The Cause of and Solution to the Barrier of Resistance
It’s not surprising that many people are frustrated by failing to achieve their dreams. After all, neither their parents nor their teachers taught them how to be successful in life. As life passes them by, they stand, blinking, and asking, “What went wrong?” Since it’s never too late to learn or to change our fortune, I’ll pass on the missing lessons…
What holds us back, more than anything else, is a conflict between what we WANT to do versus what we FEEL LIKE doing. For example, students may WANT to do well in school, but FEEL LIKE partying with their friends. If it’s a choice between studying and partying, which do you think most students will choose?
That’s right, the answer is partying. But that’s self-defeating behavior. It is in conflict with their goal to succeed. And once they neglect their studies, they will have to work twice as hard trying to catch up. This creates stress, making them feel bad. Since they feel bad, they will try to numb the pain by seeking pleasure, such as more partying! So, you see how easy it is to dig oneself into a hole so deep there’s almost no escape.
Given that self-defeating behavior is so harmful, when faced with a choice between what we WANT and what we FEEL LIKE, why do we usually follow our feelings instead of following our dreams? Well, what we WANT to do flows from our rational (or conscious) mind, and what we FEEL LIKE doing is emotional, flowing from our subconscious. Our rational mind has the WILL, but our subconscious has the POWER; it can stop us from doing what we want.
How does it do this? It does so by creating RESISTANCE. For example, let’s say that a student looks at the calendar and sees that an important test is approaching. He tells himself that he had better study tonight. But as soon as he has this thought, fear is triggered in the subconscious because it associates studying hard with pain. The subconscious abhors pain. So to protect itself, it prevents the conscious mind from acting by erecting the barrier of RESISTENCE, which is nothing more than the subconscious balking or digging in its heels and saying, “NO!”
The trick, then, is, how do we defeat this pernicious RESISTENCE, which destroys so many of our dreams? The secret to overcoming resistance is to start on whatever needs to be done by taking a baby step, a step so small that the subconscious doesn’t detect a threat; it’s a matter of flying under the radar, so to speak.
Okay, it’s time to look at an example. Let’s stick to the case of an executive that needs to organize his work day. We’re going to assume he knows how the subconscious works, so he will start by taking innocuous baby steps, such as the following:
1. Make a list of the tasks that need to be done today.
2. Rearrange the items in the order of priority, beginning with the highest priority and working down.
3. Estimate how much time needs to spent on each task.
Note that up to this point he hasn’t actually started working, so his subconscious doesn’t feel threatened and it isn’t creating any resistance. Yet, these simple steps have primed the pump; that is, prepared him for work. So now that there isn’t any resistance, he immediately begins. And once he starts, some remarkable things happen:
1. Since we cannot think of two things at the same time, once we immerse ourselves in a task, that’s all we can think about. All thoughts about whether it is pleasant or not fade from our consciousness. And as we get involved in the task, it grows increasingly interesting. So, the ‘pain’ associated with doing something we don’t want to do is short-lived.
2. We discover that the task was not as hard nor did it take as long to do as we had imagined. Remembering this will make it easier to start the next task.
3. We learn that we have the power to do what we don’t feel like doing. Understanding this unleashes the power of our potential, for the key to success is self-discipline. But knowing what we do about the subconscious and its fear of pain, we shouldn’t use the word “self-DISCIPLINE” because it is apt to trigger resistance. Instead, we should call it what it really is, SELF-LEADERSHIP, which is nothing less than the freedom to create the lives we wish to have.
4. After finishing an important task that we didn’t feel like doing, there is a feeling of exhilaration. We feel proud of our accomplishment and are delighted to learn we have the self-leadership to take charge of our life. Therefore, what we thought would be painful turns out to be highly pleasurable.
5. What’s more, as we experience this truth, we come to embrace discomfort because of the pleasure and power conquering it will bring. And as we experience victory after victory, we will grow in confidence, feel exuberant, and know what it truly means to be free.
6. To avoid missing out on success, we mustn’t be tricked into running from responsibility to indulge in some fleeting pleasure. After all, if we were to do so, we would find the ‘pleasure’ (such as watching TV) is pleasure in name only. For as we waste valuable time, we will be racked with guilt, greatly diminishing our ‘pleasure.’ And whatever momentary pleasure we were to experience, it would later be followed by stress and regret.
7. When we consider these facts, we will discover that what we usually interpret as pleasure ends up being painful, and what we first interpret as painful, turns out to be pleasurable. The lesson, then, is we have to think before we act, for the price of living irresponsibly and neglecting our duties is loss of happiness. On the other hand, the result of mastering self-leadership and living up to our responsibilities is a life of accomplishments and joy.