You’re in the middle of a project, and the situation is dreadful.
You had a vision for this work, and things started well. But as you got nearer to your goal, nearer to your big breakthrough, the whole thing began to unravel. And here you are.
Suddenly, you’re questioning yourself. It feels like people are judging you. Money pressures are mounting. Your shoulders are all hunched up by your ears.
The stress no longer feels worth it. You should have known you would let yourself down. Maybe this whole thing was a stupid idea. Maybe this isn’t for you. Maybe you cannot do this. It would be easier to quit.
Sound familiar? Congratulations. You have reached the panic point.
Here is the good news: as crappy as it feels, the panic point often signals the breakdown before your breakthrough. It happens to all of us on the brink of success. Here is even better news: if you can navigate your way through to the other side, you’ll find your goal.
Steven Pressfield, author of the War of Art, calls this feeling Resistance. You must have felt something like it in your lifetime. Anytime you begin a project, commit to a diet, or kick a habit, Resistance is your enemy. As long as you have to reject immediate gratification in favour of long-term growth, Resistance will find you. Don’t take it personally.
Resistance has two rules. First: the more important an action is to your personal growth, the more Resistance you will feel pushing back. And two: the greatest danger is when the finish line is in sight. Resistance knows you’re about to beat it, and it will hit you with everything it’s got. Be prepared.
Fabienne Fredrickson describes the peak of resistance as the Panic Point.
Fabienne says that whenever you create goals for yourself, you’re reaching up. So every opportunity for you to reach your goals will arise from above your current level.
The panic point hits when your old ways try to mix with your new beliefs and actions. This is why you may feel unworthy of success. You may not even realize you’re sabotaging your best efforts. You’re just way out of your comfort zone. You feel stuck and useless and you have to muster all of your strength to keep going.
Seth Godin describes it visually. He uses a curve, called The Dip, to illustrate everything worth doing in life. Imagine your business success first rises like a hill, then it slogs through a deep valley. If you can survive the valley, you can break through to a mountain of success. The Dip is what you’d call the valley, that long haul where you aren’t seeing results yet.
In real life, that first hill is your beginner’s excitement. You are getting things done. The Dip happens next, after the initial excitement has faded but before you reach true success. The Dip is where everyone else quits. This is a good thing: if everyone got through the Dip, the reward for success wouldn’t be as high. When the Dip weeds out all the quitters, it makes you more valuable.
The way to overcome Resistance is dogged focus on your goals. When you continue to pour your energy into working on them, you will begin to feel a tailwind. You’ll start attracting opportunity everywhere your eyes are open to see it.
To get that tailwind, says Pressfield – you have to just push through. Continue to take decisive action. Take one small step. Then do it again. And again. Consistent daily effort will become true achievement.
Pressfield tells us to be stubborn. You don’t have to be a hero to be stubborn. You just have to be a pain in the butt. Grit your teeth, keep your eye on the prize, dig in your heels, and don’t let go until resistance loses.
Jim Rohn perhaps said it best. We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is: discipline weighs ounces, while regret weighs tons.
The next time you find your panic point, you’ll recognize it. Like a quirky old friend. And you’ll know you’re around the corner from your next breakthrough if you can focus on your vision, take consistent decisive action, and be stubborn about it. Don’t worry. It gets easier every time.