Resistance, Accountability & Becoming Who You Might Still Be

accountability Resistance, Accountability & Becoming Who You Might Still Be

Resistance is the force that pushes back between the person you are and the person you might become.

Resistance is what is preventing you from being the “you” that’s in great shape and runs half marathons. Or the one that’s actually written a novel (not just dreamt about it), or painted the picture, taken the cooking class, or done any number of things that you dream you’ll do – someday. 

Resistance is, in its most basic form, fear. Resistance doesn’t want you to evolve from the person you are now to your higher self. 

Pressfield does a masterful job describing resistance and its power over you. If you haven’t read his book, you should drop everything and order it right now through my Amazon Bookstore. It’s a quick read, and I promise you, you will never look at passion, purpose, motivation or procrastination (among other things) the same way again. 

So the point of this post isn’t to cover the same ground.  Instead, today I want to look at one idea:

Accountability 

First, read this: 

“Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North – meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.

We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.”

As a coach, my clients expect that I am going to hold them accountable. Among other things, that’s what many of them come to me for.

You’re accountable at work (you need to show up, get your work done, etc.) you’re accountable to your family, and you’re accountable to yourself, just like I am. 

But I think that many of us have made a mistake when it comes to accountability. It’s not just about turning up the heat on someone when they fail to be accountable. When you or I fail to be accountable for something, sometimes we’ve just failed to follow through with a commitment.

We’ve dropped the ball, been lazy or forgotten. It happens. We’re not perfect and we’re overcommitted. That’s when holding someone accountable is really useful.

It’s helpful to know before you drop the ball that you’re going to have to face the music, and therefore be less likely to not follow through in the first place. And if you do end up dropping the ball, having an accountability partner can help you to keep your attention and will power focused on the goals you have set out for yourself. 

But there is an implication with the idea of accountability that when someone fails to follow through, they’re going to be “in trouble,” and they’re really going to hear about it from their spouse, their boss, or their coach. Holding someone to account has taken on an air of turning up the heat on them and making them sweat about why they didn’t follow through with what they said they’d do.

And this is a real problem in this second type of situation.

Situations where something deeper has happened. Where we’ve encountered resistance, or fear. Because turning up the heat actually makes things worse. 

Here’s why.

My 5 (almost 6! can you believe it?!) year old is nervous about getting into new situations sometimes. A common situation in which she’d be afraid when she was a bit younger was a birthday party with a bunch of kids who were already (loudly) having fun, especially when she didn’t know some of them.

She’d arrive, feel timid, and wouldn’t quite know how to enter the group. If I tried to push her to get over it, she dug her heels in, more afraid than ever. If we sat down, talked it through, then she felt she had a choice about whether to stay or go, she almost invariably would stay and have fun.

Now while you might not be able to relate to this specific example, taking it down a level to “child’s play” makes it easier to see what’s happening: You can’t successfully “push” through a fear for very long. That’s white-knuckling it, and you’re bound to break-down and revert to your old speed-eating-Doritos way, instead of going to the gym.  It’s much better to try to truly  understand your fear and by doing so, allow it to pass.

Your resistance to the things that you want and need most in your life are no different, whether you’re already in touch with that “calling”- as Pressfield isn’t ashamed to name it – or not.

If you are in coaching and you encounter a fear related to resistance (as you are likely to do), and you try to push it by turning up the heat with “accountably” you are likely to encounter more resistance.

Instead of holding yourself to account (with all the accompanying guilt, shame and self-flagellation) about why you, yet again, failed to: say no, get to the gym, sit down to write, take out your paint brushes, listen to those old records again, or do any number of things that feed your soul, what if, instead, you worked to understand the fear and where it was coming from?

What if you worked to understand what was behind it?

What if you tried to make sense of why it feels so impossibly hard to do something as simple as lift a paintbrush or press a computer key?

It takes a certain level of skill, to be sure, to know when you’re hearing genuine insight of what’s behind the fear that will lead to breakthroughs and moving forward, and when you’re hearing excuses and BS.

And resistance will do its best to trick you into believing that your excuses are insights, and that your BS is pure genius so that you will only stay stuck.

That’s where accountability comes in. Because deep down, you know when you’re fooling yourself and so do I.  And we both know it’s a waste of time.

If you’re ready to stop ingesting the most toxic substance on the planet, begin by holding yourself accountable to the truth about why you’re really afraid to do what you’re called to do, and start living to your highest self.

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 Resistance, Accountability & Becoming Who You Might Still Be

16 Responses to “Resistance, Accountability & Becoming Who You Might Still Be”

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  1. Jeremy says:

    Good one, this is very similar to an article I wrote about procrastination.

    Very much often, we procrastinate because of a particular fear. The BS you talk about is like giving yourself an excuse that you need to do research on a particular subject before writing an article on it. And 10 days pass, 20, 30…

    We think it’s justified even though deep down inside, we know taking action and getting down to actually writing the article is the most important thing at hand. That’s why I talk about making it a habit to pause, reflect on what we’re doing, and just be honest with ourselves with the real reason why we’re not doing the work that we know we’re supposed to be doing. From there on, we can actively work on fighting that resistance.

    Personally for my blog, the main resistance I face is really just getting all my thoughts and ideas organized and well-written. That’s really a challenge for me.

    I remember borrowing and reading my friend’s The War of Art, but I’m so going to purchase my own and read it again soon. Seems like a lot of people have been recommending this book.
    Jeremy recently posted…Proud Of Calling Yourself A Professional Procrastinator?My Profile

    • Jeremy,

      Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, resistance can come in the form of plain old work, but the truth is most of us work hard enough and we’re not that afraid of work. When you think about it, you do enough work – you’re not really afraid of it. It in itself is not resistance in the form that Pressfield describes. So is there something deeper for you? Is there something more than just getting it organized and well-written? Is it Resistance telling you not to write your blog because if you do, you might turn into more of a success than Resistance wants you to be?
      Jessica Sweet recently posted…Resistance, Accountability & Becoming Who You Might Still BeMy Profile

      • Jeremy says:

        I fear all the time that it’s never good enough, and I compare my writing with others a lot. That’s what I mean when I say it’s so tough for me getting it well-written. It keeps me from actually doing the work, and not so much about what goes on while at the work. And according to Pressfield, anything that keeps you from your craft is Resistance. Unless I understood it wrongly? Boy, it’s been so long.
        Jeremy recently posted…Andrew Ferebee: From Professional Wantrepreneur To Skyrocketing Viral ArticlesMy Profile

        • Nope, that’s it. It’s amazing how our fears of success, failure, and more can get in our head and prevent us from even starting. We get to the end before we even start – and we all do it, so don’t feel alone. Keep working with that fear and see what it takes to move it.

  2. Victor says:

    Hey Jess,

    I really liked the part in your post about how we have come to believe that accountability is about “turning up the heat” when someone doesn’t follow through. Guilty as charged there, for past transgressions! :)

    It’s a great point! Accountability really means something else. Your detailed description of what accountability can be and how it can be used as a useful tool is great. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. :)

  3. Elle says:

    Hi Jess, you made some great points about accountability being something entirely different than the general consensus says it should be. Dislike that word! Should. Coming to terms with resistance allows us to focus our energies on the choices we have. Similar to how your daughter was able to choose fun over fear. 5 year olds are sometimes our best teachers. :-)
    Elle recently posted…Why The Rolling Stones Were Wrong: You Can Get What You WantMy Profile

  4. Karen Jolly says:

    Lovely post Jessica. I agree, that acknowledging that your feelings are real is so important. I believe in being accountable because that’s when you begin to really set yourself free – but you can’t get to accountability if you don’t acknowledge how your are feeling and the why behind it, like you did with your daughter. Often we feel so bad about something we are resisting – or guilty that we just try and push through it which as you said just creates more resistance. Love that we can all learn from your daughter’s experience – because it is so applicable to us all! Thank you. :)
    Karen Jolly recently posted…Four Steps to L.E.A.P.My Profile

    • Thank you Karen! I have to admit, I didn’t always have my best parenting moments at those times, but in the end I did learn patience! :)

      When we try to stuff our feelings (or – yes, I admit – in my case try to force others to stuff theirs “there’s NOTHING to be afraid of!”) we really get ourselves into a whole bunch of trouble. But allowing ourselves to see what’s behind there, we can then be true to what really is.
      Jessica Sweet recently posted…Resistance, Accountability & Becoming Who You Might Still BeMy Profile

  5. Vishnu says:

    Hi Jess, agreed – we can’t get to accountability until we get to the bottom of our resistance.

    And that is tricky – trying to understand the why behind the resistance. I have a sneaky suspicion that much of my fears about writing has to do with the fear of success and fear of vulnerability. For example, I fear when I’m writing that I’m writing too openly about things and then am reluctant to want to publish articles. And if I do publish articles, I fear they will be well received. It’s kind of whacky, I know. Any tips on how to deal with these (unreasonable) forms of resistance?

    • Hi Vishnu,

      I think all forms of resistance are kind of unreasonable, no? Because ultimately they are self-sabotage, and what’s more unreasonable than that?

      I think it’s really about getting ok with what it means to be successful. What does it mean to you to have an article be well-received? Can you imagine yourself getting kudos and awards for your writing? What would it mean for you to do well? When you can get “ok” with being a better version of yourself, you can start to deal with your own resistance and overcome it. Good luck!

  6. Good article! I love the reference to your childs situation- one of mine is the same and it has been important to not make him feel criticized or pressured in these situations, but instead talk it out and gently guide him to get over his apprehension.

    I agree with your thoughts on an accountability partner. Interestingly enough, some people do not want that role, because they ‘think’ it is being asked to be tough on someone vs. being a mentor. A mentor can talk through situations, offer insight and listen and does not require being the critical or demanding voice to others to hold them accountable.

    • Absolutely. Being an accountability partner doesn’t always mean being the hard-a** though sometimes it does. Not so much in a critical or demanding way, but in a way that “calls someone to account.” But then there is this whole other level that I talk about that really is just about being curious with someone about their shortfalls in accountability. That curiosity is often missing and its a real lost opportunity. Thanks so much for your comment, Angela!

  7. vishalbheeroo says:

    I really need it and I am still scared of entering a gathering with new faces. It scares me to death and I find parties boring, dunno what to speak. I am trying to go with the flow. Very helpful article:)

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