How To Beat 'Resistance' To Change

“I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.” 
― Margaret AtwoodThe Handmaid’s Tale

When starting my first garden, I couldn’t get the old spade to make a dent in the ground.

Each jab into the hard-core earth jarred my shoulder. No yielding.

I found the spade rusting under a pile of ‘one-day-useful’ junk in the back shed. Someone’s warrior garden tool.

A few more sharp jabs, angling the spade the way I saw my father do, and a splinter of soil cracked.

I looked at the spade. And it at me.

One of us wasn’t cut out for this job.

A few more jabs and I could fill a teacup with the dirt moved.

Resistance.

A trilogy of it: me, the ground, the weeds.

This would be a long haul.

Time For A Tried And Trusted Intervention.

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” 
― Steven Pressfield

Time for coffee. My go-to worry-about-it-later stop-gap.

After a week of weed tugging and teacup-filling tilling, I stopped.

The shovel leaned against the fence. Abandoned.

The paspalum weeds flung themselves with abandon as the breeze blew. Spreading more seed.

As if to say:

“She’s too weak. No strength. No will.” I could even hear a boom-box beat underscoring the words.

Out Came The Battle Plan.

“Protest is when I say I don’t like this. Resistance is when I put an end to what I don’t like.” — Ulrike Marie Meinhof

As the garden was too big to chew in one bite (one massive elephant here), I sectioned pieces to work on — each about a meter square. Manageable.

Primary Tactical Strategy #1: Call On Moses.

“We are like water, aren’t we? We can be fluid, flexible when we have to be. But strong and destructive, too.” 
― Wally LambWe Are Water

If Moses could part the seas to the promised land, I was in with a chance. A solid plan formed to overcome resistance.

Drown the weeds. Drench the ground. Dig with ease.

After 6 months of drench-drown-dig spade work, the weeds knew they’d lost the battle. I could sense it in their pathetic whimper as soon as ‘The Rusted Spade’ and I turned up in our warrior garden gear.

Change Is The Resistance.

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” 
― Peter M. Senge

My garden is no work of art. It’s a suburban front yard. With a bed of lavender and a rough attempt at a ‘cottage garden come country charm’.

Its resistance to be tethered was an echo of my resistance.

And while I’d love to say sheer willpower overcame resistance and got the job done.

It didn’t.

I’d spent a mini-fortune at the local nursery. And needed to get those frail stems into the ground before they died of heat exposure and thirst.

It was Guilt with a capital G that kept me going.

And it worked. Seeing the defenseless seedlings filled with ‘survival hope’ and their potential for growth tricked me into completing each section.

Project. Done.

Effective Battle Strategy #1 worked: Moses + Guilt = Resistance Fighter

And now, each summer as the leafy branches of trees and shrubs shade the ground, I sense a different battle won.

Not with the ground. Nor the weeds.

An internal one.

I leaned into resistance. One teaspoon at a time.

One jarring shovel jab at a time.

One drenching hose at a time.

I didn’t need a fancy tool. Or the latest gadget.

Just the trusty Rusted Spade once buried under a pile of junk in the back shed.

A tool I already had.

Yes. It’s An Anlogy.

“The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.” — Seth Godin

We each have tools in our back shed rusted from lack of use.

As I work alongside people to help them solve problems — at work, in relationships and with personal success — it’s about finding the tools they have, yet may have forgotten to use.

My main tool is ‘asking questions’. This spade I keep sharpened and well-oiled. Not hidden under junk in the back shed.

And in the hope of sharing my trusted spade with you, I offer these questions:

Warning: The Following Questions May Bring Change

“The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.” — Seth Godin

As you look at these questions, you may want to gloss over some with a flick of an answer.

In reading others, you may experience a sensation in your gut — as if you’ve hit a road bump.

Both reactions are worthwhile.

Because whatever your reaction … there lays your answer.

The stronger the reaction, the harder the soil to dig through.

So find a quiet space where you can think and reflect.

Take out your personal journal (yes, it’s a worthwhile daily habit to do).

And spend time getting to know a part of you that’s waiting to break through — whatever hard ground you’re jabbing at.

20 Questions From The Once-Rusted Spade:

“Whenever you see a board up with “Trespassers will be prosecuted,” trespass at once.” 
― Virginia Woolf
  1. Who are you working with that’s challenging you?
  2. What are you learning about yourself?
  3. Who are you seeking to become?
  4. How will this help you and others?
  5. Who would you like to learn from?
  6. What would you gain from this experience?
  7. What’s your biggest secret?
  8. What’s the #1 thing you fear?
  9. What does this say about you?
  10. Who do you influence? (subtly and overtly)
  11. Who influences you? (subtly and overtly)
  12. What do you create that no one else does just like you?
  13. When are you at your best?
  14. When have you let yourself down?
  15. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  16. How are you leaving your print (your mark)?
  17. When you’re on your own, what do you think about?
  18. When you’re in a crowd, how do you feel?
  19. What makes you, you?
  20. If you were a song, what would it be?

The quality of the questions you ask yourself are as important as the habits that support them.

You can build the habits that support change — successful change in your life. It all starts with intention, follow through … and sometimes a little dab of guilt.