Use This Short Checklist to Beat Resistance

Work ethic is a learned skill. Like other skills, some people are naturally better at it than others. I happen to have a worse work ethic than most. 

James Bond doesn’t flinch when in mortal danger. And why? Because he knows fear intimately.

Sévérine: How much do you know about fear?

James Bond: All there is. (Skyfall, 2012)

Like Bond knows fear, I know the power of resistance to keep me from doing what I want. I know what it’s like to wake up and stay in bed for hours. But I also know what it’s like to jump out of bed, excited to take on a new day. I know what it’s like to accomplish nothing, day after day. But I also know what it’s like to achieve goals that I hadn’t dreamed of reaching.

I’ve learned how to overcome internal resistance consistently. I still fail occasionally, but I’ve come a very long way. I’ve beaten it, not because I’m strong, but because I know it so intimately. I’ve learned the simplest ways to undermine its power.

When you find yourself wanting to do something good, but don’t feel like doing it, use this list. When you know you should walk North and want to do it, but find your body moving Southeast, use this list to take back control. 

The Resistance-Killing Checklist

If you want to act but feel resistance, there are likely two very common and problematic thought patterns at the center of it. 

1. THINK: “I don’t have to act as I feel. I can act powerfully against it!”

This might be the most common foothold of internal resistance, and the one that people usually fail to overcome. If you knock this one down, you’ve just knocked down the front gate to the castle!

Our emotions are there to guide us, not control us. When someone insults you, your emotions tell you that it’s wrong of them, and it is. When you want to achieve your dreams and your emotions tell you that it’s more comfortable not to try, they’re correct but wrong

If you know better than what you’re feeling right now, you have every right and all of the power and authority to act directly against it. You can walk right up to that feeling of resistance, say, “You’re wrong,” and smash your way forward right through it.

Simply knowing that you can do this is extremely empowering. It also helps to know that you only assume you must act as you feel because you’ve done so in the past. When you repeat something as often as you’ve repeated this, it seems like truth. But it’s not. Your feelings align with the truth sometimes or even most times, but not at all times. When you feel conflicted—such as simultaneously wanting and not wanting to exercise—one side is wrong, and it’s usually your feelings. 

Every time I’ve felt like not working out and resting, and have decided to work out anyway, has been a great decision. Every time! That means my feelings were wrong every time. (You should, of course, know and respect your body’s limits when it comes to physical exertion.)

You can act however you choose to act. It can conflict with how you feel and still be a great choice. Breaking through conflicting feelings with an action that benefits you is a rush, too. Try it.

2. THINK: “Perfect circumstances won’t ever come. Today is the most important and most ideal day for action.” 

I’ve written an entire book about this concept because it’s that important. Every moment, every action, and every circumstance in life is imperfect and flawed. It’s actually a difficult to accept because we do understand the concept of perfection, suggesting that it’s a real thing that can be obtained. Problem is… it’s not obtainable. Perfection exists as a concept outside of the reality of a human life. Even if we believe that something is perfect in some way, it would just be our biased perception masking imperfections (as people do when falling in love).

Once you accept the inherent imperfection surrounding all that we are and do, you’ll be more willing to “get your hands dirty,” which includes the first step—taking action when you don’t feel like it.

There’s a nuance here that I want to highlight. You might also delay action hoping for a “more perfect” scenario. So even if you acknowledge imperfection, you might chase “near perfect.” This is no different than chasing perfection itself. “Near perfect” or “more ideal” is a vague, nebulous notion that only means “today isn’t good enough.” That “tomorrow might work better” mindset enables you to always find a reason that today isn’t good enough. When you haven’t defined what good enough is, you will continue to move the target to justify your inaction. That’s why I say we make almost everything good enough!

  • Run in the rain. 
  • Work on your project when unmotivated and uninspired.
  • Draw a painting and write a novel before you’re ready.
  • Give someone an unrehearsed compliment (it will still brighten their day).

Imperfectionists, as I discuss in my book, don’t look for perfection, they look for opportunity.

There’s a beautiful phrase called “diamond in the rough,” that means something along the lines of plain appearance but spectacular hidden value. Diamonds don’t look good when found initially, but after being cut and polished, they become dazzling jewels. So if you’re mining and only looking for perfect diamonds, you will in fact miss every perfect or near-perfect diamond there is, because no diamond looks that way until it goes through several processes.

In the same way as a diamond becomes amazing, no positive action we take will initially look or feel spectacular. It’s only by continuing to experiment, looking for opportunities, and showing up consistently that we’ll find ourselves waking up one day with the life we’ve always wanted.

My books, which have brought me so much, were diamonds in the rough. They were created because I kept failing to reach my goals (ugly). Creating the books themselves was a series of unimpressive and unremarkable work sessions (ugly), looking at life-drainingly-boring studies (ugly), restructuring sentences (ugly), fixing typographical errors (ugly), and other bland, ugly things. And yet, because of this, I recently saw my translated book in a Japanese bookstore, the first time I’ve seen my book in any bookstore. That was a beautiful diamond moment (picture below).

So the next time you feel resistance, remind yourself that no dazzling diamond looks that way at first. It will always appear rough, unpolished, and unappealing initially. Look for imperfect opportunities in your life, and you will turn some diamonds in the rough into beautiful diamonds.

3. ACT: Declare your first step and Count down from 10. Before you reach 1, take action!

You can see the article above to read in depth why counting down from 10 slices through resistance. Declaring your first step is crucial, too, as it gives you A) an objective and B) something small and easy to start with. This is the finishing blow to your resistance. You might even find that step #1 or #2 are enough on their own to get you moving, but if not, this will do the trick.

Conclusion: Killing the Roots of Resistance

Breaking through resistance boils down to attacking the roots. The three most common roots of resistance I’ve seen and experienced (with their solution in parenthesis) are below.

The Roots of Resistance (and Solutions)

  1. Slavery to your feelings (remind yourself that your feelings are only a guide, and that you are still the master with unlimited power to override them)
  2. Looking for perfection (remind yourself that you won’t ever find perfect scenarios, and that you’ll miss out on beautiful diamonds in the rough if you continue to neglect imperfect opportunities)
  3. Inflating your goal and overwhelmingly pressuring yourself to do it instantly (select a small first step and give yourself light-but-firm pressure to begin the easy task with a 10-second countdown)

Once you go through this checklist, you should find yourself in motion, doing the beneficial thing you previously resisted. You can easily memorize this sequence! It’s two simple thoughts and one simple action.

The Resistance-Killing Checklist

  1. “I have the power and authority to act against my feelings.”
  2. “I recognize that today’s rough, dirty, and flawed opportunities are ideal. THIS is the moment.”
  3. Select your first step (or mini habit) and count down from 10!

Have this anti-resistance weapon always by your side and fire at will!

NOTE: This is a short-term solution to break through resistance. I’m unsure of how often it will work, but it’s certainly a good stopgap if you don’t already have a go-to method that works. For a long-term solution, I recommend the Mini Habits strategy, which targets brain change through habit formation. Brain change is the only lasting change!

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