Pins and needles. That’s exactly what I was feeling earlier this year when I launched Rooftop Leadership Mastery, my first online membership program. I speak and train on human connection in person all over the world, and I’ve seen people’s lives change dramatically for the better. But I had this reluctance to do something in the virtual world that I’ve been doing effectively in person for years.
So why in the world would I feel so nervous? What was going on?
Well, in one word, it’s called resistance.
As leaders, we face a multitude of enemies—the erosion of trust, distraction, disengagement from purpose, and anything that will put itself between you and the tracks you want to leave and the impact you want to make. But I believe resistance is the greatest enemy you will ever face in your quest to achieve something bigger than yourself.
Resistance in its simplest form is self-sabotage. Steven Pressfield, my favorite author, wrote a book called “The War of Art.” In his book, he talks about the difficulties he experienced and the negative energy that came between him and his writing. This negative energy exists for all of us who are trying to make a difference.
It shows up in our lives when we’re close to a goal or beginning the journey to our goal. As you read this, many of you will instinctively know what I’m talking about. But now you have an edge. One of the most important things that you can do when you’re dealing with an enemy is to name it. If you don’t name your enemy, then you don’t know your enemy, and you can’t overcome your enemy. Go ahead and name the enemy most likely to trip you up in the new year.
One of the most profound things I have read by Pressfield was this: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the un-lived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.”
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet? A course of yoga? A meditation practice? Have you ever wanted to be a parent, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless? To run for office? Crusade for the planet?
Late at night, have you experienced a vision of the person you want to become? The work you could accomplish? The fully realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write? A painter who doesn’t paint? An entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what resistance is. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated.
So we’ve named our enemy, and we’ve defined it. You know it’s going to show up. You’re expecting it, waiting for it. Now what?
To begin to overcome resistance this coming year, reacquaint yourself with your goals. Reflect on the tracks that you want to leave behind and be remembered for. Do this frequently. This is your lifeline, your anchor, your checkpoint. As Zig Ziglar says: “Motivation doesn’t last for a long period of time. That’s why it’s like bathing: We recommend it daily.” So go back and reconnect to what you’re trying to achieve.
Now ask yourself how resistance has shown up in your life before. Maybe it’s overthinking a challenge or self-medicating when you feel stress. Maybe it’s “poor pitiful me” trips you go on when things go wrong, or putting blame on others. Maybe it’s just apathy and playing too many video games. Maybe it’s spending too much time lost on Instagram. How does resistance show up and take your knees out to prevent you from achieving your goals? And more importantly, how do you build a personal training regimen to overcome it?
Communicate the resistance you experience with your team, whether that is one person or 10. Let your teammates help you spot it and work through it. Good communication is being willing to be transparent, authentic, and vulnerable with your teammates. Rally together and push through resistance. Give everyone permission to call out when you appear to be “pulling back” from a goal. Come up with a strategy of overcoming resistance by working together by being honest with each other and then filling in each other’s gaps and playing to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Hold each other accountable.
And when, as a team, you have won the battle against resistance … you’ll fight it again the next day. Don’t forget that. Pressfield reminds us that “the battle against resistance must be engaged anew every single day.” The battle must be re-engaged each morning by defining your relationship to practice. If you’re trying to lose weight, what is the relationship to practice and what work will you do? If you’re trying to launch a new product, what is the regimen that you will have to keep yourself on task? How will your team help you with that?
This is what professionals do. Amateurs will succumb to resistance over and over again, day in and day out. Pros recognize that they are going to face resistance every day and that they need countermoves to overcome it.
In 2019, let’s pursue, together, a movement to lead at a stronger level. Overcoming resistance is key to that.
Scott Mann is a former Green Beret who specialized in unconventional, high-impact missions and relationship building. He is the founder of Rooftop Leadership and appears frequently on TV and many syndicated radio programs. For more information, visit RooftopLeadership.com