Resistance to change. Isn’t that what does most of us in? I’m not speaking about Resistance as an entity, as Steven Pressfield, so beautifully describes it in The War of Art. I’m not talking about self-sabotage or the Enemy. I’m speaking of actual mental resistance to change. This is the kind that comes up when someone enthusiastically shares an idea that they are sure will improve life, and the more they talk, the more certain you are that you will refuse it. This is the kind that causes one to turn down a job opportunity, college or a better relationship.
Some resistance to change is probably normal and healthy. The only guarantee change offers is that things will change. It can’t even guarantee that. Sometimes I’ve made seemingly massive changes only to discover I hadn’t really changed anything. The changes were only cosmetic because I hadn’t changed myself. In other words, I was still resisting things.
My longest period of resistance, though I was not conscious of it, was resisting the move from Monterey to San Diego when I was 16. I resisted this by staying emotionally stuck for about ten years. I didn’t really know I was doing this, but when I did realize it, it was pretty shocking. I won’t go into too much detail about this, because it’s embarrassing. I went to great lengths to keep things the same, even though many of the people and situations had changed. In fact, my best friend died about two years after I left, but I still held on to the “good old days.” Sometimes, when certain songs from my Monterey years came on the radio, I would go into an almost hypnotic reverie. It took me a long time to get to the present.
That’s one of the elements of resistance to change – staying stuck in the past. There are few things sadder than the mistaken belief that our best days are behind us. I’ve often referred to my time in Monterey as the best years of my life, but the truth is, I’ve had equally good and better times since.
Are there signs of resistance to change that I can be aware of so that I don’t get stuck? The following, while not exhaustive, may be a helpful list of possibilities:
· The past, or part of it, seems golden and almost perfect.
· There is a preoccupation with relics from that era such as movies, music, or TV shows.
· I get unreasonably or irrationally angry when someone suggests a possibility that might change my life. Or I get depressed. Or I tell them all the reasons why my particular situation is impossible.
· Sometimes I tell others (or myself) that things are getting better when they really aren’t.
· I might talk about the need for change, but I don’t actually do anything about it.
· If I do make any changes, they are usually “safe” and thus are not actual changes at all.
· If I get involved with something that might cause me to change, I do nothing or as little as possible. Then I get out of it as quickly as possible.
· I avoid people who are trying to help me.
· If I seek them out, then I don’t follow their advice.
· I look for new people to tell my troubles to, because other people have heard them all for too long.
· I stay in situations that no longer serve me and are actually causing me emotional pain.
· I dream about how much better things would be if I could just take the first step.
· Fear and depression are constant companions.
· I don’t enjoy life and my main pleasures are either illegitimate or obsessions.
· I exhibit a lot of negativity or complaining.
· I admire others who have made important changes to the point of putting them on pedestal. Or I resent them and want to push them off that pedestal. Either way, I believe these people are better, smarter and more fortunate than me.
This was not an exhaustive list, but it was exhausting. The list of how to change is much shorter.
· Get Started.
· Keep Going.
Those are the only things I’ve seen work so far. If God Himself were to give me $1,000,000, or better, my house on the beach, even that wouldn’t really change my life unless I continued to live in Purpose. It has been action that has changed my life. It has been action that has helped me defeat my resistance to change. It always will be.