Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War” more than 2,500 years ago. It contains such well-known gems as “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” and “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
Steven Pressfield wrote a book over 15 years ago titled “The War of Art.” Clever title for a book about “The Resistance” — something we face whenever we try to do something significant.
Pressfield describes The Resistance as that “invisible, destructive force that opposes” you any time you try to accomplish something that matters, or try make an improvement in any area of your life.
The Resistance is that thing that makes you want to organize your closet when you sit down to write, that thing that makes you want to sleep in instead of going to the gym. It’s what you feel when that little voice inside whispers it’s time to make a change.
Resistance is invisible, but we can let it stop us in our tracks. People used to think the sound barrier was an actual barrier. As aircraft approached 768 miles an hour, the planes began to shake violently. Pilots and engineers did not think it was possible to go any faster. Then, on Oct. 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager broke through that barrier and we learned it could be done.
Resistance is internal. People also used to think it was physically impossible to run a mile in less than four minutes, that the human body simply could not do it. So, nobody did it. Then, Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes and 59 seconds, followed in quick succession by other runners who now knew it was possible. The two-hour marathon is close. Last year, Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge ran 26.2 miles in 2 hours and 24 seconds. It’s only a matter of time until that “barrier” falls as well.
Many of the barriers we face are ones we have convinced ourselves are real — but often they are only in our minds. We tell ourselves, “No one will vote for me so I won’t run for office.” Or, “I’m just not good at public speaking.” Or, “I can’t sit and write every day — I have ADD.” Or, “No one will hire me when they can get someone half my age.” Negative self-talk is full of The Resistance.
On the plus side, The Resistance points to true north. In other words, if you are feeling it, you know you’re on the right path.
Pressfield asks: “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
Being scared is normal. One of my favorite personal mantras is “feel the fear and do it anyway.” I’ve been asked how I overcame my fear of (fill in the blank — politics, public speaking, going to school, raising teenagers, you name it). In most cases, I haven’t. I just do it scared. So do most of the people I know out there making things happen.
There’s a quote by Robert Allen that makes the rounds in the personal growth space: “Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.”
Another one by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of Liberia, encourages, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”
Are you “daring greatly”? Don’t wait for your fear to go away. It won’t. Just do it scared, and you’ll be in good company.
We can do hard things when we don’t have a choice, but we can also choose to do hard and scary things. It’s hard to leave a bad relationship. It’s hard to run a marathon. It’s scary to run a political race. It’s scary to try out for a play. It’s hard work to stay married. It’s hard to be single in a very family-oriented state. It’s hard to be a parent. It’s hard to carry a baby for nine months. It’s hard to go through the adoption process. It’s scary (and hard) to start a business. It’s scary to follow a dream. But it’s worth it.
Pushing through The Resistance is essential to transformation and growth. Who you are becoming is even more important than what you are doing. Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, The Resistance will make your wings strong.
Holly Richardson, a Salt Lake Tribune columnist, would like to point out that the filing deadline to run for office goes through 5 p.m. Thursday. If you’ve thought of running but are afraid to commit, please take the leap!