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Dissecting Resistance: Tackling Belief Systems

Amanda Sollman

just-because-you-used-to-be-e1441554331252.jpgIf you've ever worked in training and development (personal or professional), or if you've ever managed, mentored, or just tried to provide another person with some advice, you know one thing to be true: resistance is the enemy of all growth.

Resistance is the idea that, when presented with new ideas, information or way of doing things, you find yourself - almost unconsciously - pushing back.  And you come up with a whole bunch of excuses for why that is.

"That's doesn't apply to me."

"They don't know what they're talking about."

"I can't change. This is just the way I am."

And we put a stop to even hearing the new information we've been presented with, because it doesn't fit within our view of ourselves, or the world.

However, resistance is often where we find the most room for growth.

Now, there are a whole bunch of reasons why you might sense resistance in yourself, including:

  • You don't want to let go of the current or past version of yourself to create what could be
  • You're scared of change, and what comes with it
  •  The incentive to evolve isn't strong enough
  • Admitting that things "aren't fine" is too challenging

I tried to write a post where I talked about all of these causes, but it got too big. So, instead, I'm going to break it up into a week by week series where I start dissecting resistance piece by piece. First up: you don't want to let go of the current/past version of yourself to create what could be.

"This is just the way I am."

I've been watching some motivational videos on YouTube recently and, in one of them, there's a clip of Mel Robbins on Impact Theory. In the interview, she says something along the lines of:

"Many of us are tied to one version of ourselves. Just think about it. If you give someone advice, they'll often push back and say, 'Well, that's just who I am.' And I look back and them and say, 'Okay, well how's that working out for you?'"

Wow. "How's that working out for you?" No mincing words there.

And it's so true! I can vouch for this personally. Sure, I see myself as smart, competent, independent – a lot of good things. But I also know that I can be stubborn and resistant to new ideas – some things that aren't so great, but yet still feel like a static, unchangeable part of what it's like to be me.

But do those things have to be permanent? I don't think so.

When faced with a belief about yourself or the world that you believe to be a true, unchangeable fact, I encourage you to ask yourself two questions:

1. Why do I believe this to be true?

Chances are, somewhere in your past, you had an experience that established these beliefs about yourself or the world. After all, much of our emotional hardwiring is created when we're very young. And then, after that, you probably had a series of additional experiences that reaffirmed them over and over again.

Here are just a few examples of beliefs we and our clients have held at some point, and some of the experiences that contributed to establishing them:

Belief: I'm just always going to be overweight and unhealthy.
Experience: Seeing a parent complain about their weight, but never doing anything about it or yo-yo dieting for years and years.

Belief: Work has to suck.
Experience: Listening to your parents complain about their jobs every night over the dinner table.

Belief: Marriages never last.
Experience: Your parents divorced. All your friends' parents divorced. And they were all ugly splits.

Belief: Having kids means things must be challenging.
Experience: Watching your parents or friends approach parenthood like a war – us against them – and just assuming that they're never going to be able to sleep/have money/travel/etc. ever again. Also seeing those parents never take time out for themselves.

And, of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Take a minute and consider your own beliefs about yourself or the world, in particular the ones that aren't so awesome. Where do they come from? And what experiences helped create them?

2. Does this belief support creating the best version of myself?

Once you identify where your beliefs come from, you can go to work on analyzing them and – if you choose – changing them. As Brooke Castillo discussed in a recent podcast, beliefs aren't permanent. Sure, they feel like fact, but the truth of the matter is beliefs are not written in stone and can be changed with one or a series of decisions.

If you believe that you can never lose weight or get healthy – that this is just how life has to be – is that helping you have more energy to get through your work day, to play with your kids or grandkids, to be attentive to your spouse?

If you believe that work has to suck – that this is just a fact of the Universe – is that helping you find personal and professional fulfillment or challenge?

If you believe that parenting must be hard – that you must go to battle on a daily basis to get these tiny humans in line – is that helping you enjoy the little moments, be grateful for the time you have with them, or show the world that your life doesn't stop when you add "mom" or "dad" to your job description?

Based on the experiences of many of our clients, the answer to all these questions is a very solid, "No." These beliefs don't serve us as we try to create the "best version of me." Once we come to that realization, only then can we make forward progress.

Resistance Says More About You Than Them

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard Mark say this (or some variation on it)...

"If you're feeling resistance to something I said, it probably has more to do with you than me."

Well, let's just say I'd be very rich :)

You see, this is the other side-effect of deeply held beliefs: not only are they subconscious and hold us back from taking action, but they also lead us to pass judgement on others.

If a doctor says, "You need to lose 10 pounds and start exercising," you might find yourself thinking, "Doctors don't know everything! He's no body-builder himself."

If a boss says, "I think you should start calling on 5 more accounts each week if you want to hit your targets," you might think, "Five more accounts! Who does she think she is?! I don't have time for that. She doesn't kow what she's talking about."

If Mark suggests that you plan weekly date night with your spouse (as he often does!), you might think, "We don't have time for that! What does he know? He doesn't live our life. He doesn't know how busy we are."

In each of these examples, it's easy to say that the coach/manager/expert doesn't don't know what they're talking about – because what they're saying contradicts your belief system.

If this is the case for you, I'd challenge you to ask yourself, "Why am I fighting this so hard?" Chances are, that resistance has nothing to do with who they are or their level of knowledge. And has everything to do with the fact that you need to deal with something inside of yourself.

You're not broken.

Sometimes resistance creates another response to feedback or advice, and that's this: There's nothing wrong with me. I'm not broken. Stop trying to "fix" me.

And you're right – you're not broken. It's not my job, as a coach, to tell you what's wrong with you or to try and fix something that's busted. If you like your beliefs, if they're serving you in creating the life you dream of – then rock on! More power to you.

What is my job, though, is to create a space for you to admit that everything isn't perfect if that is indeed the case. It has nothing to do with being broken. It has everything to do with wanting something more. If you come to the realization that your vision of yourself or your beliefs aren't serving you – that they're holding you back – then we're here to help.

It's not about "fixing" – it's about taking things that are just "fine" or "good" and elevating them to greatness.

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