When things didn’t go according to plan, my mom used to lament, “best laid plans …” Usually, it was accompanied with a sigh of resignation. Oftentimes I witness business leaders, armed with a road map to grow their company, mutter similar words of frustration. While there are numerous obstacles on the path to implementation of a strategic plan, sometimes the biggest impediment is resistance.
By resistance, I am referring to the emotional, attitudinal and behavioral barriers that prevent the best of intentions from manifesting. It may show up as fear, doubt, procrastination, distraction, ego, perfectionism, timidity, overanalysis, anxiety, avoidance or discredit. People may have experienced this with their employees, clients, partners, and more importantly, within themselves.
Resistance is an invisible (yet palpable), negative force every entrepreneur faces. It is triggered most powerfully when we pursue any act that entails commitment of the heart; a principled stand in the face of adversity; or when we encounter something that threatens the ego’s comfort zone.
“The more important a call to action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we feel toward pursuing it,” Steven Pressfield writes in “Do the Work! Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way.” He goes on to explain that resistance emerges when we reject “immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity.”
Think about it. If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking or start a fitness program, you’ve no doubt experienced serious internal resistance!
Is it legitimate or fear-based?
When do we know if it is resistance and not a legitimate reallocation of our time, money and energy? With our multifaceted, rapid pace of life, we regularly encounter a number of competing priorities, changes in reality and unanticipated issues that demand our attention. This is where rigorous self-honesty and intuition come into play.
Often we’ll find resistance seeping into our brains as chatter — excuses, justifications, alibis and rationalizations. If someone has made an agreement with oneself, and that agreement is being challenged, there is no doubt that resistance has arisen.
How do we combat resistance? Fortunately, people likely have the tools they need; they just need to actively integrate them into their daily lives. Let’s start with passion. Fear (resistance) saps passion, so bring full enthusiasm to bear.
Next, be ready to be stubborn in pursuits. This trait often is perceived in a negative light, but here, in the fight against resistance, it’s needed to prevent obstacles from becoming deterrents.
Finally, maintain faith in what’s possible. Business leaders will inspire others only if they fully believe in their idea and stubbornly pursue it with passion.
The steps taken in pursuit of one’s goals are creative acts, and creativity is a basic human need for expression. Creativity can be messy, as it often means one is embarking on unchartered territory. But, if the road map has been developed, then the execution is the reward — not something to be resisted!
Now, if there isn’t a solid plan built on one’s core values, purpose, vision, strategy and goals, then the “right path” may not be recognizable. People who don’t have a plan they can fully embrace and articulate with excitement will find it extremely challenging to fight the never-ending resistance. (Caveat: Be careful not to let the need for “certainty” get in the way of embarking on a plan. Contact me to obtain a copy of “The Planning Pyramid” for a strategic framework).
Take the K Communications Challenge:
1. Pay attention to your own resistance. When and how does it show up? Some common ones are: avoiding difficult conversations, perfectionism getting in the way of starting a new project; putting out fires instead of delegating responsibilities and coaching for results. By building awareness of when you are resistant and what it is you are resistant about, you can start changing your attitudes and behaviors.
2. Maintain clarity. Knowing what you are trying to create or accomplish fuels your passion. Keep your vision front and center. With this kind of intentionality, you can play from a place of power and enthusiasm, not from a place of fear and uncertainty.
3. Commit. Take one item that you’ve been resisting and define the action steps needed to make it happen (i.e., hire for new position: create job description, determine qualifications needed, salary and benefits, role within the company, where to post the ad, when to start interviewing, etc.). Assign time each day to take action steps that will get you closer to achieving this one strategic priority. (Note: These action steps can also be delegated, but be sure to define and track success to keep momentum).
Slay the resistance dragon
What we resist persists. Start now — tackle today whatever it is that you are resisting with a new level of passion, stubbornness, clarity and commitment. Does it feel edgy? You’ll know if you’re truly slaying the dragon of resistance if it feels a little uncomfortable. You’ll also know you’re playing the game to win, not to not lose.
And, remember to have fun! In the words of the band Cake, “Some people like to make life a little tougher than it is.” By creating this new approach of tackling resistance head on, you’ll find yourself not making life harder than it needs to be, and your “best laid plans…” will begin to manifest!
Karen Natzel is a business therapist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this column originally appeared in Daily Journal of Commerce (Oregon), sister publication to The Daily Record.