What if I were to tell you that 10 years from now your life would be exactly the same as it is today? The same job and co-workers, the same neighbors, the same home, the same routines, and experiences day-after-day, after day. How would you feel? Would you be happy?
If not, you need to know that when you resist change this is precisely the future that you are creating for yourself.
When you accept change, let go and free yourself from fear of the unknown, you will begin to see your life as an exciting adventure. ~Author Unknown
The Nature of Resistance
If you’re like most people your initial response to change will be determined at least in part by whether the event in question is your idea or is unplanned and being thrust upon you. Also, it’s not uncommon to be more or less resistant to change depending upon the area of your life affected. For example, you may welcome new experiences at work, but prefer a highly structured routine in your personal life.
But regardless of the circumstances or nature of a particular change, if your natural inclination is avoidance then there will inevitably be a period of denial followed by various obvious (and not so obvious) efforts aimed at resistance.
Now I should add here that not all resistance is bad. Assuming you have some control over the decision and outcome, there’s nothing wrong with making sure the change in question will be right for you, but there’s a big difference between being judicious and outright avoidance.
Following are a few of the more common strategies we use to avoid change.
- We say we want to change but take no action.
- We pretend we don’t really care one way or the other.
- We adopt the role of victim.
- We use (or invent) obstacles to justify why change is too difficult or not possible.
And let’s be honest, sometimes our reluctance to change is no more complicated than we happen to be quite comfortable with the way things are now. We work hard to find a good balance and circumstances that allow us to feel a sense of control and satisfaction with our life and once we find that sweet spot we’ll do just about anything to keep from rocking the boat.
And for as long as that works it’s perfectly okay, but we don’t always have control over when we’re going to be faced with unplanned change, and sometimes we risk settling for less than we deserve or are capable of achieving in life if we avoid reaching for better circumstances.
Either you become an agent of change, or sooner or later you’ll end up a victim of change. You simply can’t survive over the long term if you insist on standing still. ~Norm Brodsky
Understanding Resistance Triggers
There are primarily two circumstances that trigger resistance to change.
Trigger 1 is simply based on lack of information about the dynamics involved with the change. We may be open to a change taking place, but if we are unclear about what will be required or how it will affect other areas of our life then our initial response will involve at least some resistance.
In this case taking the time to identify areas of concern and fill in the blanks is often enough to soothe frayed nerves so that you can begin to look for the opportunities within the change. But if there are underlying issues involved then more work will be required.
Trigger 2 is psychologically based and goes well beyond the obvious implications of the change in question and into the area of such things as fear, deeply held attitudes (a fixed mindset), limiting internal beliefs and past experiences.
Following is just one example of how an unresolved internal issue can serve as a trigger to resist even the most positive change in your life.
Undermining Your Own Efforts
It’s finally happened, you got that promotion you’ve worked so hard for and now you’ll be moving into management. The problem is you are struggling with a negative internal belief that is causing self-doubts. You’ve begun to question your capabilities and whether or not you are smart enough to live up to the expectations that go with this promotion.
Every time you attempt to think about your new duties you feel stressed and begin experiencing mental reruns of every mistake you have ever made, which immediately fuels doubts about your abilities, supporting your negative internal belief and effectively undermining all that you’ve accomplished so far. “What if I fail, what if I really can’t do the job? Maybe I should tell the boss I’m not ready for that promotion after all …”
Awareness, particularly when it comes to limiting beliefs and negative self-talk, can help to alert you to troublesome triggers and resistance, but it’s important to understand that it takes time and consistent effort to clear self-defeating attitudes. Some beliefs are naturally going to be harder to overcome than others since they may have been with you for years, but there is no question that it is well worth the effort.
3 Steps to Begin Shifting Your Attitude Toward Change
No matter how resistant to change you may have been up to now, it is within your power and ability to re-train your body and mind to recognize when change is actually going to be a good thing for you by following the following 3 steps.
- Acknowledge when you are avoiding change.
- Accept that your rattled emotions and resistance is a natural human response.
- Gently push past the urge to resist and identify the potential stumbling block(s).
The goal is to intentionally create a new behavior that will allow you to progressively experience more confidence and control when faced with a change – no matter how small and regardless of whether it’s unplanned or initiated by you.
Real change only happens when you want it a lot more than the fear of staying right where you are now. Until you reach that point you will only commit to the level of dipping your toe in the deep end of the ‘change pool’ and lie to yourself that this proves you are at least trying to change. But of course, YOU ARE NOT. ~Scott Abel
The bottom line is once you realize that you have an inherent resistance to change you have two choices. You can continue the way things are and risk never discovering your full potential, or you can choose to make the quality of your life important enough to make the pain of holding on to the familiar greater than the fear of letting go.
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald
Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.
She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.
To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here“.