Do the Work: Steven Pressfield on Beating Resistance

Do The WorkFeel resistance to writing a book, shipping a product, completing a marketing plan, or trying something new? If you have ever felt resistance in doing what you know you should be doing, then Steven Pressfield’s book, Do The Work, is the book for you.

In Do The Work, Steven categorizes all the various forms of resistance we create in the way of getting things done. He doesn’t just do so from a superficial level, but he sets things up from the big picture. For example, one of big text callouts is:

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it” (Location 116 of 920).

If we can elevate ourselves from the work and get some distance from it, we can begin to diagnose what type of resistance we may be feeling. If we know that a particular project is something very high on our list of values, then when we reflect on our progress (or lack thereof), we can start to overcome what is holding us back.

When it comes down to doing the work, he urges us, “Don’t think. Act” (Location 157 of 920). In other words, just do something. Begin. Anne Lamont would say, “write the shitty first draft.” Don’t worry about whether it’s beautiful. Get out of your head and just start.

When we’re able to make progress on our work, “we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion” (183 of 920). I don’t know if I’m with him all the way on this point. I’d like to believe that it’s true. However, I’d go so far as to say, we have moments in which we feel an “inexhaustible well of passion.” Moments, like states of grace when we realize how happy we are with where we are in that moment.

While Steven doesn’t discuss medidation, it may be a way to help control the “chattering brain” that creates “excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do” (Location 196 of 920). In order to get past this type of resistance, Steven advocates avoiding one thing in particular that can be my hang up: staying stuck in research. He says, “You’re allowed to read three books on the subject [before you begin]” (Location 203 of 920). While I had significantly more than three sources when I wrote my Master’s thesis, it would have made a significant difference in my progress if I had started drafting sooner in the process.

I just love two additional and related things he writes: “Stay stupid. Follow your unconventional, crazy heart” (Location 394 of 920) and “Trust the Soup” (Location 410 of 920). In other words, during the drafting process, follow the twists and turns — whatever whims you might have as you’re in that beginning mode. Later you can analyze what you’ve started and pull the pieces together. As a former instructor of College English, I think this section of Do the Work would be helpful for beginning writing students who often get stuck in trying to draft a finished project right out of the gate.

Disclaimer: I received a free kindle version of Do The Work as part of The Domino Project.

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