"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."
~ Lao Tzu
Have you ever tried to make a positive change in your life, only to come up against your own self-defeating behaviors?
Perhaps you decided to make healthier food choices, try a new workout routine, or start a morning meditation practice, yet your inner dialogue pushed you in the direction of self-sabotage.
You might overthink, waste time, procrastinate, make excuses, use perfectionism, cause distractions, or even choose complete avoidance.
All of these characteristics are forms of resistance. We all experience resistance in some form.
Even though resistance is inherent to most peoples' experience of change, it still seems to surprise most of us when we notice it in ourselves. Despite your best intentions to make a change, you still still fight against it. How do you interrupt this pattern?
As the quote above reads, Lao Tzu says to let things flow. Just feeling into the idea of "letting things flow" relaxes me, yet simultaneously invokes a feeling of excitement, even fear, at the uncertainty of where I might end up. It both invites a sense of relaxation and freedom AND a release of control which my ego resists. How does the idea make you feel? Sit with that for a minute.
Letting things flow can be a challenge because of resistance. You commonly encounter resistance when you attempt to make a new decision or change a pattern of behavior. Your subconscious brain puts on the brakes in resistance to the change that is about to occur.
Resistance is our psychological reaction to change.
It's actually a self-protective mechanism designed to keep us alive. When you learn to surrender, let things flow, then experience change without actually dying, you create new neural pathways in your subconscious brain which supports more flow in your life. Creating these new brain pathways boosts your capacity to handle how resistance shows up in your life experience.
To overcome psychological resistance, the prefrontal cortex part of your brain has to work harder and it also causes emotional discomfort thanks to your amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for your "fight, flight, or freeze" responses to stress and danger. Because your body is designed for energy efficiency, it's no surprise that our body's natural response system is to return to the safety of our existing routines and everyday habits stored in the basal ganglia part of the brain. You are wired for the safety of what is familiar to your brain.
Beyond neuroscience, there are other factors that contribute to resistance. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?
- Introduced change too quickly and your brain said "no."
- Did not fully commit to the change. This can happen when your reason for creating change is to please others instead of doing it for you.
- Underestimate how difficult change can be and you overestimate your ability to handle it.
- Did not realize how hardwired the habit is that you want to change.
- Did not anticipate the impact change can have on other parts of your life.
- Experience unexpected external factors, like the influence of other life events, the reactions of other people, social dynamics, the impact on your work, etc.
- Feel emotionally connected to your "old" behavior which triggers disempowering emotions.
- Lack support mechanisms.
- Feel like you should be able to change without support.
- Fear the unknown.
- Fear repeating negative life experiences.
All of us have experienced some of the above. Know that while you are wired for safety and energy-efficiency, you possess a powerful human consciousness capable of recognizing, managing, and overcoming resistance!
Remember, resistance plays a powerful role in our lives.
Resistance can be one of our greatest teachers with a little awareness and a healthy amount of surrender. How can you transform resistance into awareness so you can grow and live a richer existence?
First, Expect Resistance.
Bringing awareness to the signs of resistance during the change process is a powerful starting point. Identifying the types of resistance you've experienced in the past can help you know what to look for moving forward. Writing them down is a powerful way to strengthen this awareness.
Next, Prepare for Obstacles.
Planning and preparing for things that could stand in your way on your path to desired change will dramatically reduce your resistance levels. While you cannot plan for everything, consider what may be in your control and focus there.
Then, Stand Firmly in Your "Why".
In the process of change, you can get caught up in the busy flow of life. You can lose yourself in the details. It's vital to remember WHY you want to change and how it will benefit your life.
To create your “why,” try answering the below prompts:
- What will happen if I do change?
- What will happen if I don’t change?
- What won’t happen if I change?
- What won’t happen if I don’t change?
Next, Cultivate Your Support Systems.
It can be tempting for some of us to deal with change all by ourselves. While you are a powerful human with powerful skills, utilizing others' experience of change can be life-changing.
Establish your support systems. Cultivate these relationships with care and be open to receiving the support they can provide in times of uncertainty or stress. Family, trusted friends, online groups, and coaches/counselors are there to help you brainstorm, find resources, share your struggles, and impart the wisdom of their experience. Lean on them and strengthen your position.
Lastly, Honor Your Process, Learn, and Adjust.
When you surrender to your experience, you gain powerful insights into your own powerful gifts. Cultivating an objective awareness of your own process is the key to moving through and releasing self-judgement, frustration, grief, and suffering of all kinds. Build self-awareness by reflecting on your past choices and their outcomes. Just notice, without criticism. This invaluable information will allow for better planning, reduce your sense of overwhelm, and increase your sense of optimism for the future you're creating.
My work as a transformational health + empowerment coach has taught me a lot about resistance and the role it can play in our lives. I have learned that bringing awareness to the point of resistance can provide moments of powerful insight which can lead to incredible breakthroughs. I have watched my clients transform their relationships with the resistance within them, upgrading how they experience abundance, wellness, + pleasure.
You can have all that you truly desire in life when you recognize that resistance to change is normal and provides you with potent data about your blindspots.
You are guided and supported, even through the darkness.
Affirm this for yourself through focused self-awareness and by surrendering to the flow of life, despite the resistance.