I needed to meet with Mike and his mom. Math was giving Mike fits and giving Mom anxiety. Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, math problems were, well, a problem.
My conversation with Mike started something like this:
"What do you do when you're working on your math homework and it gets hard?"
"I just stop. (Translation: It takes too much time to ask questions, to much work to gut it out, to exercise my brain. I daresay to DEVELOP my brain. And I really don't want to spend that kind of time or energy on something I don't want to do in the first place. I mean, really, what's the POINT?)."
I've had countless discussions with middle schoolers about math. I wish I could create a hologram of myself that conducts that conversation, because it's always the same.
Mike, allow me to introduce you to Resistance. Resistance, you remember Mike. You two have met on several occasions. Mike would like math to be easy.
He forgets that not everything starts out easy. Like taking his first steps, for instance. Or riding a bike. Tying his shoe. Those were once daunting tasks but are now muscle memories.
And now Mike's old enough to articulate what resistance really feels like.
It's exhausting, frustrating, and defeating. And the more he wrestles with it, the harder everything else becomes, too.
No doubt about it, Mike's math grade is in the toilet. But Science has suddenly become a foreign language, and English isn't a language he wants to even pretend he understands.
Snowball, domino, house of cards ... all those "effects" happen thanks to Mike's partnership with resistance. Downward spiral, here he comes.
People have written books, volumes, about resistance. The War Of Art is one of my favorites. Author Stephen Pressfield states:
The more important an activity is to your soul's evolution, the more resistance you will feel.
I won't pretend to know how soulful a 7th grade math class is. But that lesson of how to stop resisting it will definitely make a difference to Mike's soul. About that I have no doubt.
So I ask him if he plays sports. Soccer!
I ask if he was born knowing how to play soccer. No, he says, but it was always easy.
Mom's been pretty quiet, but with that, she pipes up. She has a very different recollection!
She reminds Mike of how she literally dragged him, kicking and screaming, to practice after practice. Then one day, he announces to her that soccer is easy!
The three of us agree that math may never bring Mike the same bliss that scoring a soccer goal does.
But the lesson is the lesson any way you cut it: resistance is a form of self sabotage. It holds you back, undercuts you, allows you to hide behind what you think is best (safest??).
If we can push through resistance, we'll make progress.
But how? It's all about taking action. Action with a heavy dose of self-love.
Learning the moves, practicing the plays. Getting feedback, asking for help.
Spending ten more minutes. Finishing one more page. Ending the kicking and screaming.
Whatever the solutions, Just. Keep. Going.
I got reacquainted with resistance when I set out to create a business "on the side."
It seemed easy enough. Until it wasn't.
Until I realized that "on the side" really meant "in addition to" the rest of my life ... job, family, friends, self care, building a new house, sleep.
A lot of obstacles ... time, mind share, competing agendas, the lingering need for even more sleep ... started getting in the way. And they brought Resistance with them.
The I-need-to-learn-this-first-then-know-more-of-this-and-have-more-of-these-before-I-can-EVER-do-THAT kind of resistance.
Hey, I already suffer from The Next, New Shiny Object Syndrome on a normal Tuesday. Never mind all the distractions I could come up with thanks to Resistance.
So did that mean I'd stumbled, yet again, upon something that wasn't easy? Oh, yeah.
Am I ready to give up? Oh, no.
I'm persevering, learning the moves. Asking for help.
I'm doing it anyway. Until I come to the end.
Maybe I'll also solve the problem about the arrival times of those two damn trains who leave the station traveling at different speeds. I've resisted doing that for over 50 years.
It's time for some soul evolution!
And to proudly proclaim how good I really am at math.