June 10

Do you sabotage your own success?

There are days when I feel like I have all my ducks in neat, prompt row. I rise early to enjoy some quiet moments, go for a jog in the gray morning, and start breakfast just as the children are waking up, feeling ready to start a productive day. These are the days when I stick to my eating regimen, work efficiently, still make time to play with the kids, and have a dinner planned out for the evening.

Then…. there are the days like those I have experienced over the last couple of weeks. I drag myself out of bed, only because the baby's crying, put cold breakfast on the table for the family, check Facebook or Pinterest too frequently, force myself to work only because of deadlines I promised to make, and stay up too late at night so that I'm dragging myself out of bed the next morning.

Part of me was very hesitant to publish that last paragraph. It's too revealing. Maybe it's a mistake to let you into the truth of my life.

But I think we all live like this, oscillating back and forth between well-disciplined, productive days and lazy, resistance-filled days. Some people just seem to be better at staying in the productive “zone,” and I want to be one of them.

Image from http://hiconsumption.com
Image from http://hiconsumption.com

I have read two powerful books by Steven Pressfield: The War of Art and Do The Work. Pressfield's premise, even ideology, is that we are meant to do great things, create beautiful art, write profound books, build world-changing businesses, and generally live amazing lives. The Resistance, however, actively tries to keep us from succeeding.

The Resistance is invisible but real. It lives inside of us, but it is not us, not the true us, anyway. Sometimes the Resistance active and overt, appearing as that critical voice that tells you you'll never succeed, that the dream you dream is too foolish to ever attempt. Sometimes the Resistance is subtle and whispers, ever so quietly, that hitting the snooze button or turning on the TV won't make any real difference in your ability to achieve things in life.

The Resistance actively seeks to undermine our success, and often, oh so often, we succumb to the Resistance. I feel it when I do. I know I'm succumbing to the Resistance when I sleep in till the last second and begin the day in a rush, or when I watch TV during what could be a productive hour, or when I eat that afternoon pint of ice cream that will sap my energy for the rest of the day. I know because I feel the energy slowly draining from me, with each of these poor decisions.

Want to know when I feel the best?

I review my long-term goals. My 3, 5, and 10-year plans for my business, family, and life. Yes, I have those goals written down, saved on my laptop. The good days are when I review these plans in the morning, just a quick one-minute skim to remind myself of where I'm going.

On these good days, I begin with my dreams in mind, and each decision I make delays gratification now, so that I may someday reap the benefits.

On these good days, I can say to myself:

“The Resistance tells me that Modern Family is hilarious, but I know that even two harmless episodes ultimately only distracts me from my long-term goals.”

“The Resistance tells me that 30 minutes more of sleep in the morning will make me feel better, but I know that I will feel my best if I have quiet time and exercise.”

“The Resistance tells me that ice cream will decrease my stress, but I know it will sap my energy that should go to my business and family.”

“The Resistance tells me that I'll never be a success, but I know that if I do the work every damn day, I will succeed, maybe not in any way I can predict now, but I will succeed.”

I have only realized these patterns in the last year.

Actually, do you want to know when I had my epiphany?

When my second child was about two weeks old, I started a ridiculous diet, no sugar, no flour, no dairy, just lean protein, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. People said I was crazy, that I should wait until I was no longer nursing to change my diet. (Side note: changing my diet so quickly after the baby had absolutely none of those negative side effects people warned me about.)

But, you know what? When I gained control and discipline over one aspect of my life (eating), I felt powerful. Truly, I realized, if I can actually control this aspect of my life, maybe I can make other drastic changes as well. I started regular exercise, quiet time in the mornings, carving out productive work times during the day, and getting stuff done in a way I never had before.

Once we beat the Resistance in one aspect of our lives, we are better equipped to beat the Resistance in other parts of our lives.

So, pick an area, any area, in which you want to gain discipline. Commit, 100%, to never cheat. For example, if you decide to work out every morning, then do whatever it takes to make it happen. Set three alarms, in various parts of the room, if you have to. Wake up at 3 am and chug water so that in two hours, your body will force you out of bed. If you can beat the Resistance in this one aspect of your life, you will feel empowered to create cascades of change throughout your life.

There is a flip side, I have just discovered in my moving process.

If you let one area of discipline slide, all the other areas of discipline slip away too.

I generally notice that my morning routine is the critical area of my discipline. If I don't start my mornings the “right” way, the rest of my day feels sloppy, rushed, and unproductive.

This week, I am committed to getting my mornings back, and the rest of my productive life, too. I will beat the Resistance, for this week, at least.

What about you? Do you feel Resistance as you strive toward your goals? What's the area of your life you want to gain control of first? What's the critical area of discipline, that if you let this area slide, everything else slips to the wayside too?

Also, I highly recommend Pressfield's books, especially if you feel this Resistance weighing heavily on your dreams. If you don't figure out how to beat the Resistance now, what will your life look like in 5 years?


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