Resistance VS Assistance

Last year, more or less after we started our new business venture, I picked up a copy of Steven Pressfield‘s Do the Work to get real with what we just set ourselves up for. I read The War of Art a few years before, which has been a game changer towards getting the absolutely essentials done, well. I remembered just how brutal and direct he was.

Especially with procrastination that affects every one of us, dearly. You can’t avoid it, but awareness and acknowledgement of things that set ourselves up to be less productive allow us to identify and attempt to manage such weak moments.



Sometimes before, or when, setting out to do something we deem important, there’s that little voice inside. That discourages. An internal dialogue commences. One that keeps you from getting busy. The harder you grind, the worse it gets. Self-defeating thoughts. As Steven Pressfield says, resistance, it’s a law of nature, a fairly simple one to identify:

Where there is a Dream, there is Resistance.

Thus: where we encounter Resistance, somewhere nearby is a Dream.

Examples of such roadblocks in daily life

  • Having to have an important conversation, but delaying it
  • Adapting healthier habits
  • Getting a new business venture going
  • Hell, even keeping one up and running 🙂
  • Sticking to that diet
  • Leaving that job that drains you
  • Allocating more time for family and friends
  • Learning anything new

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And as an ultrarunner you probably know resistance as …

  • Inability to do regular STRETCHING 🙂
  • Regular muscle, core and other strength work
  • Power hiking up a hill you probably should be running
  • Kilometre 60 in a rough ultra, your glutes are mush, but there’s a 1500mD+ climb on the race profile
  • Being too conservative in picking challenges and objectives. Mediocre goals means little growth.
  • Absence of training logs
  • Spending time getting mentally prepared for intervals and speed work. It’s going to hurt regardless. And you will hyperventilate. Just suck it up
  • Not complying with recovery and cross training.

Resistance is a naysayer – it’s “something” that enters your thoughts. I tries to paralyse you. But, it’s NOT YOU, just an external force. It also manifests as fear, addiction, perfectionism etc.



Ironically, one of the best “antidotes” against resistance is pretty much against most of the principles we learn as children, at home and at school. Resistance likes rational thought – it can then reason with you, towards the negative.

If there’s an item on your todo list. And it’s important. Then just begin with it – it’s a LOT harder figuring out what’s important and should be on that list VS just getting down and dirty with starting to work on it. In other words, “start before you’re ready” … pretty much like setting off for any ultra 🙂

Pressfield also states that for every law of nature, there’s also an opposite. When working on something, you produce energy. A force. Every run starts with a few small steps. The fact that you’re already out, with shoes on, putting one foot in front of the other, sets you up for a “tailwind” that is assistance, sometime down the road. Or up the mountains 🙂 But the wind can only help you, IF you’re busy running already … So, lace up. And siga!

I personally prefer to start executing on anything, violently. It’s not going to be perfect. But it’s a step in the right direction. If there’s a second chance, I know what the other 20% should look like. If not, I learnt from the 80% what didn’t work. “Organised chaos” as a life principle tends to work pretty damn well.

Of priorities


As noted above, resistance is a potent indicator of what we should be doing. However, we can still split those into 2 distinct groups:

  • what’s urgent: has to happen right now, like pay your IRS bill by midnight
  • what’s important: being present and supportive when you’re child’s born

When you’re pressed for time, always tackle what’s important, before what’s urgent. An example:

If you miss your deadline for the IRS bill in favour of seeing your son cry for the first time, you’ve missed out on something urgent and probably will be fined, BUT showed up for what’s really really important.

Be careful, very careful with that distinction. A few extra hours at work here and there may be temporary urgency, but the effects of the important individuals in your life may be irreversible.

As a passing thought, life is mostly a tug of war between resistance and assistance. Let resistance guide you towards identifying the most important things you should be doing. Then START, and focus on assistance as a means of getting there. And do the work® 🙂

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