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Canoe Talk 3- Little Resistance & Big Resistance

Canoe Talks is a video series of unconventional wisdom in an unconventional setting designed for mindful change-makers – entrepreneurs, creatives, leaders, business owners, and professionals.


Strategist, teacher, and author of 
TRACKING WONDER Jeffrey Davis responds personally to questions raised by a reader and Tracking Wonder Community member.

Today’s question about resistance comes from one of our Tracking Wonder community members and Inner Circle MasterMinders.

She asks, 

“How do you work with your resistances toward things that make you uncomfortable?”

 That’s a question I live probably every day, in part because I’m always putting myself in uncomfortable situations and moving toward endeavors that make me uncomfortable. Sometimes I don’t even know that that’s what I’m doing, but I do. 

small-r resistance

The first reflection is to observe what I would call a “small-r resistance” in the psyche. Perhaps it indicates to you that you have pursued something deeply meaningful to you that could be meaningful to others as well. Yet, by pursuing it, you’ve taken yourself out of your familiar comfort zone.

Just by that fact of stepping into this other place that’s unfamiliar, you’re going to meet with a natural psychic resistance. That’s a common fact that we want to normalize. 

Then I get curious about the nature of the resistance. Is it coming from a place of doubt and self-doubt, or is it coming from a place of feeling daunted by the scope and scale of what it is I’m pursuing, or both? 

Let’s take the first one. I experience self-doubt regularly, in part because, again, I’m putting myself beyond my known capabilities. I want to write a new book, a book like I’ve never written before, a book on a subject that nobody has really touched much, at least not in the ways that I want to. Am I capable? I’ve never done anything like this before, so how do I know that I’m capable? I have no previous evidence of it. That comes up quite a bit.

the natural gap between vision and capability

There’s always a gap between my vision of what I want to make in the world and what actually happens. There’s a big gap between my vision of what I want to make in the world and what I, as one person, truly am really capable of in my limited intelligence, my limited talents, capabilities, my learning capacity. 

What do I do in those cases? Well, you may not be surprised, but I track openness and curiosity. I get really curious because I love to continue to learn things about what are the new skills that I can learn. Can I watch models because I learn by example? Can I find somebody to train me or to coach me or to teach me what I don’t know how to do yet and do it my way, the best I can? 

I get curious and work through my self-doubt in that way.

the small-R resistance of scope

The second kind of resistance that arises from feeling daunted by the scope of something is very common for me and most people. You want to create a whole new workshop for a company in a way you’ve never done before. That could be daunting. 

You want to write a book. That itself is daunting. It’s like saying I want to scale a mountain today. 

I have to break down the scope of a project into seemingly doable steps. I mean seemingly doable steps. I will write them down. I’ll put them in a spreadsheet. I’ll put them on a chart. I say seemingly because there’s a part of my psyche that is resisting, that needs to see that there is a doable path. 

There is a walkable path forward. I hardly ever follow that path exactly, but without some kind of path, it’s nearly impossible for me to move forward. I have to externalize whatever the resistance is and see that there is a path forward.

It’s rarely linear, but without any kind of path forward that has been literally laid out in a physical form, I can’t move forward. 

Then, as some of you may know, I break things down into post-it sized tasks so that I can actually move through accomplishing perhaps a step in 90 minutes, or in two 90-minute sessions, or four 90-minute sessions, really have to keep moving forward in that way. With both the doubt and the daunting feeling, I experiment. I experiment constantly. 

resisting the Canoe Talks

These series of videos are a set of experiments. Did I resist them? Yes. I resisted because I didn’t want to be in front of the camera speaking extemporaneously. Personally I resisted them because I didn’t know if I would have the time. I had to come up with a very simple system and treat it as a set of experiments with certain hypotheses I’m testing out. One of which was, do I enjoy this? Does this light me up? Which I do, and it does.

Big-R Resistance

Here’s the other thing about resistance. We’ve been talking about the small-r resistance in the psyche. What we don’t talk about typically when we talk about resistance is la Résistance, resistance at a larger social activist level. That’s resistance worth leaning into. 

I periodically reflect on how I have consciously and unconsciously resisted a lot of the status quo in this world for much of my grownup life and before I was a grownup. 

Had I not resisted the status quo ways of how I was supposed to live, or be, or what I was supposed to do with my life, I probably wouldn’t be here in this very moment. I bet the same as true for you, Mary. You probably, consciously and unconsciously, have resisted a lot of assumptions about how to be and how to work. 

Right now, you’re probably resisting with a capital R a lot of the status quo assumptions about how we work in the world, how we do things in this world.

You’re probably resisting a lot of injustice. The next time you feel the little-r resistance come up, check back in with the big-R resistance of what you’re here for and lean into that. You’ve probably chosen the path and the road less taken. Hmm? That’s probably made all the difference. Lean into that resistance.

I hope this has been helpful. I hope you’ve enjoyed this video. I’ve enjoyed making it for you. 

Be well, and thanks for running with me.

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