5 Steps to Overcome Resistance
January has come and gone and here it is mid-February and I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the sentence, “Whatever we resist persists,” that I read in The Presence Process, by Michael Brown. It’s such a simple and obvious statement of truth, that it hard seems worthy of mention, let alone a blog post, but the effects of these four words keep coming back to haunt me. Of course, when faced with something harmful or dangerous, resistance can save your life, but what about the things we resist doing that could ultimately be beneficial?
For example, for the last two years I’ve resisted: losing the last five pounds, finishing a novel I’ve been working on for at least the same amount of time, checking in on old friends, getting help with my website, cleaning the garage, and painting the house. Obviously, some of these tasks may be more objectionable than others, but I’m resisting things that could ultimately bring me satisfaction and enjoyment. In other words, my resistance is a form a self-sabotage, and it is preventing me from getting what I really desire.
Let’s start with something easy like losing 5 pounds. If I lose five pounds, my clothes will feel more comfortable, and I’ll feel better about my appearance. With a goal of losing two pounds a week—something that is entirely attainable—I could easily be at my desired weight in a month. But it doesn’t happen.
Another case in point is my unfinished novel. I know that if I were to write for one hour each day, I would have a draft within four months. Finishing my book would be a fantastic accomplishment, yet I can’t seem to make time for it.
When we know the desired outcome is something that will ultimately make life better, why do we persist in not fulfilling our dreams? We resist and the obstacle—the very thing we desire to overcome—persists. I’m not a psychologist, but it’s my belief that we are so entrenched in our patterns of behavior that even the smallest deviation is difficult. We are creatures of habit and our brain doesn’t care whether the habit is one that benefits or sabotages us. The issue then is how to overcome our programming (trick our brain) into accepting new patterns. Here are five steps I believe will work:
- Pick one thing you have been resisting and focus on only that. If you have a list of projects you’ve been resisting, begin with something you can accomplish in a relatively short amount of time. The goal here is to experience success as quickly as possible so that your brain gets with the new program—the one that forges ahead regardless of obstacles and previous experiences. If we try to reach too many goals or make too many changes all at once, we dilute our efforts and accomplish little or nothing.
- Set realistic goals. If you need to lose 5 pounds, give yourself three weeks. If you want to read the collected works of Shakespeare, then you might want to break your efforts into smaller steps like reading one play a week. Note to self: If you are completing a novel, make that project a priority for at least 4 months and then adhere to a schedule.
- Be clear about the benefits you will receive by making the desired change. If I lose 5 pounds my jeans will feel more comfortable and I’ll look better in them. If I carve out a reasonable amount of time to work on and complete my novel, eventually, I’ll have a first draft, and be on my way to completing something I really want to finish.
- Publicly announce the change you intend to make. Weight Watchers, AA, and other support groups are forums designed to hold people accountable. Showing up and being in the presence of others who have similar goals is what creates accountability. Go ahead, state your intention to a few friends or co-workers and elicit the support you need to get what you want.
- Reward your efforts. If you have ever trained a dog, you know how effective those treats can be. Our brains are wired the same way. When we did a good job as kids we received “A”s, gold stars, ice cream, or something similar for a job well done. Those rewards worked to keep us motivated. Adults need rewards too. One writer I know uses email as her reward. She doesn’t check it until she’s completed writing her quota for the day. Whether you take yourself out for coffee, go to a movie, or buy a new pair of jeans, be sure to build in rewards for your accomplishments – little rewards for the small achievements and big rewards for landmarks.
Do you procrastinate? Do you keep putting that important writing project on the back burner even though it could cost you your job? Would you like to finally eliminate the major obstacle that prevents most writers from getting their thoughts on the page quickly and painlessly? Subscribe to my Newsletter (upper right corner) and the solution will be delivered directly to your inbox.