How to Patiently and Persistently Fight Creative Resistance

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Out of the many creative projects and business concepts I’ve started, most of them have fizzled out.

I tend to start out with a possessed enthusiasm and deep faith, getting completely absorbed in bringing my new idea to life.

But then resistance sets in.

Like an awakening jolt of ice-cold water to the face, the real scale of my ambition sets in and my anxiety sky rockets.

I realize what it will actually take to create my passionate project or business and my thoughts are swarmed by self-doubt and underestimation of my potential.

Taking the first step has never been a big issue for me; it’s the next 1,000 miles that I struggle with.

Do you relate to this?

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” – William Feather

The adversity of a creative pursuit is a common dilemma that author Steven Pressfield calls resistance.

In the book The War of Art, he points out that if taking a leap of faith to pursue a dream or calling beyond your current reality, be prepared to face uncertainty, shame, and a hyperventilating fear of failure.

Pressfield also points out however, that pushing past the inner-obstacles is what separates the pro from the amateur. 

The amateur submits to the opposition and ends up bitter and beaten. The pro on the other hand, uses moments of resistance as an opportunity to evaluate how to get better; to take their skills, knowledge, and habits to the next level.

The next level shakes things up and brings a little chaos into our life, but only momentarily.

It will pass as you step into the chaos and learn what to do next.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my journey over the past three years.

Grow Your Grit

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”– Henry Ford

One way to persevere through setbacks and stay committed despite disappointment is to grow your grit.

Grit is the ability to stay interested in and expend effort towards long-term goals. In short, it’s the opposite of quitting.

Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit, The Power and Passion of Perseverance, explains how grit can be cultivated. Her research points out that we can develop grit (as the book title suggests) from pursuing goals that we’re passionate about. This includes goals we’re highly interested in and that have a clear sense of purpose to us.  As well, grit comes from the practice of perseverance, or the process of learning, growing, practicing, and overcoming obstacles.

As you face resistance, grit will be an essential trait if you want to keep making progress and improving.

Assuming you’re passionate about your pursuit, next time you feel like giving-up, decide to get gritty instead!

Strengthen your fortitude and stick with it just a little bit longer. Make this a deliberate practice.

Accept the unknown

“Greatness is a road leading towards the unknown.” – Charles de Gaulle

It’s helpful to have a plan with clear strategies and deadlines, but let’s face it; things won’t always go as planned.

It’s of equal importance to be flexible and accept that our expectations won’t always be met. This requires some surrender and willingness to let go of external control, which is a perfect opportunity to work on self-leadership.

I’ve learned that when things aren’t unfolding how I think they “should” it’s the perfect opportunity to let go of the outcome and focus on the moment and my current response.

When goals or projects are more grueling and laborious than we anticipated, resistance is likely to follow.

Instead of giving-in to resistance and regressing to self-destructive patterns and habits, clear your head, refocus on your goal, and take responsibility for the choice you want to make.

Preparation is ongoing

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

The more passionate I am about my dream, the harder it is stay patient and peaceful. 

If only reinventing yourself was easy, right?

It’s easy to fall prey to the seduction of immediate gratification, where we don’t want to do the hard work, and we want to reach our destination with as little upset as possible.

The reality is that the journey can be cumbersome but it’s necessary for our preparation. When I went on tour with Yes You Are I was just “ready enough.” If things would’ve unfolded faster I wouldn’t have been prepared. I had just enough preparation to be ready for the opportunity, and I have a feeling this is likely to happen again.

If you’re feeling stalled right, ask yourself what you need to learn or how you can improve in the interim.  

If you build grit and accept the unknown, adversity can be your best teacher. It can help you recognize the skills to build and the knowledge to learn.

That way, when you’re big opportunity finally comes, you’ll be prepared to show up with excellence and mastery.

Photo credit: Chrishna