your job is to figure out how to quiet it and ignore it.
Your resistance brain is doing its job when:
- You keep postponing your life’s work
- You’re being too self-critical of your work or ideas
- You feel your work is never good enough to ship, launch or publish
- You always find some excuse not to do something.
It’s surprisingly easy to get through life and make a career out of being average… the resistance would prefer it if you did.
Steven Pressfield first wrote about the resistance a few years ago. The resistance is that little voice in the back of your head telling you to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.
The one that tells you that it will never work, the one that worries that people will laugh at you when you decide to do and share your life’s work. The resistance brain will do almost anything to keep you from being noticed.
In his book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin says the lizard brain is the source of the resistance. He writes:
“The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny.
The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe.
The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry.
The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.
The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.
The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can.
Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from taking action. It will fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, and convince you to give up and stay comortable.
The resistance is powerful, so powerful that all the shortcuts, time-savers and focusing tools are powerless in its path.
Steven Pressfield says “resistance by definition is self-sabotage”. In The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven notes that the more resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art/project/enterprise is to you — and the more gratification you will fell when you finally do it. He explains:
“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”
“Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
There are too many demands on your will and abilities. And you are probably reacting to demands 90% of the time.
If your life is what happens to you instead of what you choose to make, do or create, take control today and make the necessary change to live life on your own terms.
The biology behind the resistance
Your amygdala is the reason for every resistance you feel. The amygdala is the pre-historic portion of your brain, located near the brain stem.
It’s the part of the limbic system which is responsible for processing your emotions. It’s responsible for fear and anger and revenge and sex and survival.
When the amygdala is aroused, when it feels threatened, when there’s a sense that people might actually laugh at you, it takes over. It rises up in rage and fear and shuts you down.
This part of the brain allows you to react to a threat in an immediate and automatic way, without the rest of the brain processing information.
Start fighting back today!
You can learn to tune out those excuses and keep on moving right through them no matter how much your resistance brain tells you.
How? For starters, by letting go of your need to be perfect at everything you do. Find something so important that it is worth enraging your prehistoric fears. And start taking action now notwithstanding what your lizard brain tells you. You are good enough to begin anything you expect of yourself.
Break your project, idea, task, activity or goal into the largest possible amount of sub-steps you can imagine.
Write all the steps down.
Go back to the first item on your list and find the smallest possible action you can take to advance it.
Aim for baby steps. Focus on small wins. The idea is to take even the smallest action towards the bigger goal.
Example, if you are writing a book, write 200 words today.
Don’t aim for perfection. Don’t judge your work. Just write.
Ernest Hemingway once said “Write drunk; edit sober”
Use the same mindset for anything you start.
Commit to the process. Even if it’s 20 minutes a day.
Any time you stumble, just get back up and take another run at it. That’s how progress happens.
A work in progress pushes you to continue working on your goal.
People who are ultimately successful in initiating and maintaining major behavioural change usually do it through gradual, step-by-step changes.
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