#044: How to Overcome the Resistance [Podcast]

In this episode, I talk about how to overcome the Resistance. Steven Pressfield coined this phrase to describe that invisible, destructive force that opposes you any time you try to start a new project or make an improvement in any area of your life.


Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mariusFM77

I spoke on this topic at the recent Platform Conference, and the response was tremendous. So I wanted to share some practical counter-measures for dealing with the Resistance in your own life and work.

Click to Listen


In order to deal with the Resistance, you have to first understand what it is. It has four attributes.

  • Attribute #1: It is invisible.
  • Attribute #2: It is internal.
  • Attribute #3: It is insidious.
  • Attribute #4: It is infallible.

But what can you do about it?

You can only defeat the Resistance by understanding its three primary strategies and applying appropriate countermeasures.

  • Strategy #1: Fear. The typical response to this strategy is procrastination.

    The countermeasure is to START.

  • Strategy #2: Uncertainty. The typical response is distraction.

    The countermeasure is to FOCUS.

  • Strategy #3: Doubt. This usually occurs at the end of a project, and the typical response is to quit and leave the work unfinished.

    The countermeasure is to FINISH.

Defeating the Resistance is essential to your growth, but more importantly it is essential to your transformation. Who you are becoming is more important than what you are doing.

Listener Questions

  1. Jeff Sanders asked, “How do you keep your own creativity from becoming another form of the Resistance?”
  2. Jen McDonough asked, “What kinds of outside things do you bring into your life to help fight the resistance?
  3. Joanna Holman asked, “How do you know what you are facing is Resistance rather than a sign that what you are doing is not the right thing for you or you are doing too much and need to back off?”
  4. Marc Schelske asked, “What has helped you to stop the cycle of perfectionism and get the product out the door?”
  5. Sue Detweiler asked, “What are ways that we personally create Resistance and sabotage our own progress?”
  6. Travis Dommert asked, “How does the Resistance work in the presence of a group?”

Special Announcements

  1. I want to remind you about my 21-session audio course, entitled “Get Published.”  It’s everything I learned about publishing in my thirty years in the publishing industry, most recently CEO of Thomas Nelson, a literary agent, and two-time New York Times bestselling author.

    If you’ve ever thought about writing a book but don’t know where to start, or if you already have a book but want to do everything you can to make the biggest splash you can in the marketplace, this course is for you.

  2. Platform University continues to do amazingly well. Yesterday, we posted a killer Master Class with Jeff Goins. It’s all about “Going Pro.”

    Jeff has just recently done this with his own platform. It is now supporting him full-time, and he explains in the class how he did it in only two years.

  3. In my next podcast, I’ll be taking you “Inside My Toolbox.” I’m going to share with you all the tools I use on a daily basis.

    If you have a question on this subject, please leave me a voicemail message. This is a terrific way to cross-promote YOUR blog or website, because I will link to it, just like I did with the callers in this episode.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: How has the Resistance shown up in your life? What have you learned about it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    Resistance is that thing that makes me want to listen to and comment on this podcast instead of creating content myself. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt


  • http://twitter.com/JasonStum Jason Stum

    Thanks for the great podcast Michael, I just got done listening to it as I got my morning workout in. 
    I was able to relate to this episode because I just went through the three forms of resistance myself with the launch of my own blog.

    I had an idea that the fear, uncertainty and doubt I was experiencing was normal behavior, but I’m glad to see it echoed in your own thoughts and experience (I’m not crazy after all, hooray!).

    Needless to say, I worked through all the distractions (endless tinkering on layout, revision after revision of wording, etc.) and was able to Start, Focus & Finish my first true blog post. Shortly after publishing, I was honored and relieved to see a few notable people in my industry come to my blog, read the post and share their comments letting me know that I am indeed on the right path. 

    The podcasts and blogs you produce on a regular basis are a part of my morning ritual (which didn’t exist before I discovered your blog). My goal is to one day offer the same kind of inspiration, education and entertainment to my audience as you do yours. 

    Keep rocking it out sir, your efforts are appreciated.

    Jason Stum – MarketPunch.com

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jason. I appreciate your comment.

  • redsleaves

    I think that always working on productivity and organization methods has become resistance in productivity’s clothing for me. I’ve had to really pay attention to how much time and energy I’m putting into it lately. 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’ve been thinking about the same thing! Just a more glamorous version of procrastination. :)

    • http://www.dmleblanc.com/ Dustin LeBlanc

      I am king of the prep and learn…and never do!

  • troyrutter

    I just started listening to the audible version of The War of Art on the way to and from work yesterday, so this is a very timely podcast episode.  I look forward to it this morning.

    I really enjoy your podcast.  The only “downside” I have found is whenever your theme music plays, a voice inside my head says “No” to the “are you who you want to be” verse.  That is something I am trying to change, however.

    Appreciate everything you do.


    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Those internal messages can be tough to defeat. Push through!

    • http://www.dmleblanc.com/ Dustin LeBlanc

      Isn’t the narrator great for this book? Listen to it a second time on double speed, it just sounds so hilarious how he throws down Pressfields little sayings, really brought the book to life for me.

  • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

    This podcast has perfect timing. I’m working with a team on fighting the Resistance now. Thank you for this great resource!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You’re welcome, Todd. I am starting to write a new book myself, so it was a good reminder before I begin.

      • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

        I think a great podcast would be “The Times my Friends Kept Me From Quitting”. I hear that theme a lot in your shows.

  • http://www.lovinggodinchaos.com/ J. Elizabeth Young

    I find I am like you Michael when you said that others work inspires you to break through your own resistance.  Thank you for being a positive force in moving me forward to create what I know I am supposed to be doing, despite my inner resistance.  All the best!

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      JEY, I completely agree with you that I often find inspiration in the “art” of others which helps push me through my own internal, invisible barriers!

  • http://harrisonjonathan.wordpress.com/ Jonathan Harrison

    This topic is so timely for some of my own challenges – Strategy #3 doubt remains my greatest struggle, but I am now better equipped to tackle it!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Doubt is my greatest struggle as well. It helps to know how universal it is.

  • Stefan Holt

    Thanks for the quick mention about the Ray Edwards podcast. He has one new listener.  

    • Jim Martin

      Stefan, I have been listening to Ray Edwards for about a month, at Michael’s recommendation.  His podcasts, like Michael’s, are encouraging and insightful.

      • http://www.facebook.com/howard.drive.5 Howard Drive

        This is the new outcomes for new people for communications.

  • Andrew

    A lot on this one, Michael, but in our experience (and that of Robert Kegan at Harvard) resistance to change is based in rules and beliefs – or as Robert calls them Assumptions.  His book is a seminal work on this: Immunity to Change.    For us here at Powerchange we have noticed that when people change the beliefs they have about themselves, their work and the world, they decide to change the Rules that have governed their behavior  – and their behaviour IMMEDIATELY changes. Of course, the people concerned don’t perceive them as beliefs at all, they perceive them as The Truth. That’s the problem.  The beliefs are b est undermined by actively using subtle doubt as a tool for change (not as you imply, part of the problem)  Doubt is a brilliant tool. Unless we begin to doubt how we’ve done things in the past, we’ll never move on to new strategies and other ideas.  Andrew Sercombe.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Andrew, interesting comment! While I’ve experienced the immediate change you suggest – I have also experienced the difficulty with sustaining the modified behavior. I think Michael’s suggestions are powerful tools to help “reboot” someone such as me through the obstacles that tend to hold me back from exhibiting my ideal sustained behavior.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I’ve found that the less I try to fight resistance, the more likely I am to overcome it.  When we fight, it puts the emphasis on the negative and our focus is in the wrong place.

  • Mikefbc

    The Resistance is personal and it is in me…but it is also out there. Being a Christian I see right away that your podcast (which I greatly appreciated!) applies to the epic daily battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The attributes and strategies all fit perfectly. Of course, through a biblical lens I know that applying the strategies, resisting the resistance, takes power that comes from another…and for that I am thankful to God. Keep making those podcasts!

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      That’s one of my favorite attributes of virtually all of Michael’s work (e.g. blog posts, coursework, books, podcasts…etc) – it is applicable across a variety of different aspects of life.

  • http://TrueFocusMedia.com/ Jeff Long

    Such a great podcast.  It was very encouraging and helpful for some things that I’m doing.
    “Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.” by Robert AllenSince I read this quote a while back, it been keeping me on track, and motivating me to do the work and ship.  

    • Jim Martin

      This is a great quote, Jeff.  I had not heard this before.  Thanks for sharing this with us.

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  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Last year I spoke at 12 events all over the world, it was amazing and exciting. So I was ready to speak even more this year and I sent out a BUNCH of proposals to conferences. As I kept sending proposals I wasn’t hearing back and then when I did it was a rejection. It got to the point where I stopped seeking events. Yesterday I heard back from a few events that wanted me to come and speak and one was in London. So I got energized again, ignoring the resistance! These were some tips that will help next time Michael. 

    • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

      Thanks for being transparent kimanzi.

    • Jim Martin

      Kimanzi, I always appreciate your comments.  Your honesty and openness are encouraging.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’ve been following your FB posts on this as well, Kimanzi. I’m so inspired by your determination and attitude!

  • http://twitter.com/yotrip729 Yolanda Triplett

    This podcast was just what I needed to hear. I must resist the resistance as it so easily tries to rise up on a daily basis. The information you provided equips me with weapons to fight Fear, Uncertainity, and Doubt with Start, Finish and Focus. The publications are what I need to reinforce what I already know. Michael may I use your quote? “Whatever it is you think you have won’t show up until you start”, it is so inline with what I have been projecting to team members on The 100 Day SMART GOAL CHALLENGE. Your are so resourceful and it makes the difference in the lives of those you touch! Thank you 

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Yolanda, that is indeed a great quote. While I can’t speak for him, I’m sure that Michael would be okay with you using his quote just as long as it’s properly attributed to him. To be honest, I routinely tweet his quotes on Twitter.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        Thanks, Tor. Yes, it is absolutely fine.

  • http://CraigDesmarais.com/ Craig Desmarais

    Awesome podcast!  I was just about to write a blog post on the same topic.  I will be sure to include this post in my article.  

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       And then be sure to come back here and leave us a link to your post!

      • http://CraigDesmarais.com/ Craig Desmarais

        Of course I will!

  • http://www.handymarketer.com/ Christelle

    Great podcast Michael, you’re such a natural speaker! I wish I get the chance to see you speak live one day. Actually I put that in my bucket list…

    I loved the quote you used towards the end of the podcast, I can’t remember it exactly, something like: “it’s not what you’re doing, it’s who you’re becoming”. I like this so much, it’s really something I’ve changed in my thinking lately after reading so many posts from Leo Babauta on ZenHabits. It’s all about habits, discipline and the traits that you develop that will bring you where you want to be. I think the journey is problably the most important part, that’s why we can’t rush it and as they say, it takes a long time to become an overnight success…

    • Jim Martin

      Christelle, I also liked the quote that you mentioned — It really is who we are becoming.

  • http://www.changevolunteers.org/ Change Volunteer

    We have been trying and trying. Discouragement is one thing that gets to you so easily! Each and every time we think, if we try harder and give our best efforts at the exact time of resistance, we will succeed. But it just doesn’t happen. It’s frustrating.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Yes. It IS frustrating. A lack of results can wear a person down, especially when you work so hard for something worthy. I feel your pain.

      • http://www.changevolunteers.org/ Change Volunteer

        Thank you Michele! I hope we can hold on.

  • Leigh Bailey

    Wow.  Michael.  I am so happy I found your blog.  I have shared it with nearly everyone I know.  I am considering moving from a teacher position to a leadership role in the future.  In an effort to prepare myself, I have subscribed to many leadership blogs.  I found most by googling  top 10 leadership blogs, best leadership blogs etc.  I want to know why yours is not the first one listed!  Many of these blogs have great ideas and useful information, but yours is so different.  I love that it is always from a Christian perspective.  It gives it validity, power, and potency.  Your poscasts are truly life-changing for me.  They are full of what Oprah would call “ah-ha moments”.  I have never considered why I procrastinate and become distracted with regard to tasks that seem to defeat me.. Thanks to you I can now identify fear and uncertainty as my  adversaries with many situations in my life. Now that I know who (or what)  my enemies are I think I can better attack.. Knowing the only way I can defeat them is to FOUCS AND START.  I look forward to your posts daily.  They have become a part of my morning routine. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Leigh. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. All the best to you.

  • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

    You hammered it home for me when you discussed “learn the discipline of finishing.”  A tremendous lesson for me, and really encouraging to hear you speak about it openly.

    • Jim Martin

      So glad this was helpful to you, DS.

  • http://www.mcarthurscript.com/ Chris McArthur

    I dealt with resistance just last night! I just launched my first blog yesterday, and I know that every type of doubt and discouragement was being thrown around in my head. I had to realize that I can’t let the enemy defeat me, and I have to keep pushing through. Hoping to maintain that now ;) Thanks for all you do!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Amen, Chris. Only you can defeat you.

  • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

    Resistance shows up often as distraction. I’ve learned that when the urge to organize something interrupts my work, I organize something related to the project. 

    It also shows up as fear – “this is way too big for me”. I’ve learned to handle this one by making lists of the steps that I know need to be taken. Sometimes I make ridiculously detailed lists so that I can go through the steps and then check things off.

    Just like deadlines motivate you, lists motivate me.

    Thanks so much for sharing this information – I’ve been on a waiting list for the book through my local library for 6 months!

    • Jim Martin

      Jana, I have experienced this same dynamic as I allow distractions to take me anywhere but where I need to be.  

      I also relate to your second point.  Today, I was thinking about a certain possibility and the thought came to me for a moment that maybe this project is just too big.  S0– I too am grateful for this podcast.

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    Excellent episode, Mike. It’s so true that procrastination is the result of fear-based thinking. Powerful idea. If I find myself stalling, maybe it means I’m afraid?

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Hmmm….I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you stall at anything Jeff!

  • Jim Martin

    Michael, this is an outstanding podcast.  Very encouraging!  (I listened to it twice today!)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks so much, Jim! I appreciate that.

  • Glen

    Michael, thank you so much for this podcast.  It crystallized some things for me.  I love you work sir.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Glen. I appreciate your kind words.

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Thanks for your input, Phyllis.

    I have two African grandsons, whom I love dearly. I have become more and more sensitive to racial issues as well.
    I confess, I didn’t see any of what you saw in this photo. I actually saw a man without a face. Where I live, everyone where’s hoodies, including me on occasion.
    I’m sorry this image had such a negative impact on you. I do appreciate you bringing it to my attention. I will consider these issues in the future.

    • Phyllis Unterschuetz

       Thank you for your gracious reply Michael! Blessings on you and your family. May your grandsons never have to deal with racial oppression and may we continue to support each other in calling on God’s power for healing.

  • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

    This podcast was worth hearing your inspiring story Michael. Thanks for sharing!

  • Adam Collier

    Thanks you for this podcast, I really can relate to facing a resistance, I thought I was the only one feeling this.  I like the countermeasure of FOCUS and plan to implement FOCUS on my goals in progress. Thanks again, great content. 

    Adam Collier  – collieradam.com

    • Jim Martin

      Adam, I suspect many of us think we are the only ones dealing with such feelings. It is encouraging to hear in this podcast that this is a reality that many of us face and that there are ways we can address this.

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  • http://www.leavingconformitycoaching.com/ Randy Crane

    I wrote a short book last year called “Once Upon Your Time: Gaining Control of Your Time Through a Tour of the Magic Kingdom”, and it was great to hear some overlap between what I wrote and what you talked about, Michael.

    One thing you said in particular that stood out as some great reinforcement was that you prefer to not tackle the hardest task first, but rather start with an easier (but still important) one to get some early momentum, and then use that to move into the harder ones. That’s exactly what I recommended (and what I do), but it seems like most people don’t suggest that. I’m glad we’re on the same page (so to speak) on this strategy!

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    I recently had a cardiac episode that has resulted in me being forced to lose 30 lbs. and change my eating habits. Your point about not experiencing resistance ordering dessert or sleeping in rather than going to the gym is powerful. Thanks for elevating my awareness and sharpening my intentionality!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You’re welcome, Tor. I once told an overweight family member, “Don’t worry about changing your eating and exercise habits now. Just wait until you have your heart attack. If you survive, you’ll be more motivated.” That really got this attention.

  • http://wikitalks.com/ Maria G.

    Whoa! I think this is for me because I do feel I have quite a lot of resistance. In fact, my children notice this too. As for me my greatest struggle is Fear. But once I am able to start, I already focus and always have the will to finish.

  • http://www.dmleblanc.com/ Dustin LeBlanc

    Read Do the work a few months ago and just listened to The War of Art 2 times in the past few days since this podcast came out. Pressfeild really is a great writer, he has a way of being philisophical, and then slapping you in the face and saying “hey, snap out of it, get out of the clouds and pay attention, this is real”. My new favorite line:

    “That doesn’t mean the professional doesn’t throw down a 360 Tomahawk Jam every once in a while to make sure the boys still know he’s in business”

    He has such a way with these little stick in your mind lines in his writing.

  • http://www.LifeLifted.Org/ Margie Latch

    This was awesome!  I’m starting my first book and have found every and any excuse not to sit down and write.  I’m sure it’s  just fear of …well, any number of things but, primarily, the unknown.   Thanks for all you do, and the way you do it!  P.S.  I’ll be joining Platform University soon!

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  • Foodforthinkers.com


    Thanks for giving me some food for thought on how to overcome resistance. I am currently on a project in which I am starting to sense Strategy #1 at play. I am a regular listener and enjoy the wisdom you share. Keep up the good work. 


  • Holly Johns

     My mother always says: “Stop sharpening pencils”.  This podcast is an instant classic for me. Thanks so much for all the helpful information.

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  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    Nice post, Craig. Resistance is merely an attempt; it doesn’t have any power to determine the end result, unless you and I let it.

    • http://CraigDesmarais.com/ Craig Desmarais

      So true, I found that so empowering when I read that definition.  Hopefully others will find it as inspiring.  

  • http://twitter.com/SueDetweiler Sue Detweiler

    Thanks Michael. I learned from the way that you clear your mind and focus your thoughts on the positive things that you want to accomplish rather than the distractions that can sabotage your goals.

  • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough “The Iron Jen”

    Michael, YOU are beyond awesome – thank you for answering my question. This was a VERY helpful podcast!!! Love the episode resource links at the end – very helpful.

    Yikes, when I want to avoid something, I tend to “find myself busy” with other things. Suddenly this needs to get done or that needs to get done. It REALLY takes concentrated effort to focus in when there is something I am trying to “get out of.”
    Thanks again and keep up the most awesome work!
    Live Beyond Awesome.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jen. I appreciate you!

      • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough “The Iron Jen”

        5 words and you made my morning. (: I appreciate you sharing your wisdom and ‘funness’ Michael.

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  • Beloved

    I had been experiencing all the resistance strategies and would usually not know how to overcome them. This kind of attitude lead me to believe that I’m just not not good enough and that my life was pointless. But, thank God for you and your generous heart in serving the Lord. I know that no matter what the circumstances are, my life is a gift and I am making it count. God bless you, your family members, friends and all the people you work with.

  • http://twitter.com/FaithAthletics Robby Robbins

    This was profound, I naively thought this only happens to me. Thank you!

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  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great podcast, Michael. After listening, I picked up a copy of Pressfield’s book. The one thing that stood out was the concept of “Going Pro.” Those two words really resonated with me. I feel like my 8 years of blogging have been a good prep, but I need to take it to the next level. The resistance is so strong at the amateur level, that it makes it hard to move forward. There is an invisible wall that needs to be broken.

    As hard as I’ve tried over the last year, I haven’t been able to move the needle. When I think about it, I’ve been stuck in amateur status. In the real world, when things get tough, I still have to go to work, and I have to work through the problems. I have to bring in specialists and hire other professionals to help. I have to make it happen.

    Now I need to do this with my platform.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, John. I think you are onto something.

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  • Rik Stegehuis

    To me, resistance shows up mainly when thinking about or starting an important task or project. It’s the strongest the moment I must sit down to get started. Once that barrier has been crossed, the actual work is usually a breeze. Therefore, to move straight through any resistance, I keep reminding myself to just sit down and start doing something. Once I am doing that, it will start flowing quickly and I get into it, forgetting about time. I love when I get that feeling!

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  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    I’m in sales, so Resistance shows up in two ways:
    1. Prospecting: Am I doing the small things consistently to build my pipeline? the continual flow of books around the death of cold calling or the ‘ease’ of developing leads via social media feed the resistance (although I’m pretty confident in Sales 1.0 informed by research available via Sales 2.0 channels).
    2. Clarifying the projects I’ll work on: I have too many clients that produce too little revenue. I was a former minister, so I started in sales with an attitude to serve as many as possible equally. It sounds sweet, but at a certain point, it becomes unmanageable. Resistance prevents me from clarifying the size and types of accounts I’ll work on since the smaller ones tend to show up on my doorstep ready to go. That’s not a recipe for taking care of my family over the long haul.

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  • Nasri N. Stoner

    Hi Michael,

    thank you for the podcast. I really think it helps me understand my resistance to blogging as well. I keep getting distracted and sometimes my mind is just all over the place trying to make the post work and perfect. At the end, i spend so many hours trying to just blog out a post.

    I need to start focusing and realising my resistance. I also would want to try in the morning , 15 mins just keeping quiet method you mentioned.

    I’ve started using Evernote as a tool to help me store my ideas, Do you have any methods or ways that you follow about how to use Evernote in terms of blogging, how you develop your ideas from there on?

  • http://www.kellylangston.com/ Kelly Langston

    I could have cried listening to the Overcoming Resistance podcast. After my first (and only… so far!) book was published, things in life fell apart in many ways. I couldn’t understand it … it felt like I was literally being “wrung out.” I questioned if I should continue writing and came so close to quitting, even though I am confident that I am called to it.

    You said: “Resistance will unfailingly point to true north, meaning that calling or action it most wants us to stop from doing. If you’re experiencing Resistance, it’s likely an indication you are headed in the right direction.”

    Your words remind me of one of my favorite movie lines from “A League of Their Own.” Tom Hanks character says, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The “hard” is what makes it great.”

    Okay, I’m pressing on. Thank you.