Sometimes when we are trying to create changes for ourselves, we also experience a resistance to taking the steps that are necessary to make the changes. This resistance can be simple and concrete- like continuing not to submit a change of address form for a move – or complicated and nebulous – like staring at a wall, being still, and taking no action on the change we are trying to make. A common reaction to this resistance in ourselves is frustration and disappointment. After all, if we are resisting, we aren’t making progress on our goals. It makes sense, then, that we would want to overcome this resistance as quickly as possible, maybe buckle down and resist our own resistance! Depending on the circumstances, perhaps that’s what we should do. However, it may be in our best interest to embrace this resistance rather than fight it. What if we view our resistance as an invitation for us to look inward, to determine what we truly need for our well-being and success? Let’s look at how to RSVP to the invitation of your resistance.
Receive the Invitation by Recognizing Your Resistance
First, notice when you have resistance to change. Here are some signs of resistance: refusing to act on your goal, repeatedly forgetting to take a step, developing physical symptoms like a headache or extreme fatigue when you try to tackle your goal, complaining about your goal, feeling hopeless about the change, procrastination, and feeling stuck. Once you notice your resistance, look at it with an open mind. Be curious about what it may be telling you.
Explore Your Resistance
What do you notice underneath the resistance? What emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations do you experience? Make a physical or mental note of your responses to these questions. Then, ask yourself why you have these emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations. What is the cause (or causes) and what might be the solution (or solutions)? Do you truly want or need to make the change you are trying to make? What do you need to accomplish your change goal (e.g., more time, certain skills, social support, a strategy or plan, specific resources, and/or smaller steps to lead to the bigger goal)?
Once you have explored what is going on with yourself, you can respond intentionally to your resistance with a yes, no, or maybe.
- Yes – Resist. What if your resistance is a big warning sign that something is truly wrong? Sometimes, with my clients, when progress is not being made toward a goal, it has become apparent that the goal was not aligned with my client’s core values, or the goal was something that another person wanted for my client rather than what my client truly wanted. In these cases, it made sense to honor that resistance by discontinuing pursuit of those goals.
- No – Reject resistance. Sometimes, resistance signifies a reality of how challenging a situation is, but it’s not a sign to give up. In this instance have compassion for yourself. Accept your feelings of fear, anxiety, angst, or irritability. Change is not always easy and our emotions remind us to have compassion and engage in self-care. Sometimes by recognizing and accepting our feelings, we can move forward more easily than by trying to deny or stuff our feelings.
- Perhaps your resistance is telling you that you need something more before you can decide whether to continue the pursuit of your goal. By answering the questions during exploration of your resistance, you know whether you need more time or resources or other conditions for this goal to be a viable option. Therefore, until you do or do not get the necessary circumstances to enable successful pursuit of your goal, the response is “maybe”.
Resistance doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can yield important information when we pay attention to it. This information can be used to help us determine if and how to pursue a goal. If you have explored your resistance on your own and do not yet have enough clarity to know how to proceed, talk things out with a trusted friend or hire a life coach. It often helps to have another set of eyes and ears to address things. Continue to explore and respond to your resistance until you arrive at a place that honors your wellbeing.