The Pain of Doing vs. The Pain of Not Doing

As Steven Pressfield so eloquently explains in his book The War of Art, there’s a force called Resistance that stands in direct opposition to all creative endeavors. The force of the Resistance is equal to the force of the creative energy begging to be made tangible. It hates the fulfillment of creative vision with the same passion that the muses love it.

It’s similar to the concept of resistance in weight training; a force that’s pulling you in the opposite direction as the one your body is moving in. The resistance is what makes us stronger. It’s also a natural force of nature

Whenever there’s a force moving in one direction, there must be a counter-pull in the other direction. (This is a common mechanism in storytelling — called tensive pulls).

Resistance breeds procrastination. Procrastination kills creative ideas before they’re ever born.

But sometimes we win, and procrastination is defeated, and it’s a simple framework that identifies when procrastination will or won’t be won over.

It’s similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (a very useful framework for a lot of things). Some things are more important than other things, and whichever thing is most important wins. If writing a blog post is less important than feeling comfortable (the sensation we experience when resistance wins, and we don’t have to endure the pain and energy expenditure of pushing through it), the comfort wins. If going through the pain of writing a blog post is less bad than enduring the consequences of not writing the post (for example, falling short on a commitment you made to another person), then the lesser evil wins, and you write a blog post.

This is why external accountability is so valuable — because if the prospect of the pain of not living up to your word is less evil than the prospect of the pain of creative expenditure, you’ll follow through on your commitments and do the creative work.

Because you aren’t wasting time fighting yourself over doing it/not doing it, it might not even be that painful of a process.

Procrastination dies when the pain of not doing is worse than the pain of doing.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu