Ever have that feeling of powerful opposition to doing something you know you want to do? The feeling that stops you from getting your butt to the gym, cleaning out your chaotic closet, or finally signing up for the yoga training you’ve been yearning to master?
In his bestselling book, Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield identifies this feeling in one brilliant, accurate, precise, and simple word: resistance.
To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence. —Steven Pressfield
I know resistance like I know my oldest, closest best friend. It knows me too. We’re inseparable. We cling together so much that every day, I have to practice my independence from it.
Resistance applies to everything from our health to our savings accounts, creative work… anything that delays gratification in favor of longer-term gain. Pretty much without exception, resistance stands in the way of what’s good for us. But the pros know something we don’t: They know about resistance, and they know how to slay it.
Here’s how to be the pro you were born to be and live a far more productive life on your terms:
1. Do the work.
This means we do not wait "to feel inspired" to blog or paint, nor relent to the illusion that "we’ll get to it tomorrow." There is no tomorrow. The only time to act is now. Now is all we will ever have; it’s always now. So book that nonrefundable spin class and find those leggings. It’s on, baby.
2. Cut the crap.
In order to focus on what's critically important to us, we might have to say no to our second cousin’s birthday that’s 90 minutes away. We might have to skip Westworld to meet a personal deadline (or hey, just watch it later—it doesn’t always feel like it, but that stuff really can wait)! We can Snapchat in a few hours, after doing the important stuff that resistance begs us to avoid, or when we need a little break after doing the important stuff for two hours. The important stuff is the important stuff. The rest is crap… and we kinda know it, don’t we?
3. Ruthlessly remove distractions.
My preferred distractions include prosecco, Instagram storying, calling my sisters to talk about anything (which is most often nothing, or nothing critical). I even let myself get distracted by unpleasant thoughts, like worrying about my dog dying of heartworm because my neighbor’s brother’s dog had it once. It’s all resistance. Nothing else. What should you really be doing? You know.
4. Quit seeking approval.
Living by the opinions of others is a recipe for a very sad, unfulfilling life. When I became a life coach while juggling a very busy full time job, people thought I was a weirdo. "Why are you pushing yourself so hard?" I'd hear. No one understood. But they didn’t have to. My inner wisdom understood extremely well.
I turned down weddings. I turned down brunches. I most definitely turned down destination bachelorette parties, and was pretty much always the first to leave the bar on a Friday night. Were my friends disappointed? Hell yes. Did I feel some guilt and self-reproach for pulling back on social stuff to focus on my true calling in this world? Definitely.
But I could live with that. I could also live with disgruntled texts and sad face emojis. But sacrificing the unique calling of my soul I could not live with. So I didn’t.
5. Welcome delayed results.
Deferred gratification is the ability to resist temptation for an immediate reward and wait for the greater one that comes to those who never give up. Published authors know this, as do those seriously fit types. So do people with sweet bank balances—you know, the folks who think, "I don’t need that new car—mine works just fine." Think about new parents who endured multiple rounds of IVF or filled out endless streams of adoption paperwork to finally receive the family they dream of.
Is this easy? No. Does it get easier? A little. Especially as the delayed wins compound over time and you feel immense pleasure over what has been awarded to you by time, consistency, and patience.
The good new is, you’re already a pro.
Think about how you show up at your job every day, even when it might not be the career of your dreams.
Consider how you parent, even when you’re exhausted and your child tests your tolerance.
I doubt you gave up learning to walk as a baby, learning to drive as a teenager, or mastering any skill you’re now proud of after a few failures and a whole lot of fatigue along the way.
Whatever you want next, it’s in your reach, just as soon as you refuse to live life as a shadow version of who you truly are and accept the magnificence inside of you. Let it get to work. It’s dying to, I promise.
And the opposite is being a pro? It’s called being an amateur. An amateur treats life like a dress rehearsal. A pro owns the live stage. Will I see you up there this year?
Susie Moore is Greatist's life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!