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If Not Now, Then When?
The question that leaders ask to trigger daily greatness!
Acknowledging Your Biggest Enemy
There is only one thing that stands between you and greatness and it is called Resistance. Unfortunately, it is within you and shows up everyday, without fail, as strong as ever. You have to fight it all alone, everyday, and be ready for it again tomorrow.
I borrow the term “Resistance” from the renowned author Steven Pressfield and his book, The War of Art. Pressfield respects Resistance and its power. He defines Resistance as the inner force that opposes our efforts to achieve our goals and desires. He knows how important it is to battle it and please the Muse. Despite being a wildly successful author, he still faces Resistance, everyday. Whenever he sits down to write, Resistance will be right there telling what other things he could do with his time instead. He wrote his first book in 1995 and even today in 2023 he still needs to battle Resistance everyday to get things done.
David Goggins is an American ultramarathoner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete, and former Navy SEAL. He is renowned for his remarkable feats of endurance, having completed numerous arduous races, such as the Badwater Ultramarathon, the Leadville Trail 100, and the Ironman triathlon. He is often referred to as “the savage” by his friends as he is relentless and has tremendous grit. He continues to inspire many people with his talks, books, interviews and athletic feats. Despite being a supreme athlete, he too faces Resistance, everyday. In one interview, he said:
“I sometimes wake up and simply look at my running shoes for 30 minutes. All I think is “I deserve to take a day off.” Shit, I think about a lot of stuff. All the stuff I think about is why I shouldn’t workout today.” - David Goggins
That is just Resistance telling him why he should not workout today. He fights it, takes the first step and gets it done, everyday.
Resistance And It’s Different Heads
Personally, I battle Resistance at work and personal life too. For e.g. every time I sit down to write this newsletter, I hear Resistance ask/tell me something on the following lines:
“Who made you the authority on Leadership and Management to start this newsletter?”
“No one is going to read your newsletter, so better not even try”.
“You will not be able to sustain writing every week. Don’t waste your time”.
“I think you should read a book instead of writing this. You may at least learn something.”
“You work the entire day, maybe you should rest and not spend your evenings writing. Don’t waste your time writing something that has been written by thousand others.”
As you can see, Resistance will try its best to pull you down. It will try to instill a fear of failure and prevent you from taking any step, especially the first step. Resistance knows that if I take the first step, I might just go ahead and do what I set out to do, thus, defeating Resistance, at least for that day. However, every time I sit down I know that I am doing what I want to do, not because I am an authority. I write because I want to express, share and help.
Over the last few years, I have used a tool to fight Resistance. Every time I hear Resistance speak, I counter it with a trigger phrase: “If not now, then when?” I know, to set things in motion, I only need to show up and start. This trigger phrase allows me to just do that. To start doing something and start now.
I discovered this phrase written down on a post-it note at an office desk a few years ago. As soon as I read it, I realized that I had just discovered a tool. A tool that I can use to beat procrastination and Resistance. I found it to be an impactful and easier to use tool than any of the other methods I have tried. When I am stuck trying to start something, get to something that is due, I just ask - “If not now, then when?” It sets my mind to take action right away, at least the first step. It creates a sense of urgency to take action.
Resistance and Leadership
Leaders and managers face Resistance within themselves too, everyday. Let’s look at a few examples:
Resistance in the form of procrastination:
You need to compose an email and the time is 12:55, you tell yourself that you will write it at 1:30pm.
You want to have a difficult conversation with your team member. You tell yourself that he/she will get better and repeat the same mistakes.
You have a 1:1 and you find reasons how you can move it to the next week by telling yourself what you are doing now is more important.
You need to ping/call someone that may take a minute or 2, but you add it to your todo list.
Resistance in the form of self doubt:
You have a new idea to propose, but it needs you to prepare a write up or a presentation. As you sit down to write, you tell yourself that the idea is not that good and can be proposed later.
You have a deadline, but you spend most of your time trying to come up with reasons why you could not do it within the deadline.
You don’t question your team members or contribute in team meetings. You tell yourself that the team members may realize that you don’t know enough.
Raising a hand to speak up in a meeting. You tell yourself that the question is a dumb one and if it is not, it will probably be covered by someone else.
Resistance in the form of fear of failure:
You don’t commit to stretch or aggressive goals for your team. You tell yourself that if you fail it may reflect badly on the team and in turn on you.
Resistance in the form of fear of change:
You avoid looking for new opportunities to push yourself outside the comfort zone. You tell yourself that you will not be able to adapt to change.
You don’t push your team members to grow further and would like to hold on to them as long as possible so that there is no change in the team.
Excusitis is also a form of Resistance and has been defined by David J Schwartz in The Magic of Thinking Big as: Excusitis is the endless list of reasons people come up with to explain why they cannot be successful.
Why and how should we fight Resistance?
Resistance limits one’s growth. It prevents you from taking up challenges and exploring your inner abilities. It takes you farther away from greatness. If you want to pursue greatness, you have to fight Resistance, everyday. It is important to remember that Resistance can be contagious. You can spread it to your team as well. Be vigilant.
My friends often ask me about how I'm able to maintain an interest in so many different activities. For a long time I did not have a clear answer. When I reflected on it, I realized one thing: I showed up. I fail many times, but I show up again and always start with, “If not now, then when?”
Action produces immediate evidence. And I have had the opportunity to witness it myself within my teams. Times when I have lost to Resistance and not taken action, my team has suffered and at times when I was able to defeat Resistance, I have seen my teams prosper.
Great leaders fight Resistance everyday. They face Resistance and stare right back at it. They ask - “If not now, then when?”
Resistance hates progress. It hates consistency. Develop a routine and make little progress everyday. Acknowledge that you will face Resistance the next day again. But be confident you will push back and take action, the first step. Acknowledging Resistance is the key.
If your mind is finding the reasons for not doing something, it is quite likely that it is Resistance. Ask, how can it be done rather than finding ways how a thing can’t be done. Resistance does not go away and it lurks around. So any time it raises its weary head, ask “If not now, then when?”
By now, you must have realized that this is wisdom for life and not only for managers, leaders or special situations. Make it your way of life and see yourself soar at your work. You will see yourself being a leader, both, in your personal as well as professional life. Whether you are a manager or an aspiring manager you should practice beating Resistance and not succumb to it.
Everything in life is not a hustle and fighting and beating Resistance will keep it that way. It will allow you to be on top of things and help your efforts to achieve your goals and desires.
Any time you set out to do anything, just ask - “If not now, then when?”
The War of Art - Steven Pressfield (Amazon Affiliate Link)
The Magic of Thinking Big - David J Schwartz (Amazon Affiliate Link)
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