Further Thoughts on Resistance.

I finished my last essay on resistance, aptly named Overcoming Resistance, with the following advice:

Think of the things you don’t want to do right now, and start doing them immediately.

And I wanted to jot down some further thoughts that I have had since I wrote those words.

I think this strategy of purposefully doing things that you don’t want to do I not only great advice, but it is absolutely necessary to live a life where one is flourishing.

Nowadays, I actively ask myself what things on my to-do list I don’t really want to do, and then I attempt to move them right to the top, each and every time.

And what is impressive is that every single thing that I don’t want to do, that I think is going to be tedious or difficult gets done. In fact, we are all incredible problem-solving machines.

Think of your own life. You have somehow managed to overcome every single problem you have ever encountered. You either tackled it head-on, you went around the problem, or you waited until the problem went away by itself — which is a completely valid solution at times!

And so, if one has lived twenty, thirty, or forty years (or more!) on this planet, actively solving every problem that has come our way, why do we worry about the next small problem that has been presented in our lives?

The answer, I think, is fear.

We are afraid of the things that we don’t know how to do. We are afraid of the things that we have never done before. We are afraid of failing. And so, instead of just trying to do the thing that we are resistant against, we instead procrastinate, we make excuses, and we find ways to justify our inaction.

And this is where the idea of doing things that you don’t want to do comes in.

Because when you start doing the things that you are afraid of, the things that you don’t want to do, you realize two things:

1. That it’s not so bad after all. The thing that you were afraid of is usually much worse in your head than it is in reality.

2. That you are capable of doing the thing, even if you don’t know how to do it yet. You might not be good at it yet, but you can learn. And the more you do the thing, the better you will get at it.

So, if you want to overcome resistance in your life, start with the things that you are most resistant to. The things that you are avoiding. The things that you don’t want to do.

And this technique of taking whatever it is that we have resistance to, and actively tackling it as a priority, is all about framing a given situation differently.

This framing technique is compelling.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2.

Our lives are built on top of the stories we tell ourselves and others around us. But, we have the power to change and edit these stories, even if the underlining objective reality does not change.

Earlier this year, I was kidnapped, and I could easily have died. For several months after this incident, I didn’t sleep well, and I had recurring episodes where I would think about this, and my heart would start racing. Sometimes this would happen while I was just walking down the road doing nothing at all.

While there is nothing I can do about what happened, I can begin to control my emotional reaction. The first step for me was to accept that it was completely natural that I was going to have trouble sleeping and that I was going to occasionally think about and replay the events in my head, potentially seeing alternative conclusions that were far worse than what actually happened.

With this acceptance, my resistance dropped away. I was not frustrated that I couldn’t sleep, but instead, I used the time somewhat productively and started to wake up early and go for walks where possible.

Now, this is a rare occurrence, and in a strange way, I am pretty glad that what happened, happened. It is now part of the fabric that makes up who I am as an individual, and I enjoy the fact that I not only managed to survive — I managed to thrive!

While this is somewhat of an extreme example, the key advice of embracing things that are uncomfortable in everyday life and that you naturally want to run away from is valid.

Take that extra responsibility that is somewhat a stretch for your ability at work. Sign up for that course. Have that rather uncomfortable and direct conversation with your best friend or significant other.

Because it is through repeated exposure to things that are just outside of the comfort zones that we grow as individuals. 

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from Epictetus.

The ship sank.
What happened?
The ship sank.

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