“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us.
Between the two stands Resistance.”
― Steven Pressfield
As leaders, while we may be getting better at recognizing when procrastination and Imposter Syndrome are inadvertently self-sabotaging our success, it is the sometimes invisible and multi-faceted specter of resistance that may be creating the most harm.
Every day I talk with extraordinary leaders actively curating lives and careers of impact and joy. People with careers and Next Chapter goals as varied as their ages and employment status and scenarios. Within this diversity, it is exhilarating (from a coach’s perspective!) to observe how many common barriers to success are self-created; thus providing an opportunity to create strategies to help.
A good reminder, too, that we are not alone in our challenges!
Resistance can show up in many forms. It can be an outcome of self-doubt, and an aspect of our limiting beliefs – what we believe (as fact) is and is not possible.
While you may be able to identify when you (or others) experience a lack of confidence, resistance can hide in plain sight.
If you are actively seeking to increase your impact as a leader, to learn, to advance, to create financial abundance in alignment with your true value, and you wonder if you may be inadvertently holding yourself back, here are 5 Steps to Reveal Your Resistance that may help:
- Have there been situations recently where you took yourself out of the “game”? Declined an invitation to do something? Removed yourself from an opportunity to grow, learn, stretch new leadership muscles, advance, be seen? Not participated fully in something? Said “no”? Given up on the promotion/happiness/achieving your dream scenario/success/etc.?
- Make a list of all the reasons why you made that choice (Ideally before reading the next Step).
- See if any of your practical-sounding reasons appear in some of the common forms of resistance below [note: you’ll notice it’s tricky: what is true in one situation, can be resistance in another. Coaching can help reveal the “truth” for you.):
- Best practices/norms “I need to stay in this job for another year.” “I need to get more training before I’m ready to…” “I’m not supposed to…” “No one else is doing that”
- Blame “That person doesn’t know what they’re doing.” “They don’t know what I need.” “They don’t value me.” “They should have been more prepared.”
- Separation “I’m not salesy.” “I’m not like that.” “I would never…” “This is just how I am.” “They don’t really believe I can do it.” “I don’t have the time.” “I don’t have the money.” “I’m an introvert.” “No one else…” “This is ridiculous.” “This is so amateur.”
- Disconnection “This isn’t going to change. It’s just how it is.” “I’m never going to be able to…”
- Flight “I’m not going to waste my time on this.” “I’m leaving.” “I’m quitting.”
4. Now, pause for a minute to think about your overall goals.
5. In looking back at the situations where you chose not to lean in fully, what might the benefit be (to you and to others) if you said “yes”? How can you reword your list of reasons to make it “make sense” for you to say yes? (This often means letting go of some big assumptions and beliefs – which of course then creates the possibility of Big Shifts!).
If this is resonating with you, here’s a little extra motivation: When we let our resistance prevent us from doing something… it is often an indication that we are thinking more of ourselves than those we aim to serve. Yikes! Learning this from one of my mentors literally stopped me in my tracks. And it’s guided me ever since.
I remember the first time I became aware of my resistance hiding as “being a good leader.” It was before a performance at the University of California San Diego where I was serving as Interim Executive Director of Artpower. I’d always sought to empower and celebrate my team, with a very behind the scenes approach to leadership, and had asked my staff to do the curtain speech. I told myself it was my production and operations background, that I didn’t want to be “that person who sounds like a salesman,” that I wanted others to shine – and I had many other “good” reasons to not go on stage to speak.
You can see the story I was creating in my head – and I believed it rather than being self-aware that I am an introvert, I used to get really nervous, I was afraid of making mistakes – I’m not good at memorizing words (music I can!), and getting up on stage was terrifying.
That night, a donor asked me if I was going to do the curtain speech. I said no, a staff member was. She said “Kathryn. You are boldly leading us forward, and I am grateful for that. But we need to see all 6 feet of you on stage, visibly embodying that we remain an organization that is thriving and moving forward during our leadership transition. The donors, the community members, we all NEED you to do and be this for us.”
Guess who went on stage?
From that moment on, I began asking myself “What do those around me need, in order for them to do and be their best. How can I show up fully to create that possibility?” Over time, while every organization is different, I’ve learned how to stay open to stretching new muscles. I am becoming quite fearless – or at least I feel that way until a new, sneaky form of resistance appears! My coaches say that I am very “coachable” which I believe reflects my commitment in curating a life of joy and impact, and my understanding that the way to do that is to (only) choose the thoughts, feelings, language and actions that create that possibility.
“Rise to the challenge of bringing your dreams to life! Do not be discouraged by resistance, be nourished by it. Success is the experience of rising to the level of your true greatness.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
To your success,