As great as it is to become increasingly self-aware, you need to create your very own, completely personalized resistance diagnostic.
What is a Resistance Diagnostic?
It’s very simple. Most experience some type of resistance to their goals on a regular basis, whether it’s avoidance, procrastination, or denial. If you don’t, that’s great! And if you do, you’re perfectly normal! We worked towards noticing what’s going on when we should be working towards our goals but find ourselves engaged in behavior that has nothing to do with writing. In those moments, it’s great to pause and identify what we’re doing. It’s even better to get ourselves back to the task at hand. But if you’re like most people I know, some days it’s easier than others to get back to what you should be doing. It’s important to remember a strategy, skill, or technique to get back on track.
For example, it’s common for my resistance to manifest in the following ways: feeling so overwhelmed I can’t get started, experiencing various perfectionist spasms and avoidance behaviors (i.e., email, Facebook, TV), denial that anything I’m doing matters, low energy, terror in the presence of a blank page, and that vague feeling that I just don’t wanna do anything. I’ve faced each one of these before, and have experimented with a variety of skills and strategies to move around each one. Some have worked, and some haven’t. The most important thing to keep track of is the difference.
Whenever I experience a particular form of resistance, instead of stopping and trying to remember what I did the last time I had this experience — which would very likely take me down a whole new path of distraction — I just whip out my Resistance Diagnostic, locate my resistance-of-the-moment in the left hand column, and look next to it to see the most successful strategy I’ve employed to move around it. Having the solution right at my fingertips reminds me that: 1) I’ve faced this type of resistance before, 2) I’ve successfully navigated around it in the past, and 3) I have the tools that will keep me from getting derailed.
My Resistance Diagnostic
- Resistance: Feeling overwhelmed by a task
o Workaround: Identify the task you’re avoiding, and use mind-mapping to break it down into even smaller component parts. Then start to work on the easiest part by promising yourself that it only has to last the smallest possible time you can stand (5 minutes is okay, but 15 minutes is best). Make sure you have a juicy treat for the break immediately thereafter.
- Resistance: Perfectionism
o Workaround: Lower your standards, and be specific about what the criteria is for being “done” with the task in front of you for today. Remind yourself: perfection doesn’t happen in a day. Set the timer for 15 minutes and do it.
- Resistance: Avoidance with irrelevant stuff
o Workaround: Try a trigger phrase that will bring your attention back to your task. For example, when reading blogs during time you want to write, ask yourself: Does this matter? Is this moving me towards ________ (my long-term goals)? If the answer is “no,” set the timer, and do something else.
- Resistance: Wondering if any of this hard work really matters?
o Workaround: Look at things that remind you of the value of your work, why it matters, or anything that makes you feel good about your work. Set the timer for 5 minutes, open your “thank you” file, and read some of the notes (or emails) people have sent you about how you have impacted their life. When the timer goes off, take action.
- Resistance: Low motivation
o Workaround: Bribe yourself with the promise of a treat when the timer goes off. Then set the timer for 30 minutes and get busy!
- Resistance: I just don’t wanna work today!
o Workaround: Remind yourself about all those who have come before you and/or all the sacrifices others have made to help you get to where are today. Affirm what’s below, then set the timer for 15 minutes and do what needs to be done.
- I come from strength.
- I am resourceful.
- I come from a line of strong people.
- The energy of all those who came before me is supporting me as I move forward.
- Resistance: Low energy
o Workaround: Play a short blast of whatever music will lift your mood, motivate you, or make you feel energized. If all else fails, cue up MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This, get up, and dance (lol!)
- Resistance: Can’t get anything done and you don’t know why
o Workaround: Pick up the phone and call a trusted peer, mentor or family member. Set the timer for 30 minutes and when that goes off, get off the phone & get to work!
What Would A Resistance Diagnostic Look Like For You?
What you’ll notice is that none of them involve trying to unravel the cause of your resistance. Your productivity time is not the moment to work towards resolving perfectionism, disempowerment, hyperactive inner critics, unclear goals, and/or your fear of success. Your work time is the time you want to spend working, so the strategies for that moment are the ones that will move you into working immediately. You can work on the bigger issues later, but remember that your work time is just for work.
You’ll also notice that these methods are what work for me. In other words, while that MC Hammer song never fails to get me movin’, maybe it’s Taylor Swift for you — and that’s okay. What matters is identifying what works for YOU. Start by pulling up that list of the resistance you experienced last week. Use that to fill in the left hand column of your own diagnostic table. Then start filling in the success strategies that have worked for you in the right hand column. This may seem a little silly in the moment, but when you’re trying to squeeze the most out of 30 short minutes, having your ‘Resistance Diagnostic’ at hand will quickly and efficiently move you into completing your goals.
I hope you can experience the familiarity and deepening positive relationship with your bodyguard that a Resistance Diagnostic enables! If you can shift your perspective from one of trying to permanently banish your bodyguard to one where you love, accept, and appreciate him, your daily encounter with resistance will slowly change from an agonizing struggle to a pleasant experience.