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How Leaders Can Overcome Resistance to Become More Productive

Jared Atchison
Updated Feb 02, 2022

Internal resistance kills many businesses and creative projects before they've had a chance to grow. Here's how leaders can recognize and overcome it to be more productive.

Internal resistance is a common challenge faced by entrepreneurs, artists or anyone who’s attempting to create something new.

According to Steven Pressfield, author and screenplay writer, whenever you try to do something that leads to change and personal growth, you’re automatically met with an equal and opposing force. 

This force is self-sabotaging and keeps you from achieving your goals. Another way to refer to this is by calling it resistance. 

Resistance can take several forms. It appears as self-doubt, procrastination or moments of self-sabotage. Making mistakes when you should know better or shooting yourself in the foot when dealing with a client are all examples of resistance. It’s anything that stops you as a leader or creator from going to the next level in your personal and professional growth.

Seth Godin says that there’s a biological aspect to resistance. Our brains are primed to help us survive and feel safe. Any change or growth triggers the reptile brain to keep us in a familiar zone, even if this means staying stagnant in our lives.

Starting a new business, creating a blog, developing a new product and just about any creative endeavor is a step outside of our comfort zone. As a result, we feel tremendous resistance which translates into fear, procrastination, self-doubt, restlessness and many other feelings. 

As a business leader, your job is to drive growth, and it is essential to develop the ability to silence resistance. When you do this, you’re able to lead by example and explore new avenues for your business that you might otherwise resist. 

Let’s get started and look at how you can overcome internal resistance and become more productive. 

Be aware

When trying to make any kind of change, the first step is to be aware. You need to recognize resistance and know when it’s happening and how it operates. Consider activities in your business where you’re not moving forward. 

Perhaps, you haven’t followed through on a new partnership opportunity. If you’re overthinking buying a tool or doing anything that’s stalling you, then you need to recognize it as resistance. 

Here are a few forms that resistance takes and knowing them will help you get over them faster and move forward. 

  • Filling your schedule or calendar with more work than you can realistically handle so that you use the excuse that you’re busy

  • Attending too many conferences or network events, but not connecting with people

  • Avoiding firing someone who doesn’t contribute to the business

  • Making your workflow complicated

  • Avoiding listening to your team or employees’ complaints

  • Procrastinating when writing content

  • Some feelings such as tiredness, restlessness or fear

  • Spending a lot of time regretting past decisions

  • Checking social media often 

You may not have recognized these activities or feelings as resistance, but they are top examples of what it looks like when you’re self-sabotaging. When you’re able to see how you’re experiencing resistance to work or moving forward, you’re better placed to deal with these issues. 

Stop identifying with the resistance

Inner resistance often wins the battle against productivity because we tend to identify with its thoughts. 

The best way to deal with resistance is to see it as a separate feeling or experience. By viewing it as an external force, you no longer see its thoughts as yours and can move forward to do your work. 

When you find yourself putting off reading your emails or working on a blog post, remember to view your procrastination as a symptom of resistance. By not identifying with it, you can ignore it and get down to work. 

Use productivity techniques

While having the right knowledge is a great start, you could still use productivity techniques to support you in getting work done. The suggestion by Steven Pressfield, Seth Godin and others who’ve studied resistance is that you ultimately have to push through and work. 

Now, let’s look at a few ways to get started or to manage your time if you’re struggling to move forward. 

Time blocking

Time blocking is not like creating a to-do list. Here, you’ve planned what you’re going to do for the week and not just the day. This is done by segmenting each day of the week into blocks where you’re carrying out specific tasks.

For example, having a morning routine from 6 am to 9 a.m., followed by three hours of deep focus work. You’re not multitasking, which means you’re highly focused on what you’re doing. Time blocking is one of the best time management techniques that you can use to prevent resistance from taking hold. 

The Pomodoro technique

This technique is useful for people who have to perform a single type of task throughout the day, such as content writing or coding. Here, you set a timer for 25-minute intervals. Your goal is to keep doing a certain task for this period without distractions. 

Once the timer goes off, you take a break for 10 minutes before resuming your work. This is a highly effective way to avoid losing focus and doing multiple things at once. 

Rememer, you’re unlikely to dismiss resistance completely. Your goal is to face it every day and commit to your work. 

Nourish your mind

The way to stay in a good place is to stay in touch with the right material. As a leader, you need to keep learning. It’s a good habit to read books, listen to podcasts and follow blogs that help you grow.

Also, it’s just as important to avoid social media as much as possible. Did you know that roughly 27% of people wake up and go on social media immediately? 

These habits build dopamine-driven feedback loops that make it harder to work for a long period of time. 

To overcome this, first, have clear rules for phone and internet usage. Set time periods where the phone is switched off or is difficult to reach. Work somewhere away from your television, and use site blockers to prevent you from opening unhelpful pages. 

At the same time, read helpful content that makes you a better leader and keeps you updated with industry news.

Have the attitude of a pro

Finally, taking another note from Steven Pressfield, you can overcome internal resistance by “turning pro.” This means approaching your entrepreneurial, writing or any other creative goal with the mindset of a professional. 

Think about areas in your life where you already have a professional attitude. At your current workplace, you show up to start your work on time. You treat your workspace with respect, meet project deadlines and keep your commitments to the boss and your clients. You are a professional. 

Now, bring this attitude to your own business and creative work. Develop uncompromising professionalism toward your side hustle, book, blog or any other work. When you give your work the attention of a consummate professional, you’ll achieve any goal you set up. 

Overcome resistance to become a better leader 

As a business leader or entrepreneur, the most important thing you’ll do is to overcome resistance. The key to this lies in understanding that resistance is an equal and opposite reaction to attempt to grow as a person. 

Use the suggestions given here, and work on overcoming internal resistance continuously. You’re certain to see positive results fast. 


Image Credit:

monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

Jared Atchison
Co-Founder of WPForms, one of the largest WordPress contact form plugins in the market. I have been programming for over a decade and enjoy creating plugins that help people create powerful web designs without touching code.