In Poke the Box, Seth Godin calls it the Lizard Brain. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls it the Resistance.

Whatever it really is, this invisible enemy is nothing if not a strong force. It’s a brick wall thrown up in the journey of your success. It can be terrifying, demoralizing, crushing, like the impact of hitting a wall at 70 miles per hour.

So, what can you do when you’re immobilized by the Resistance?

Here are my seven tricks:

1. Name your enemy.
It may be writer’s block, or fear, or a messy space, or lack of tools and resources. Whatever your resistance is, name it. So you can face it head on. Otherwise, you’re fighting blind against an invisible enemy. Why bother even getting into that fight? (That’s exactly what the resistance wants you to keep thinking, by the way. That it’s easier to avoid the fight.) When you name your enemy, you throw a spotlight on it, revealing it, leveling the playing field.

Here’s my enemy: For the first time since I can remember, I don’t have a goal.

2. Be brutally honest about the battle (with a stranger).
Now that you’ve named your enemy, you’re going to have to tell people. This may be easy, but probably, it will be harder than you think. So start by telling a stranger, because it doesn’t matter what they think about you, and just telling somebody is a liberating step.

Here’s what I did: I read a post that really inspired me, so I threw caution to the wind and shared my struggle with the Big Scary Enemy, warts and all, with a pretty influential author I’ve never engaged with at all. A smart, savvy, interesting stranger. I poured my heart out. The honesty and courage it took to do that loosened something inside of me. It was a middle finger to the resistance, a rebellion to the Lizard Brain mindset. And now, here I am, writing this post, emboldened and encouraged and ready for battle.

And there’s the resistance, over there, scared and huddling in the corner. Afraid of what I might do next.

3. Listen to your own ideas.
You’ve probably noticed that it’s sort of noisy out there these days. There are so many people to listen to. So many places to engage. So many posts to read. And stories and tips and ideas and memes.

Can you really still hear yourself inside all this noise? When is the last time you sat down, in a place completely unplugged, away from the input, in the uncomfortable silence, and just listened to yourself and your ideas?

If you’re anything like me, this exercise is terrifying. After a few moments of wandering, meandering thoughts, when I really start to listen, suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by ideas. One after another after another. There would never be enough time, ever, to accomplish them all. It’s just easier to turn on the mute button, because listening to them all is so hard. Hard, because listening to your ideas forces you to face the reality of all the ideas that have never become anything more. So we ignore our own ideas, content to only tune into the echo chamber and bounce around what’s been tested and tried, because it feels infinitely safer.

This is where the Resistances loves to keep you. Because the longer you sit, ignoring your ideas, the easier it is to tame you. Keep you quiet. Keep you still. The longer you give in to the Resistance, the harder it is to hear yourself and the further you stay from risk and movement and growth. Ignore your ideas long enough, and you just might stop hearing them all together.

Ironic as it is, this is what gives me hope. Because when I stop to listen, the ideas are still there. They still scare me. Which is how I know the Resistance hasn’t taken over yet.

4. Pick the thing that scares you, and do that.
Be ready. Things might start to get a little risky here. Don’t worry, that’s a good sign. Lean into the risk, and face the monster head on. What scares you the most? Don’t lose sight of this thing, because it’s probably also right in front of the biggest reward.

Right now, at this moment, what scares me the most is writing this post. Well, not just writing it. Doing it. Because unless I hit “publish” and unleash this idea into the big, scary wild, I’m just polishing. And, as Seth Godin reminds us in Poke the Box, polishing is an effort with diminishing returns. So right now, what scares me is to ship. So that is exactly why I’m publishing this post.

5. Radically shake up your routine to dedicate time and resources each day focused on conquering the enemy.
The resistance is tough. It’s relentless. Just because you’ve named it and outed it and faced it head on doesn’t mean it will give up. Ever. So now what you need is a plan to help you keep moving and pushing and doing. Because all those verbs are the opposite of the resistance. And like most verbs, they occupy time.

This is not an easy step, because it’s where your fight against the enemy leaves the realm of your mind and takes physical form in your life. You have to rearrange things, like sleeping patterns, or dinner plans. You have to get buy-in, from a spouse, or a friend, or your workplace. You have to invest yourself, your time, your focus, your energy, your money. But your campaign against the resistance won’t take real form until you bring it out into the world and make room for it in your life. So it’s not optional. This step is mandatory.

This step is where I usually lose my fight with the resistance. Most of us have lost battles here. That’s why it’s such important territory to be won.

6. Expand your potential by enforcing boundaries.
Counter intuitive? When we think of boundaries, we tend to envision being boxed in. But when you’re seeking risk and leaning into what scares you, boundaries actually help you lean out further into the unknown than you ever would without them. Imagine standing atop a skyscraper with no rails. If you’re like me, you’d stand pretty close to the center, and even the most daring might just venture a few feet from the edge. Put me on another skyscraper, one with rails, and my toes will get much closer to the edge, and the adventurous would lean right over it.

Don’t be fooled. The resistance wants you. It won’t give up just because you’ve changed your plan or decided to focus on something. It’s smart, and savvy, and it’s been at this a whole lot longer than you. It may use your good intentions and plans and persistence as a tool to take you down somewhere else. So protect your art, your mind, your dream, your family, your job by using boundaries as a tool to create the life you want to live.

Protect your time and all the areas of your life with just as much passion as you are using to fight the Resistance. Otherwise, you’re not really engaged in a battle for self improvement or enlightenment or art. You’re just being obsessed.

7. Choose a partner in crime for your battle against the Resistance.
The longer you go without a partner or mentor or peer or guide, the easier it is to listen to the Resistance, to give in to its lies. The Resistance will tell you it’s better to be alone. That you can do it yourself. Because if the Resistance is the only friend you have, there’s no one speaking into you, exposing its lies.

Every time I’ve successfully tackled the Resistance, what’s carried me through the tough and trying days when listening to the Lizard Brain felt easier than getting up and fighting has been the company of good people. Yoga class, weight watchers, blogging, grad school – I’d have given up on fitness, diet, and education if I hadn’t had the commitment in my corner, people cheering me on.

Go Ahead, Start a Fight

Here’s what I needed someone to remind me of, so I’m telling you, too, just in case you need to hear it: You have the courage to name your enemy, to step up to the fight against the Resistance, to look it square in the eyes and say “I’m not gonna just sit here and take this any more.

It turns out, battling the Resistance is actually less painful than the reality of staying still, being battered by the motion of a world moving past you.

What’s your resistance?

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Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons, Courtesy tao_zhyn