Win The War Against Resistance
You’re sitting at home, and you’re struggling. Life is hard right now.
When life is hard—when it’s really hard—you go to war with yourself.
On one side, you hear a voice tell you to soothe the pain.
With Netflix. Or Chardonnay. Or Chips Ahoy. Whatever will give you relief in the moment.
That voice is loud and clear.
It’s a megaphone pressed up to your ear. You hear words blast through it, shaking your flesh:
DO WHAT FEELS GOOD!
On the other side is a soft voice that comes from deep inside you.
It’s a whisper you can barely hear.
This is the voice of your inner greatness.
It speaks for your dream of what life could be.
It speaks for future you, who wants every day to be amazing and fulfilling. And here’s what it says:
Do what is hard.
What you least want to do is what you most need to do.
It says things you’re in no mood to hear right now. Things like:
How about we start waking up before the sun?
Why don’t we get started on writing that book we’ve been thinking about?
Now might be a good time to have that hard conversation we’ve been putting off.
You hate this voice; you don’t want to hear it. So you let the other voice drown it out.
Through its megaphone, it says:
LISTEN, WE’RE UNDER STRESS.
LET'S JUST MAKE OURSELVES FEEL BETTER RIGHT NOW
And the whisper loses the battle. But the war continues.
Like the saying goes, war is hell.
There’s no such thing as a peaceful war.
There are civilian casualties. There’s destruction and endless battles that last until… it’s all over.
This is happening inside you right now.
And here’s the tragic part: you know you’re on the wrong side.
You know the quiet voice is right.
You know your life would be better if you shut off the megaphone and listened to the whisper.
But you don’t.
You do what feels better in the moment, even though, at least at some level, you’re aware that it’s not worth the price.
And so your stress multiplies because now you’re adding guilt and shame over not doing what you know is right for future you.
This added stress just amplifies the loud voice even more.
And the war drags on.
People have been talking about this war for thousands of years.
Before the word Satan with a capital S was ever used, there was satan with a small s.
It didn’t refer to any specific character like
The word existed in Latin, Greek and Hebrew and had a few different translations.
One was our other side. Another was our opponent.
The Greek word satanus literally meant one who throws something across the path of another.
That is the megaphone next to our ear.
We’re fighting an inner war against our own satan (with a small s, not the devil).
The book I’ve given away and suggested to others more than any other is The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.
It’s number one on my must-read list—not only for artists and creators—but for everyone.
Pressfield’s word for the voice in the megaphone is resistance.
Here’s how he defines it:
“Resistance comes when you do any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long term growth, health or integrity.
Any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower.”
So it’s a question of whether we’re gonna do something that feels good just for this moment in time or something that will help us feel good for the rest of our lives.
It’s about being reactive versus proactive.
Why is it so effortless for us to do what’s reactive, but nearly impossible for us to do what’s proactive?
Well, the most famous scientific study about this is called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. It was done by a pair of psychologists in 1972.
Here’s how it went:
A four year old comes into the room and sits down.
The researcher puts a marshmallow down on a plate in front of the kid and says:
“I’m going to leave the room for 15 minutes.
If this marshmallow is still here when I get back, I’m going to give you a second marshmallow—and you can eat both of them.
But if you eat this marshmallow, you don’t get a second one.”
Well, it’s pretty adorable seeing these kids struggle not to eat the marshmallow. For some of them, it was so unbearable they couldn’t even make it 30 seconds.
A few of them tried to cheat—eating part of the marshmallow and then turning it over to make it look like it was still whole.
In the end, only about one in three kids could make it the whole fifteen minutes to get the second marshmallow.
Now here’s the cool part, they tracked these kids down almost 20 years later and brought them back in.
They found two things.
(1) The ability of the kids—who were then young adults—to delay gratification hadn’t changed much... except for a few, who had totally changed.
(2) The ones who waited for the second marshmallow when they were four were doing way better in life. They got higher grades, higher S.A.T. scores, and they were more confident.
Well, it’s not too surprising that caring more about future you than present you means you’re gonna have a better future.
What’s more interesting is this:
A number of the kids who couldn’t wait for the second marshmallow when they were four had managed to change that part of their personality.
They had developed the power to delay gratification. To do what’s best for their future selves, even when it’s hard.
Now, here’s what that means for you:
You can develop this power.
The power to do what it takes today to make your dream a reality tomorrow.
Alexander Graham Bell talked about this.
Here’s what he said:
“What this power is, I cannot say.
All I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man or woman is in that state of mind in which he or she knows exactly what he or she wants and is fully determined not to quit until they find it.”
Right now, today, in the middle of this stressful, challenging time in your life, you can make a decision that will change everything.
You can decide to take the first step towards your dream.
To do this, you shut off the megaphone, and you listen to the quiet voice inside.
You do what it tells you to do.
This won’t be easy.
It’s going to be a daily struggle.
Some days, you’re going to lose the battle.
But that’s okay, because you can still win the next day’s battle.
And once you string together a few days of victories, you’ll realize something.
You think you’re making a sacrifice today to make tomorrow better.
But what you’re gonna find out is that doing this actually makes today better!
And, if you do it every day, it makes your whole life better.
This article is an excerpt of the forthcoming book, Your Best Life: Tactics, Tools and Insights to Create a Life of Fulfillment, Joy and Abundance, by Mike X — to be released on March 14, 2023.
Originally published on Illumination.