It’s a new year, and you might be thinking about some changes you would like to make. But if you’re like most of us, you tend to get pretty excited about those changes for a little while, but find it challenging to make them stick. I know plenty of folks who buy treadmills in January, only to be using them as clothing racks by the end of February. Do you want this year to be different?
Someone once taught me an equation for how people change: P + V > R. P, which represents “Pain,” combines with V (“vision”) to overcome R, which represents “resistance.” What’s the resistance all about? As humans, our tendency is to stick with what is familiar, even if it’s not working for us. It’s the idea that the hell we do know is better than the one we don’t. We’re hanging on so tightly to what we already have that we can’t let go long enough to even consider how life might change or get better, even if what we’re attached to is actually decreasing our happiness on a daily basis. This reminds me of my dog, who loves nothing more than to chase her ball. But she won’t let go of it so that we can throw it. She sits there, miserable, guarding the ball and growling-sort of a metaphor for the way a lot of us live.
Resistance is pretty powerful stuff. It can take a lot of forms: inertia, lack of motivation, negative self-talk, excuses, procrastination or anxiety. I often experience it as busyness. When I was working on my thesis and had a deadline, I had a sudden, inexplicable urge to reorganize every kitchen cabinet. A lot of this resistance is the same thing: fear. Fear of change or fear of failure (“it’s better to just stick to the way that things are, because it’s safer that way”) or a fear of this new, sudden, unrecognizable person we might become if we just allowed ourselves the space to grow.
So how do some people overcome resistance and make changes? Well, sometimes you don’t have a choice. Sometimes the choice is made for you. A situation becomes so painful (P) that it becomes more comfortable to change than to stay in your current situation. Change is not an option.