Creativity vs. Resistance – Which Side Are You On?
There is a phenomenon that is well-known in creative and entrepreneurial circles. It is the fact that whenever we attempt to step out of our comfort zone, create something new, put ourselves “out there,” and express our true nature, there is a lot of crap that comes up. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true. It comes in many forms, but is broadly known as Resistance.
Facing and overcoming Resistance is one of the primary things we, as entrepreneurs and leaders, must figure out. This may sound like a grand, philosophical idea. However, it plays out in very clear yet destructive ways in our everyday lives.
Steven Pressfield has written so eloquently on this topic in his book “The War Of Art.” It had a profound impact on my own experience and I wanted to share some of it with you.
Accepting Your Genius
For starters, in order to understand Resistance, you must first believe in the opposite. Again, it has many names, but Pressfield described it so beautifully by saying that we are all endowed “with our own unique genius…. It is our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.”
It’s not a small thing to acknowledge your own genius. It may seem self-centered or too strong a word. Just the thought of it can cause Resistance to peek out its ugly head and say “You? You’re not good enough for that word.”
In order to even enter the battlefield, you must believe in your own worthiness. You have to feel that greatness can come, if not from you, at least through you, and that it is worth fighting for.
The idea of the genius of your soul is a beautiful thing, and it is a blessing to even glimpse it. However, as Pressfield says, “Every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance.”
Resistance is a concept that encompasses many tangible things that we experience every day. As soon as we think about our own dreams, it shows up as thoughts and emotions: Fear of exposure; Self-degrading thoughts that we aren’t good enough or smart enough; Rationalizations telling us that it’s not “realistic.” For many people, a little Resistance in their own minds and thoughts is enough to stop them in their tracks.
If you manage to get past the mental stage and begin to take action, Resistance ups its game as well. It follows you in the form of procrastination, distraction, excuses…. All the while increasing the fear and internal chatter.
It sounds pretty miserable, doesn’t it? And if you give into it, it is. “Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction.” said Pressfield.
So what can we do?
Doing The Work Anyway
The answer is simple and yet incredibly difficult. We must be able to do the work despite the Resistance. It’s not about beating it. It doesn’t go away.
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.”
We must cultivate courage. Show up everyday and do what we can to allow our genius to come out a little more. Begin to recognize that feeling Resistance actually means we are doing the right thing. Recognize it. Make friends with it. Walk side by side with it.
Isn’t it much easier if we don’t feel Resistance or simply avoid it in favor of comfort?
Not necessarily. Many people follow the “easy road” in search of success in the form of material comforts. However, if you accept your genius, then success has a very different meaning. Even if you don’t consciously acknowledge it, many find that when they arrive at “success” they still feel empty.
“Given the depraved state of American culture, a slick dude can make millions being a hack. But even if you succeed, you lose, because you’ve sold out your Muse, and your Muse is you, the best part of yourself, where your finest and only true work comes from.”
In this passage, Pressfield shines a light on a different understanding of success – showing up and remaining true to yourself.
Have you experienced this phenomenon? Read the book? Please share your experiences in the comments below.