Creative Leadership

Here’s What’s Keeping You From Accomplishing Your Dream Project

Why aren’t you writing your book, creating your film, starting your business, launching your ministry, or otherwise making your big idea happen? Probably because of what writer Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance” – that urge to do anything other than sit down and do what you actually need to do. I’m working on my next book, and yet every morning I have an almost uncontrollable urge to do something – anything – else: check my email, re-arrange my closet, organize my desk, take a walk, or a million other things.

The idea of “Resistance” is far more powerful than we think, and unless we learn to overcome it, we’ll fail every time. In fact, in his recent book “The War of Art” Pressfield doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to how big an issue “Resistance” really is:

“How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to do? Resistance defeats us.

If tomorrow morning by some stoke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and dandruff.

Look at your own heart. Unless I’m crazy right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.
You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kroner, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”

Over dramatized? Maybe. But the question remains? Isn’t it time to overcome the Resistance in your life?i

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  1. Love this, Phil! We all often start the wrong war. Like Hitler we go to battle with people, when the real battle is the inner war against the negativity and resistance inside of us. I like to put it this way: First win within and then without a doubt you’ll win without!

    1. Very well put. For so many, it’s easier to critique another person or blame someone else for our lack of success when, really, the hardest and most life changing thing we can do is take an honest look in the mirror. *cue MJ song…*

  2. Hmm. This is a bit over the top for me. If Hitler had just gotten enough motivation to make his art a success, we wouldn’t have had World War 2! I think sometimes a person’s dream project just isn’t meant to be. We should look for God’s will in everything, not our own glory. Hitler was looking for glory not creative satisfaction and found it in a political outlet.

  3. I LOVE THIS! It is not overstated. It’s the truth. Our most powerful demon is our own resistance to doing anything that will make an eternal difference! And Art always makes an eternal difference, as any beautiful creation does – even if it’s in the life of one person!

    1. Laziness, fear – it doesn’t matter what causes it. They key is not letting it stop you from doing difficult creative work. There’s a number of methods, but much of it depends on what the resistance is in your work style – distraction, clutter, busyness, etc…

  4. Good, Phil: thank you for this reminder, and great quote.

    There is also an opposite extreme: the artist who dumps his 100% into the project, sidestepping distractions, pouring out his entire being into the endeavor — indefinitely. This can certainly work well in the short-term. That “creative zone,” fire, passion propels us.

    However, I’ve discovered over the past few years that long-term projects can produce burnout in the artist — that is if the artist doesn’t learn he can’t sustain “the creative zone” at high octane for 24+ months.

    Something’s gotta give.

    We have to balance the driving passion for the project vs. the renewal of body, soul and spirit, or the elusive finish line creeps further away as a result.

    My conclusion: once you’ve put in the time, met some substantial milestone goals, then stop, refresh, and take a guilt-free vacation. (The last part is my personal struggle, but necessary.)

    1. Yeah, really…..I mean, dandruff (and flaking skin in other spots) is often one of the easily-noticed symptoms of hypothyroidism that, even with the supposed “right” level of synthetic hormone being taken, never completely goes away! Don’t be quite so judgmental on dandruff, folks!

      Oh, wait….I now see a different, larger point was being made. 😉

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