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Overcoming Resistance

Imagine yourself riding a bike up a hill (I know, me neither), you start off strong but when that grade hits pretty steep and you’ve changed gears as far as your bike will let you, you start questioning your selection of hobbies. You get to a point where you really don’t want to (or maybe can’t) put forth the physical output you need to get up that hill. If you’re not physically ready, that’s understandable. Get off the bike and walk it up to the top, then enjoy a wonderfully awesome cascade down the hill, right? But what I really want to talk about are those lazy bike rides. Sure, you met with some small challenges, but even with the easy inclines you feel demotivated and that small hill now feels like a big hill. What’s the deal? Just last week you climbed mountains, now you’re struggling to make it at all.

There are some guarantees in life and one of those is that you’ll encounter your own resistance. It doesn’t make sense because you have hopes and dreams, you may even have your dream job. Now there’s a part of you actively, almost malevolently, working against yourself. It looks like becoming complacent. You pay less attention to detail and maybe don't take the same pride in your work that you usually do. You cut corners, justify taking things off your to do list, and simply don't try as hard. How do you overcome that?

Here are some suggestions to get started:

  1. Acknowledge to yourself that you're encountering resistance. You might as well own what it is, and tell yourself, "I'm not trying as hard today, and really it's because right now, I don't want to." If you keep making excuses or telling yourself a story, you'll keep being blind to your own tendencies. Admit you just don't have the energy or motivation. It doesn't mean you have to beat yourself up about it, just see it for what it is.

  2. Be mindful. Being mindful will help you understand what your resistance is about. When you face it or encounter it, take a breath and take a look at what is going on in your mind--observe without judgement what it is that’s making you want to turn the other way. Maybe you have a low tolerance for frustration and turning away is what you’ve always done. Maybe putting forth effort forces you to be in the present moment, and that feels yucky sometimes. Acknowledge the motivation to not push forward, and give yourself permission to not take action right away unless your relapse in progress will put you in serious danger.

  3. Make a plan on how you will encounter your resistance, either in that moment or in the future.

In my experience, much of resistance can be about not being motivated the way you were three weeks ago. Sometimes you feel like you need a break from yourself, or life, and you just don’t feel like giving up comfort in the moment. In the long run, staying comfortable doesn’t work. Sometimes you have those days where it feels like what used to be a priority isn’t one anymore, even though really it still is, you just met your resistance, and your resistance is telling you those priorities don’t matter.

Some of resistance is about not being ready to face the big stuff when pursuing your goals. You know, the challenges of transforming into a better more mature person. Okay, so you’ve been making progress for awhile, but then you come across a situation that really has you, dare I say, triggered. Your reaction is to regress to old behaviors and resist new insight. If that’s what your resistance is about, you would be in the “precontemplation” stage of change. That just means you’re in the stage of thinking that occurs prior to wanting to change. Everyone, and I mean everyone, encounters their precontemplation stage before changing. And you’ll be there over and over again, depending on how many changes you make for the better over your lifetime. There’s actually some cool ways to handle this precontemplation stage, and none of it has to do with judging yourself, so lucky for you, right? When coming across your aversion to change, ask yourself a few questions.

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most, how much do I want to face said challenge? (let’s say you say 3)

Okay self, you said 3, which is reasonably low, but you didn’t say 1. What made you say 3 instead of 1? What part of you does want to face that challenge? I noticed you didn’t say 10 either. What’s making you feel like where you’re at now is where you want to be?

Delve deep when doing some self-awareness talk--never accept “I don’t know” or “I just do” or “just because.” Behind every behavior is a reason and motivation--people don’t do something for nothing, so take as much time as you’d need to think through these.

The thing about this process is you don’t have to overcome your resistance until you’re ready to. You may be thinking, if I don’t face this now, I’m done for. If that’s the case, then it’s time for a reality check on that part of you that’s resisting. For those situations where you’re in between a rock and a hard place, where you don’t want to change but not changing means something worse than changing, but you can’t get yourself to change, ask yourself this:

What do I want?

Is what I’m doing getting me what I want?

What do I need to do to get what I want?

Simplifying your mindset in this way sometimes cuts out all the inside voices that talk us down from making progress. You know what I mean, you come across that resistance and you give yourself every reason not to push forward, tell yourself you’ll face it again tomorrow, etc. If you simplify the situation to what it is that you want, and focusing on how to get what you want, it really tends to shut those other voices up. Even if they come back saying, “but what about this worry over here??” Go back to these three questions until you’re ready to face your resistance to get what you want.

When we become complacent, it’s harder to change or be who we want to be. When our brains trick us into thinking we don’t need to press forward for our values, simplifying the situation can help tremendously to cut out the noise. I’d be interested to hear about any resistance you’ve had lately, and how it’s impacted your progress, and if you overcame it or decided to put it on the backburner until you could problem solve it out, so feel free to check out the forum for any discussion!

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