- Not enough time
- Not organized enough to plan ahead
- Hard-core night-time snacking habit
- Picky eater
- No willpower around carbs
- Too lazy
Any of those could be true about you, but none of them are the real reason that you find it so hard to stay on track.
Want to know what it really is?
It’s something called “Resistance.”
Resistance is a concept that I originally learned from reading Steven Pressfield’s incredible book, The War of Art. In the book he defines resistance as, “a universal force that has one sole mission: to keep things as they are.”
Resistance is fueled by fear. It’s that ancient caveman part of your brain that’s afraid of anything that feels unfamiliar because something that’s unfamiliar could mean danger and even death. Fear wants you to keep doing exactly what you’ve always done because that feels safe so it uses Resistance to ensure that you never change.
Resistance is the force at work when you want to:
- Write a book or a short story, but never find the time
- Start a business, but never make a plan
- Master a new skill, but never sign up for the class
- Change your health and your body, but never follow through
Resistance is calling most of the shots in our lives, and we’re not even aware of it and that’s because resistance isn’t stupid.
It doesn’t say: change is scary, or I’m afraid to give up my security blanket, or I don’t know who I am if I change and that’s terrifying.
No, if it was that obvious, the more rational part of your brain, the pre-frontal cortex, would quickly identify those as irrational thoughts and over-ride the Resistance.
Instead, resistance makes excellent and compelling arguments that sound like they make so much sense. Resistance tells you that what you’re trying is:
- Too hard
- Too complicated
- Not coming at the right time
- Not the right approach
- Not working for you
- What the hell, you’ve already ruined your diet, might as well keep going
- This is a special occasion and you won’t be able to fully enjoy it unless you indulge
- You deserve this treat right now; you can start again tomorrow or on Monday
- This doesn’t feel like the right thing for you to be doing right now
- You’ve got so much going on right now, you’ll focus on this when things quiet down.
Any of those sound familiar?
Do you think, after reading those example of how Resistance gets you to abandon your good intentions and sabotage yourself, that resistance might be at work in your life and in your attempts to change your health and your relationship with food?
So, how do you battle Resistance?
Here are three simple steps you can try to start winning the battle between your desire to reach your goals, and the Resistance that’s trying to stop you.
First, become aware of it! Resistance relies on you being oblivious to what it’s up to behind the scenes. As soon as you feel it at work and shine a big, bright light on it by saying, “Ah, I see you, Resistance. I see what you’re up to!” then it begins to lose all its power over you.
Second, invite it along for the ride. Accept that Resistance isn’t going anywhere. It’s a universal force, like gravity. However, just because you can’t get rid of it, doesn’t mean that you need to let it drive the bus.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, she writes a beautiful letter to fear which I am paraphrasing here and slightly re-writing as a letter to Resistance:
“Dear Resistance: I’m about to take an important road trip that is going to result in some very big changes in my life. I understand you’ll be joining me, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. So, by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this trip, which is to work hard and stay focused.
There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for both of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: I am the only one who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that we are in this together, but please know that, despite that fact, your suggestions will never be followed.
You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
Third, celebrate ALL progress (even the tiniest of baby steps). In addition to relying on you being unaware of its actions, resistance also relies on you feeling discouraged, pessimistic and hopeless about your ability to make change happen.
Those feeling are like food for Resistance! The moment you start to think that you can’t do it, Resistance pounces, takes root and begins to grow like a toxic weed.
In order to counter this, it’s critical that you be intentional about noticing and celebrating every shred of evidence to support the fact that you CAN do this. As soon as you start to notice wins and progress (no matter how tiny), you’ve shifted the momentum away from Resistance and put yourself back in the driver’s seat!