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You Already Know What To Do, You Already Have What You Need To Do It and You're Ready

by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.

If you are like most people, you have incomplete work or projects that you somehow can't find a way to finish. You find it frustrating.

Yet in most instances you can finish your work efficiently and effectively. That there is really nothing standing in your way. It's true that in some cases there are external obstacles that interfere. However, most of the time you are stopped only by your own thoughts and feelings.

There are three primary reasons you don't do the work you are supposed to do. They're part of what psychologists call "resistance."

1. You don't want to do all or some of what's needed to complete the work. It may be unpleasant. Or boring. Or somehow demeaning. Or require you to work with someone you don't like. So you avoid (resist) what you have to do as long as you can.

2. You are waiting for perfect time, the perfect materials, the perfect method. This is a biggie for many folks. How many people have loads of books or tutorials on their shelves or computers that all purport to solve the same problem or show the perfect trick for doing a particular function? Are you still putting off doing what you know you must do while you search for a way to make it easier or more pleasant?

3. You want to do something else first or instead. Sure, you know your project has to be done. But you have so many other things that are legitimate parts of your work, or that need doing, and they're so much more interesting. Or fun. Or profitable. (That reminds me of the gardener I fired because he kept showing up late and doing a bad job because he was fitting in his monthly regulars around big, quick-cash jobs.)

Do you recognize any of these resistances in yourself? If you do, you may be hoping that I have a trick to motivate you to get going again. To overcome resistance. And I do.

Here's the idea. There's a scientific principle that energy will follow the path of least resistance. Thus, water will easily flow downhill.

Usually, in psychology, we hear about the path of least resistance in a negative context. For instance, in the examples above, we'd say you are following a path of least (or lesser) resistance because you're avoiding work in favor of something easier or more pleasant.

The good news is that you can use the same principle to overcome your resistance. get yourself to do what you need to do. What you should be doing. The trick is simple. Instead of trying to make yourself sit down and do the job, you start with a small change where you have very little emotional resistance.

For example, you might have a writing project with some completed notes, research and an outline. Your resistance is to the idea of the whole project. But you probably have little resistance to writing a single sentence. So you could get back to it by simply opening the outline file and writing that sentence. Then you could do something else, if you'd like. An hour later, or a day later, you would return to the outline and write another sentence.

As long as you don't overshoot your resistance threshold, you can keep coming back to the project. As you do, you'll find you can do more and more with less and less resistance.

Just remember the question: How do you eat and elephant? (Answer: one bite at a time.) When the project seems too complicated or too lengthy, you build up a resistance to it. When you only have to commit to a small task or limited time, you create a path of low resistance and allow your energy to flow through it.

You do already know what to do, how to do it and you already have the skills and materials to do it. Now you have a technique to overcome resistance and get on with it. Go get it done.


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