As I sit down to write this article about personal resistance, I find myself avoiding the task. I’m pretty sure I have commented on, liked or perused every Facebook and Instagram post of every person I have ever met (or pretend to know on Social Media), and slowly watched my deadline pass. All the while rationalizing my actions. I check on my parents, responded to messages from my sisters and balanced my check book (I mean, do people still do that?).

Does this sound familiar to you? You have a goal, a vision, something you really want, something that will improve the quality of your life in some way, and yet you will find every excuse to put off the hard work? If so, you suffer from the same nagging avoidance that many of us face.

Most of us struggle with resistance. A common root, is fear, while the type of fear varies, fear of success, or failure; rejection or people wanting to connect, the emotional underpinning is the same and the reaction is avoidance. When we allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking the 30 things on our to-do list that are not related to our goals are, in fact, important to our emotional well-being, we are succumbing to the fear that drives resistance.

My Story of Resistance 

It was the week before Thanksgiving and I had been working on my project, my course in a major re-write since my last session with my mentor in late September. I was nearing the end of this round and feeling food about where it was, although I knew module 4 needed more work and module 6 didn’t flow very well, but the content was there. I began to believe that maybe, my resistance here was actually sending out the course to my team, my friends and colleagues, to read through it and provide their feedback. I felt I was nit-picking what was there and felt my momentum slowing. So I did the only thing I could think of, step into the resistance and send the course to the 8 people on my list.

After sending it out I felt great, like a weight had been lifted. I immediately started a project that I had been hating on for 4 years, repainting the down stairs of my house.  No resting here.  I got email after email with responses on the course and responded the same to all of them, “Thanks so much for reading this, I look forward to looking over your notes.” Three weeks out and I still have not read those notes.

I then met with my mentor, and we discussed what my next was, and I said “painting my house.” When I reflected on how painting was helping move me forward, I realized, it wasn’t, this task that I hate, had become my priority, not because I suddenly love painting, but because it was something I could do, that would have a clear start and finish, and  it became my excuse. Painting was now my avoidance task.

Resistance or Life? Telling the Difference.

So how do you tell the difference between resistance and crossing off items on your to-do list? The answer often lies in how you feel about the whole ordeal.

First, is the task directly or indirectly related to your larger goal? For instance, I am creating my next seasons workshop schedule and yoga classes and am emailing the people I currently work with to explore what’s next,  This is on-task for me because it is related to my course, my work with yoga teachers and my growth as a teacher.

Second, look at the motivation for completing said task. If I am simply picking now to email employers so I don’t have to focus on this other work at hand, it’s avoidant.

Third, is the task on this list going to improve the quality of your life? I feel less bad about doing tasks that improve the quality of my life, even if they are not directly related to my major goals. Why? Because when your quality of life improves, your outcomes improve, your inspiration increases and your drive to the finish intensifies.

Now you may be wondering, what is the difference between tasks that are part of our resistance to movement, and that which is just simply life? Bathrooms need to be cleaned, laundry needs to be done, the kids need to go to soccer and dance.

The difference is simple: Lets suppose you have a system in place to take care of the basic life tasks, for example my husband is the laundry hero in my house and I have a cleaning lady.  Next let’s assume you know what types of tasks that work to move you in the direction of your goals.  There are also tasks in life that involve your role or commitments related to connection, for instance I am a mom, there are lots of mom things that I am responsible for, and there are other mom things that can easily fall into the “system of covered life tasks”.  I decide this based on my ability to watch my daughter, be part of what she is doing, the importance of said activity to task (game vs. practice) and my opportunity to connect, thus improving my quality of life.

Weeding through:

I then like to explore my list of tasks, distractions and obligations with the following questions to determine if this is an avoidant task or simply something I need to do to grow or connect.

  • Why do I want to do this task?
  • Does it have to be me? Am I the only person who can complete this task?
  • Why now? Do I have to do it in this moment?
  • Is this an effective use of my time?
  • Will this bring me closer to my goal/dream/plan?
  • Do I have something else I should be doing that is part of my growth?

These questions allow me to weed out the stuff that I can hire out, share with the hubby, ask for help, delegate, direct etc., and then I am available to get back to my task at hand, writing my article.

5 Steps to Success:

In the last section we explored How to figure out if what you are doing is an avoidant task or something else. You have made a list and now have your 12 pages of tasks, your huge ideas and your amazing goals all crystal clear. -I think I just had a mini panic attack, that’s a lot of stuff.-  The next step is getting moving with that task you have been avoiding. Below are my 5 steps, to get you moving when you are feeling overwhelmed, stuck, trapped and really, really wanting to paint your house.

  1. Tune in
  2. Compartmentalize- start with one small task.
  3. Deadlines are important
  4. Accountability
  5. No Excuses

1. Tune in:

Step one in this game of resistance is noticing you are avoiding the work. We tackled this in the questions listed above, as a reminder, avoidant tasks usually arise in those things that have been on your to-do list for ever, or a task you strongly dislike, that all of a sudden you feel compelled to do. As a side note, some of us (me included) are strong starters, slow finishers. I know this about myself, I know when I am 3 steps from the finish, I tend to want to move on to something else. For example, the painting, I have one wall, only above the kitchen cabinets, that needs to be finished, and I find myself wanting to avoid it with other tasks, but I will persist, and I can, because I have tuned in, and know this is part of my pattern of avoidance.

2. Compartmentalize:

The idea here is to break the larger work down into smaller more attainable tasks.  You will know smaller tasks are necessary when you feel overwhelmed, or pulled in 20 directions at once all for the same purpose. Lists are good here. Make a list of tasks related to your larger goal, I like to create lists based on the amount of time and effort I think will be required, this allows me to organize the tasks and squeeze them into the busy day to day.

3. Set Deadlines:

Yes, pick the task, decide when it will be done by, write it down and stick to it. I know, in my example I said, I literally sat and watched my deadline pass, but most of the time, I am good about deadlines. I get my work down and get things submitted. For this task, I am now aware I did not give myself enough time. Maybe I thought my mentor would be disappointed if I gave myself too much time, or maybe I am a procrastinator and didn’t start the work until when I planned to post it. But the bottom line is, giving yourself a deadline will move up your time table. Had I not given myself a deadline, I would not be writing this, period. I would continue to obsess about not really being sure which direction to go in.  We all do it, set a deadline and be better at meeting them than I am.

4. Accountability:

Accountability goes along with deadlines. Decide you are going to do something, pick when you are going to do it by and share that. Maybe you share with a mentor, a friend, co-worker or a social media group, but make sure it’s someone that’s going to call you out on it. Make sure it’s a person or group that makes you feel like you have to follow through. I find that when I use a specific person, they literally haunt me until I get my work done. For example, if I choose my mentor, I see his car everywhere I go, get notifications about his social media posts or get a message from him or someone asking about him when I have work to submit. It’s a great way to keep it on your mind.

5. No Excuses:

This is my favorite out. I am the queen of excuses, always have been. I’m busy, I have a lot on my plate, I didn’t sleep well, eat well, exercise to clear my mind, etc. You want an excuse for not doing something I can create one for you, but the one thing that I can’t out excuse is my desire to reach my goals.  I have a really strong “why” and as a result, I have a strong drive to keep moving forward. If you are here, I assume you have your goal in mind, clear or not, write it down and post it. Leave yourself notes, stick them on your mirrors, one in your car, in your fridge, on the coffee pot, where ever you will see it over and over to keep you plugging along and continue to remind yourself, no excuses, there is always a way to get the task done.

Now is the time to put it all together. Decide what you want to be doing, decide why it’s your goal, and don’t let yourself off the hook, get to work!

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