How The War of Art by Steven Pressfield changed my life.
A Little story
Once upon a time, there was a young warrior. Every day he woke up, ate breakfast, brushed his teeth, and started with his day. One specific morning he felt like starting to read a book. His eye fell on the dark blue book he had bought recently. When he took it from the shelf and saw that it counted 500 pages he remembered why he hadn’t started it yet. He was scared like hell of reading it. “Well, that’s going to require too much effort, I’m just going to watch some TV instead,” he thought. When he put the book back on the shelf he felt the air that was displaced, brushing against his face. Or was it?
After lunchtime, he really needed to write something for his blog. He opened his computer, but before opening his word document, he thought, “Well, I can check social media for a minute before I start writing.” After scrolling on Facebook for 5 minutes he went onto Instagram, LinkedIn,… suddenly 30 minutes had passed! He felt guilty because now he had no time anymore to write during his lunch break. He still needed to check his mailbox though, there was still time enough for that. He opened his mailbox, but there were no new emails. There was only one weird mail in his spam box which contained the following message, “I await your urgent response, why didn’t you pay for the reptile scales that I’ve sent you?” This mail was sent by a certain Mrs.Therese Nina. Or was it?
In the evening he felt like going for a run, but his sports socks were still dirty. He wanted to go so badly, so he washed them by hand, put them in the drying machine, and started ironing them. While he was ironing, suddenly someone rang the doorbell. It was his friend who lived in the neighborhood and asked him if he wanted to get some drinks at the local pub. “Alright then,” he said, “no running tonight.” His friend asked him why he smelled fire in the house. Oh no, he had forgotten to take the iron of the socks, and now the whole house was smelling like burned socks! Or was it?
After a lot of drinks, he went back to his house and fell asleep. He dreamed about standing in front of a cave. He was scared of the cave, but somehow his legs forced him to go inside. When he went inside he immediately smelt burned socks. A few steps further he saw a shiny object on the ground. When he picked it up, he realized it was a reptile scale. He suddenly noticed that there were a lot of them scattered around the floor of the cave. All he wanted to do was scream and escape from this scary cave as soon as possible. But his legs magically kept moving him deeper into the cave until he felt some displaced air, brush against his face. He froze, it was the same feeling he had earlier that day. He wondered where it came from. All of a sudden he saw where it came from.
A DRAGON! This colossal monster strangely enough could speak. “What’s your name, you filthy mortal?” asked the dragon. The warrior replied with a cracking voice, “I’m the Read More Warrior”. The dragon started to chuckle: “Do you know who I am? My name is Resistance, and I’m going to eat you alive.” Before the warrior could even move one step, the dragon launched at him and he felt the sharp teeth of Resistance penetrating his skin.
He woke up with sweat dripping on his forehead. After a few minutes, he realized it was just a nightmare and tried to relax. Until he saw a book laying on his nightstand which was called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. When he opened the book there was a little note in it:
The Battle: Resistance vS Warrior
Our life is in an infinite battle. Every day we have to fight Resistance to converge the life we’re living, and the unlived life within us. Resistance is the force within us that stops us from achieving great things. Resistance can assume many forms. It sounds very spiritual, I know. I’m not a spiritual person, to be honest, and some parts of the book were way too spiritual for me. But this way of thinking helps me a lot somehow, so I thought it might help you too. This book is for everyone who is pursuing something in his/her life which requires delayed gratification. And I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that everyone who is reading this, is doing that already.
The Weapons of Resistance
We experience the presence of Resistance often as fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of throwing away education, and fear of poverty are a few in the list that Steven Pressfield enumerates in his book. However, Steven Pressfield says further, our biggest fear is Fear That We Will Succeed. Fear is the least pleasant emotion to feel, but we can use it to our advantage, as we will see in “The weapons of the Read More Warrior” part.
Let’s say for example that you want to get fit. You might experience fear towards pursuing a healthy body. However, don’t forget that Resistance also has other weapons in its arsenal. Resistance will start to rationalize your avoiding behavior. “It’s raining, I can’t go for a run today”, “I’ve no time today to exercise”, “I’m going to sweat and then I have to take a shower”, “In three days I’m going to swim together with my friend, so I don’t have to sport today” are some examples of these rationalizations.
Don’t judge rationalizations on their truthfulness. Often you can just ignore them or find an easy solution if you would want to. You could use a raincoat while running, or even just enjoy the feeling of the dripping rain on your skin. You could make time for exercising. The fact that you will swim in a few days, doesn’t mean that it’s illegal to exercise today.
Procrastination is the sliest method that Resistance can use against us. When you’re dreaming about learning a new language like Spanish, we don’t say, “I’m never going to learn Spanish.” Instead, we say, “I’m going to learn Spanish tomorrow.” The latter is way easier to believe and now we’ve fallen into the trap of procrastination. The Warrior can only do one thing against procrastination, which is starting now. This brings us to the weapons of the Warrior.
The Weapons of the Warrior
1. Starting now
If you know already what you want to do, and you know that you should start, stop reading this blog. Turn down your computer/smartphone or whatever you’re reading this blogpost on and just START. Take for example reading. Starting is the most difficult part of reading. But, remember that stopping with reading is the second most difficult. This is also true for many other activities like writing, exercising, and playing an instrument.
If we’ve slain Resistance today, it doesn’t mean that Resistance is dead forever. Resistance will reincarnate like a phoenix and will battle us again the next day. Because Resistance is so consistent, we have to be consistent too. Applying this into practice often takes the form of trying to read, write, exercise, cook, or whatever you’re pursuing, every day. In other words, we need to make Atomic Habits out of them.
3. Using Resistance as our Compass
Resistance is our enemy in many ways, but don’t forget that we can use Resistance to our advantage. This dragon will show up when we try an activity that requires delayed gratification, but not for mundane activities which give us instant gratification like watching TV, scrolling on social media, or buying things for the sake of buying things. Steven Pressfield puts it like this in his book:
Because of this, we can use Resistance as our compass in life. A lot of us don’t exactly know what we want to achieve in life. When you experience Resistance while pursuing something, it indicates that it is important for you and it might be worth it to face your fear and pursue it anyway.
Give Resistance an uppercut by starting today. In the previous post I gave you a choice, this week I won’t.