It’s about that time. Based on the statistics, a large percentage of people who made New Year’s resolutions are thinking about throwing in the towel. Some already have.
According to research from the University of Scranton, nearly 4 out of 10 people quit their resolutions before reaching the month of February. Even more will fall off after that. But what about you?
If you’re like most people, you have goals for your health, relationships, faith, wealth, or personal development. These are the things that matter most to us, and yet it can be so easy to start with the best of intentions and flame out after a few weeks.
What’s Stopping You? The Resistance
Life happens. Given all our personal and professional demands, it’s no wonder we get distracted, feel overwhelmed, or find ourselves wrestling along the way with doubt, discouragement, even fear. But what if we didn’t let all of those demands and distractions have the last word?
Since our goals represent the things that matter most to us, shouldn’t we fight for them? Aren’t our greatest hopes worth overcoming the resistance?
The person who popularized the term resistance for what we’re talking about here was Steven Pressfield in The War of Art. It’s been a pivotal book for me. In fact, I recently listed it as one of the 37 best business books I’ve ever read.
Pressfield says that we encounter the resistance any time we try doing something important. It could be improving our health, writing a book, reaching a financial milestone, getting our inbox to zero—we’ve all felt it a hundred times. I’ve already felt it this morning—twice.
But there are tactics we can employ to beat the resistance and accomplish the things that matter most to us.
4 Ways to Beat the Resistance
Here are four ways that are perfectly timed for this transitional period when so many of us contemplate giving up on our goals.
- Stay connected to your why. I’ve been teaching this tactic for years because it’s the core of any important goal. Let’s face it, unless a goal is motivated by something big, it’s just another way to kill time.
When we hit the wall, when you feel the resistance, the answer is to remember why you wanted to go over it to begin with. If you goal is about improving your marriage, get reconnected to what that would mean for you and your spouse. If it’s about losing thirty pounds by the middle of the year, remember what that will mean for your energy and long-term health.
We have to imagine our desired outcomes and stay emotionally connected to them. Our dreams deserve at least that much, don’t they?
- Keep your negative emotions at arm’s length. While we need to stay emotionally connected to our why, we need to push any negative emotions we experience to the side. We don’t have to shut them down. In fact, we shouldn’t—they can be useful. But we shouldn’t let them dominate.
I watched a documentary about Valery Rozov, a BASE jumper who leapt from the face of Everest. It was the highest base jump in history. But as cool as the jump was, what stayed with me was Rozov’s approach to fear.
He says that he feels several emotions that we usually call fear, but he separates himself from them, minimizes them, and then jumps anyway. Rozov is in control, not his emotions.
Pressfield says that the resistance is always internal. It’s not the facts of the case that are the problem, but how we emotionally respond.
Fear, doubt, disappointment, feeling overwhelmed—we may experience these emotions, but we don’t have to let them dictate our actions. We can notice them for what they are, and then just keep moving forward.
- Find someone who’s already done it. Since the resistance we feel is internal, many obstacles we face to our goals are just in our heads. If we can see the possibility of pulling it off, we can usually pull it off ourselves.
I’ve written before about the pathbreaking accomplishments of Roger Bannister and Chuck Yeager. Here’s another amazing example. In the middle 1980s skateboarder Mike McGill did the first ever 540-degree aerial turn in his sport. No one thought it could be done, but once McGill finally did the “McTwist,” everyone started doing it.
And once McGill paved the way, others pushed it even further. Tony Hawk did the first-ever 720-degree turn. And then in 2012 Tom Schaar—at just twelve years old—did the first ever 1080. That’s three full rotations in the air!
“It was the hardest trick I’ve ever done, but it was easier than I thought,” Schaar told ESPN.
Overcoming the barrier once means that overcoming it again—and doing even more—becomes imaginable, maybe even inevitable. Tactically, what that means is that we should find people who’ve done what want to do or can show us how. If we can see the road, we can walk it.
- Get the help you need. I don’t know why we make this one so hard. A goal represents new ground, new territory. That means you won’t know how to traverse it. That reality is actually essential to establish compelling goals. Once you have a reason, the resources will start to materialize.
But sometimes we feel like we have to go it alone. Why?
Resources are more than time, talent, and money. Information, experience, and training are also important. And you can buy those—at least indirectly. I decided on some significant health-related goals for myself recently. I’ve been running for years, but I knew that running alone wouldn’t get me where I wanted to go.
I also knew that I didn’t want to waste a lot of time trying to figure it out. The delay would possibly dampen my spirits. So I got a personal trainer who developed a plan for me and is helping me, day by day, reach my goals.
Sometimes all we need to overcome the resistance is a hand. Why fly solo when the right copilot can get us to our destination?
Millions of us start the year with high hopes, but lose altitude within weeks. We don’t have to join that number.
Our goals are too important to let the inertia and difficulties of life stop us. The resistance is real. But we can overcome it, instead of letting it overcome us.
Then we can look back at the hardest thing we’ve ever done and say it was easier than we thought.
Question: What could happen in your life if you could punch through the resistance and make it happen in 2015?