Resistance is STILL futile. What are you doing about it?


Last week we explored the topic of resistance, but stopped short of addressing how to actually deal with it. Since self-awareness without action is fairly useless, let’s figure out how to address the question that will actually improve your outcomes:

How do you deal with resistance?

Resistance and success don't mix.

1. Stop fighting.

Here’s an experiment to demonstrate why this is such a useful strategy; you’ll want to enlist a friend to help you with it.

Put the palm of your hand against hers, and both of you push against the other. What happens? If you’re like most people, you’ll find that the harder she pushes, the harder you push, and the harder she pushes, and the harder you push….and pretty soon you’re both worn out with no progress to show for your efforts.

The moral of the story: Resisting gets you nowhere fast. As psychology and Law Of Attraction types often put it, “What you resist, persists.”

2. Step back and ask yourself some questions.

Questions are a great way to challenge your resistance and to bring a different, more helpful perspective to bear. Things you can ask yourself:

3. Choose to respond rather than react.

As I observed last week, resistance can become almost a habit, a default setting. And that means that, when you encounter a situation you simply don’t want to deal with, you’re likely to react instead of respond.

Why’s that an issue? Because paramecia react. Amoebas react. Dogs trained by Pavlovian conditioning react. A reaction is largely unthinking and/or instinctual. And running your business in “unthinking” mode is strongly discouraged.

A response, on the other hand, gets your higher-functioning frontal cortex involved in decision-making. Instead of simply reacting in the here and now to minimize discomfort, you can choose to accept some short-term discomfort to achieve a much-desired future outcome.

In other words, part of your resistance may simply be thoughtless habit, and you can choose to approach challenging situations differently.

Are you still resisting success?

The barista at a local coffee shop gave me a wonderful opportunity yesterday to practice all these techniques. (Don’t you just love those inevitable growth opportunities?)

In addition to serving possibly the best coffee I’ve ever drunk, Brewhemia also serves food. The barista takes your order, then gives you a table marker to display so they can find you when your food is ready. Each table marker sports a letter of the alphabet, accompanied by the picture of an animal. You’ve got your B for Bear, L for lynx, W for wolf…and Y for white-tailed deer.


Most of the letters were represented by animals whose names started with that letter, but there was that rogue Y for white-tailed deer, not to mention an N for peregrine falcon (I tried to convince myself the latter was a nighthawk, but it was a peregrine), and a few other rogues. I asked the barista why in the world they didn’t make the effort to “properly” match letters and animals. He calmly replied, “Because they didn’t. It’s no big deal.”

This made my head threaten to explode, because of course it was a big deal! Where’s the consistency? Where’s the logic? Where’s the consideration for the erstwhile biology major?

Just as my facial tic started to get out of control, I was struck by a multi-part epiphany:


So the next time I get caffeinated at Brewhemia, I’ll look at the available table markers, but instead of making myself nuts because some of them are “wrong”, I’ll take a different approach. I’ll notice which ones have letters and animals that don’t “match” and, instead of resisting the illogic, I’ll figure out an animal whose name starts with that letter. (Y is for yak; N is for narwhal…) I get to enjoy word games and applied biology in one activity.

Now, I realize you may be muttering to yourself something along the lines of, “Get a life, Kath!”, but here’s the point: All of us have opportunities, probably on a daily basis, to notice when we’re resisting something. The more you practice letting go of resistance in low-impact situations, the easier time you’ll have letting go of, or even avoiding, resistance in situations where it can really sabotage the outcomes you’re working to achieve. That’s well worth the effort.


What about you? Do you find there are certain situations or activities that flip your switch and send you spiraling straight into resistance mode? What have you found works well for you when it’s time to move past that resistance?

Or are you resisting the idea that I’m encouraging you to add yet one more item (“Figure out how to deal with resistance”) to your Too Much To Do list? If that’s the case, maybe I can get you shifted over to un-resistance.

My specialty is helping talented yet overwhelmed entrepreneurs figure out how they’re getting in their own way, then devising action plans with them so they can shift obstacles aside and start forging ahead.

I have no idea whether you and I would work well together to accomplish that goal, but I’d be interested in finding out. How ‘bout you? If you’re curious, I invite you to connect with me for a get-acquainted call. In just 30 or 40 minutes, we’ll ask and answer enough questions to figure out if we’d be a great butt-kicking team or not. Whether our mutual decision is go, no go, or go later, we’ll both be confident in it.

(By the way, thanks to Alex for posting the resistance image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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9 Responses to Resistance is STILL futile. What are you doing about it?

  1. Yes, Kathleen, this is true. When a dog pulls on the leash, you typically pull back. If you relax and do not pull, the dog stops pulling. It takes a lot of training on the human end!

    • Kathleen Mavity Kathleen says:

      Ain’t that the truth, Elaine! We’ve actually signed up for one-on-one lessons for our new puppy, Barkley – although, as you say, they’ll probably be more for our benefit than hers. Unlearning knee-jerk behaviors really does go better with professional help!

  2. Yes, why have I been resisting writing my new home page copy? Your post helped me clarify that pronto. My belief that it’s going to be hard and that it’s going to suck. Wow. Who wouldn’t want to resist THAT!

    One thing that helped me bust out of my resistance was the insight of a psychic who told me that no matter what I write now, it’s going to change. Because I’m going to change. The copy I write today I might change tomorrow. I’m not wedded to it for life. And that somehow allowed me to just write what I could write today, knowing it might all be changed tomorrow.

    • Kathleen Mavity Kathleen says:

      That’s a theme that seems to be popping up for me, Nancy: allowing business (not to mention life in general) to be an iterative process. The “not wedded to it for life” comment is good – not only because it’s true, but also because it challenges me to figure out whether I’m unconsciously working with the expectation that whatever I create should be good enough to last forever.

  3. Your story about the coffee shop’s odd signage (and your reaction to it) hit home for me, Kathleen. I’d have a hard time accepting the “wrongness” of some of those signs and would secretly seethe about it, when it actually has no impact on me. It’s a waste of mental energy that could be put to a positive use…like thinking of better animal matches!

    • Kathleen Mavity Kathleen says:

      Lori, thank you for reinforcing that I’m not the only person to have that indignant reaction to the “wrongness”. I appreciate the company!

  4. Thank you for this very concrete example! It can be hard not to feel so strongly about things that are “not right” but, it frees so much energy when we can just let things be, when it’s something we can’t do anything about anyway. You’ve been inspirational!

    • Kathleen Mavity Kathleen says:

      It’s an honor to serve as a source of inspiration; thank you so much for sharing that with me, Dorothy. Now all that remains is for me to inspire myself so much that I develop some unconscious competence in this area. I’m really looking forward to the time when “just let it be” is my default reaction, not the one I have to talk myself into. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Opportunity or distraction? | Stepping Into Big

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