By Steven Pressfield
The author of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles explains what keeps us from doing what we most want to do—and shows us how to finally get started toward our long-deferred goals.
Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed on a call to embark on a spiritual practice, to dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, to commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, to crusade for the planet, to campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night, have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn't write, a painter who doesn't paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
It is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and erectile dysfunction. The more important a call to action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel about answering it. But to yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. 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 heart, our inner genius, is calling us to do? Resistance defeats us.
If you believe in God (and I do), you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is a Latin word; the Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling. A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It is our soul's seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star's beacon and Polaris.
But every sun casts a shadow, and genius's shadow is Resistance. As powerful as is our soul's call, so potent are the forces of Resistance arrayed against it. We're not alone if we've been mowed down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here's the biggest bitch: We don't even know what hit us. I never did. From ages 24 to 32, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again 13 times; and, I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face. I knew I wanted to write novels, but I could not finish what I started. The closer I got, the more ways I'd find to screw it up.
Look in your own heart. Right now, a still, small voice is piping up, telling you, as it has 10,000 times before, 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 -- because of Resistance.
As powerful as this dragon is, there is one thing we must remember: It comes from within us. Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from within us. We feed it with power by fearing it. Master that fear and conquer Resistance. There never was a moment -- and never will be -- when we were without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. How? This second, we can sit down and do our work.
This text was adapted from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, who is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life and 11 other books.