Top Four Lessons From “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield
In The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield explains that many of us struggle to sit down and do our most important work because of an invisible force we all face called the Resistance.
Pressfield shares why the Resistance is such a powerful force and how we can overcome it on a consistent basis to produce our most important work.
Here are my four favorite lessons from the book.
1. The First Step to Overcoming Resistance is to Recognize It
Resistance comes in many forms – TV, social media, sex, meetings, emails, less important tasks, and other distractions.
If you’re observant, you’ll notice that as soon as you sit down to do an important task, whether it’s writing an article, crafting an email, updating your resume, writing a difficult piece of code, or attempting to make significant progress on a project, you will face some form of Resistance.
You’ll feel the sudden urge to open Twitter just to see what people are talking about. Or you’ll be drawn towards Facebook. Or Instagram. Or Snapchat. Or your email inbox.
This is the Resistance. It rises up during the exact moment when you need to concentrate and do your most important work.
The first step to overcoming Resistance is simply to recognize it. When you recognize it, you can call it out and make the conscious decision to put your head down and do the work anyway.
2. The more important a piece of work is to your own development, the more Resistance you will face.
“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
The Resistance doesn’t show itself when you’re working on small, meaningless tasks. It only reveals itself when you sit down to do work that is truly important to your own development.
The more important a piece of work, the more Resistance you will face. And when Resistance does show up, it doesn’t aim to simply distract you. It aims to cripple you.
“Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us. Resistance means business. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.”
3. Amateurs work when they feel inspired. Professionals work every day.
Amateurs work on something when they feel inspired or motivated. Professionals don’t care how they feel on a particular day; they simply show up and do the work.
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
The only way to overcome the Resistance on a consistent basis is to show up every single day and put forth your best effort.
Stephen King shares similar advice in his book On Writing:
“Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.”
Don’t be an amateur and wait for inspiration. Choose to be a professional. Show up consistently and do the work.
4. Procrastination is the Sneakiest Form of Resistance
Procrastination is the most subtle, sneaky, and pervasive form of Resistance. It’s the little voice in our heads that says:
- “I’ll do this tomorrow”
- “I really don’t have time right now”
- “I’ll get around to it eventually”
Procrastination seems harmless, but the more you give in to it, the more you suffer. Pressfield says:
“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.”
The more you procrastinate, the more comfortable you become with it. It becomes habitual. And as soon as it becomes habitual, it becomes harder and harder to overcome.
The way to overcome procrastination is to recognize that voice in your head as soon as it begins to speak. Don’t give it room to breath. Choose to sit down and do the work right now. Don’t delay.