Surviving Creativity: UI Professor Explains our Resistance to Change

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

-Charles Darwin


Over happy hour martinis and stuffed peppers one evening, my friend brought up a good point; Des Moines, the city we live in, has incredible opportunities for personal development that we could be taking advantage of.

Here we were, a couple of 20-somethings looking to make names for ourselves and our creative passions, aware of all the best happy hours in the metro (Centro, Django, Eatery A…), but rarely scoping out a lecture that might leave our heads spinning with ideas rather than martinis.IMG_2439

That conversation led me to show up on a Tuesday night at Surviving Creativity, a free lecture given by Jeffrey Agrell at the Des Moines Public Library’s central location. Just by showing up, which Agrell claimed is 80% of beating your own resistance, I had taken a large step toward winning my own battle against creativity.

Believe me, I had plenty of excuses not to show up for the talk. I knew it would inspire me and give me ideas, and I had been wanting to go to it for weeks. Why would I so easily give in to my own resistance?

Mr. Agrell, University of Iowa professor, creativity expert and author, told me exactly why:

“When you start doing something, resistance thrives. It will fight you tooth and nail.”

Creativity means change. The instinctive part of our brain is designed to notice when change is happening and does everything it can to resist it. Sound familiar?

Resistance is why we get stage fright, why we’re not getting our novels written. This is why my friend and I can’t resist the temptation to test out every happy hour in the city.

Resistance stops us from going after our goals with the following tactics:

  • excuses
  • procrastination
  • distractions
  • fear
  • external resistance, (friends and family do not like change either)


Staring at the shiny blue ink marking the lecture in my planner, I threw out about 15 excuses and things I could do instead of venturing downtown. The root of it was that I was already at home. It would have been much easier to stay home and do those 15 things, maybe even in my comfy pants.

“To survive and thrive in creativity, you have to know what’s coming and do it anyway.”

-Jeffrey Agrell

I showed up. In doing so, I beat my resistance and trained my brain to think that doing things like this is my new normal.

For beating your own resistance, here are a few suggestions Agrell made:

  • Set deadlines.
  • Break projects down into smaller steps to do at a time. Make them so small that your instinctive brain doesn’t detect the change that is happening.
  • Make a habit of showing up.

“Everybody has unique things to offer. Don’t let resistance stop you from bringing out your own ideas.”

-Jeffrey Agrell

What is resistance stopping you from creating? How are you going to fight it? And what opportunity can you find in your city that might help you?

Photo Credit: Aleks Dorhovich

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