Handling resistance to change is a common challenge for many of us.
As a coach, resistance is something that often comes up for people.
The uncertainty of learning something new can make us feel vulnerable, because taking action tests the boundaries of our own beliefs and can push up against the beliefs of others. You’re leaving behind what you already know to make a transition in a different direction – This takes courage.
Whenever we feel threatened or judged our cells go on red alert and the body floods with adrenaline. All your senses are heightened, you feel mistrustful and on guard. You become defensive and you seek control and security.
It creates self-doubt, procrastination, fear, low self-esteem and even self-sabotage in any aspect of your life. You become defensive and self-protective – seeing the problem as ‘out there’ (external).
Your Lizard brain kicks in for self-preservation. You shrink into fear-mode. Your negative emotion warns you that you are self-sabotaging your goals and desires. You might become the victim and replay stories from the past to reinforce just how much of a loser you really are. You’re like a deer in headlights. You may withdraw or exclude yourself from anything that feels dangerous or bad.
I imagine resistance as a creature like Gollum in Lord of the Rings! He has long gnarled fingers and lurks around in the corners of your mind feeding off your Lizard brain – that niggling voice in the back of your head making you feel dysfunctional, insecure, vulnerable, disempowered, or unloved: “Who do you think you are?!”
When you are locked in resistance there is no room for growth because your consciousness is constricted. Being afraid of uncertainty and change makes you repeat the same old patterns of behaviour:
- FLIGHT – Stay external and become a people pleaser trying hard to help everyone else, accommodating others and keeping busy. Coaches are very good at coaching others instead of looking for someone to coach them through their own resistance.
- FIGHT – Blame, criticize, attack, control or manipulate others seeing them as wrong.
- FREEZE – Spin your wheels, withdraw, don’t let anyone in or close down so that you can feel safe. Collapse into a coach so they can ‘fix’ you.
All three options keep the problem at arms length: external.
There’s no room here for creativity. Suddenly failure becomes an option and you’re really scared.
Resistance can kill your goals and dreams and destroy your confidence all at the same time.
The truth is that EVERYONE has THAT voice (Gollum) in his or her head in the same way that everyone breathes. Resistance is natural and part of your human defenses.
If you’ve grown up with this then, according to Stephanie Mills (author), the more protection becomes an habitual way of being: you look out for threats, then attack, defend or close down. It feels like family!
Resistance is just testing your resolve. It’s part of the process. Here’s how to handle resistance to change:
1. Awareness – That you actually created your own resistance. You are getting in your own way. Eckhart Tolle says that: “awareness and ego cannot co-exist.” Self-awareness encourages your authentic self to be at the centre of your experience. Recognising that you are in resistance can help you to release it. You can override it at any time by taking conscious action. You get to choose whether you stay stuck or not.
2. Are you operating from fear or love? We all have the capability to act from either of these two states of awareness. Both are built into what I call your ‘Fizz’ (physiology) and psychology. Where are your thoughts operating from:
- Protection or growth?
- Closing down or opening up?
- Judgment or acceptance?
- Control or trust?
- Old habits or new ideas?
- Criticism or appreciation?
You get to choose!
3. What’s your WHY? – Getting clear on your intention or goal can dissolve any fear associated with your resistance. Reconnect to your passion and draw energy from it by answering the following two questions and use these as your touchstones as you’re working through:
- WHY do I want to do this?
- How badly do I want to succeed?
4. Fight resistance with assistance! Get some support from like-minded people. A coach can help you to recognize your resistance and help you to challenge and overcome it. Being in the presence of encouragers is so important when you’re trying to create new mindsets and results.
5. Accept that things go wrong – You can’t always prepare for and sometimes things don’t work. There’s a difference between quitting and feeling like quitting. Failure means that we are growing – it’s all about learning. You get to figure it out. Work the problem to create your solution.
The more important your call to action, the greater the sense of resistance you’ll feel. It’s a natural part of life.
When you run from uncertainty, you’re actually running away from your life. If you want to create anything be it a business, a career, making a difference with your clients resistance is part of the journey… Consider it as growing pains!