When I worked as part of a large business transformation program we used to joke about being ‘licensed to change you!’ yet we all know that the reality is that the only person who can change you is you! Yet why is it that we are reluctant to change even when we recognise the benefits? And sometimes we find ourselves, or others actively resisting change and even subverting it! A client, let’s call him Joe, has been working hard all his career with the aim of becoming a Board Director. For years he has complained about the time it is taking and how he might have to move to another company to get the role he wants. And now he is so close that he knows it will happen this year, yet he was considering telling the MD he’s not ready! This is a perfect example of resistance but it is not always as obvious as this. It is perfectly natural to feel some resistance to change and to get in your own way can be very real, regardless of whether the change is something we want or not.

What other forms does resistance to change take?

Resistance to change can take many different forms in different people. Sometimes it can show itself as physical symptoms, such as headaches and muscle pain. This can result in us taking time off work or out of our business.
Perhaps it is feeling low and lacking motivation to do anything.
Also, we can find ourselves, doing things to avoid facing up to what is happening. It could be not returning phone calls or emails.
The key to remember here is that it is frequently not intentional and often we are unaware that the reasons for our poor health or feeling low are what is happening around us.

So let’s look at the 5 common reasons for resistance to change.

1. Fear of unknown.
We tend to be creatures of habit and often when we talk about change, what we actually mean is other people changing rather than us! As the old expression goes…”Better the devil you know..”
Even when the change is something we think we want, we will often avoid it as it feels safer to stay where we are.2.

2. Imposter syndrome.
This is partly what is affecting Andy. This is where a person with a depth of knowledge starts to have a crisis of confidence. They can start to doubt their own competence and feel that if they put themselves out there they will be ‘found out’!

3. Lack of trust
If you have a reason not to trust the person who is leading or the reason for the change then you will be much more likely to try to resist what is happening.

4. Poor timing
The rate of change in our lives means that we are rarely dealing with just one change at a time. When life throws us one change after another and this can leave us feeling unsettled and much more likely to dig our heals in and not want to change.

5. Previous experience of change
Likewise, if you have had a poor experience of a previous change then you are more likely to try to resist. This can happen, even when it is a change that you want! It is likely that whilst positive thinking will help, it might not be enough. In order to move forward, you need to work out what you can do to reduce your resistance.

  •  Accept your reactions as real and true. Allow yourself to cry, if that what you need to do, scream into your pillow or laugh like a maniac!
  • Talk to someone you trust about how you feel, sometimes just chatting it through can help get it in perspective or reduce your fear.
  • If you don’t want to share it then write it down, don’t judge what you are writing, just let it all flow out.
  • Try stepping back and looking at the situation objectively.
  • What would you advise your best friend to do if they were in this situation?
  • Ask yourself, what needs to happen for you to feel better about the change?
  • Make a list of the questions that need to be answered.

An important thing to remember is that you have a history of surviving change, you were once a child and are now an adult, so you can do this. I love this quote from Martin Luther King

‘Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’

So one step at a time will be fine and you don’t need to know the outcome just what you need to do next.

I have a free Masterclass on Wanted Change available and you can access it here.

I’d love to know your thoughts about resistance to change, so please leave them below.


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