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7 Strategies to Overcome Internal Resistance

To deal with internal resistance to personal development, it’s important to recognize and confront the inner voice that holds you back. This voice often triggers feelings of inadequacy or fear, impeding goal attainment.

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Man in a 'Burn Your Problems' T-shirt standing under a concrete structure, highlighting strategies to overcome internal resistance and confront challenges head-on.
Seven Powerful Techniques to Overcome Self-Imposed Obstacles

Let’s delve into effective approaches for overcoming internal resistance that may arise when presented with opportunities for personal development.

Success in any endeavour can be hindered by a contrary force that manifests within yourself as a voice that tells you that you can’t, you don’t have, you shouldn’t, or you don’t know. This voice can take different forms, such as distraction, hunger, headache, sleepiness, or any other excuse that prevents you from moving toward your goal.

These excuses can be used to avoid the necessary change or action. Awareness of this voice and learning to control it to achieve your goals and objectives is essential.

The voice of resistance is an internal force that prevents you from realizing your ideas, even when you know what you should do.

This widespread problem can undermine confidence in yourself and your abilities, often due to broken promises. It is an internal struggle that many people experience to a greater or lesser extent and can manifest as the feeling of not being prepared or good enough. Recognizing and facing this voice is essential to overcoming obstacles and moving towards achieving your goals.

How do you overcome internal resistance to personal development?

To overcome internal resistance, it is necessary to understand its deep-seated nature. At a biological level, resistance can be related to the principle of homeostasis, which is the complex network of mechanisms that maintain stable the parameters necessary for our survival, such as pH, body temperature, and blood pressure, among others. Since the organism is essentially conservative, if one way of operating has worked to keep you alive, your mind resists change. Therefore, internal resistance becomes a powerful force preventing you from achieving your goals.

Resistance to change is a natural and necessary biological mechanism for survival. Still, it can become an obstacle when it prevents us from moving forward with new projects or healthy habits. Although this resistance is essential for maintaining homeostasis in the body, it can limit our potential for development when new opportunities present themselves.

Let’s imagine that you have decided to create a blog about healthy eating to educate others and improve their lives. However, internal resistance can appear in the form of negative thoughts, such as the belief that your blog will not be viable due to the large number of competitors that exist in the market, and therefore, it is not worth the effort. These thoughts can make you doubt your abilities and limit your creativity and motivation to carry out your project.

The voice of resistance can also manifest itself by suggesting that, although your idea is very good, it may not be the right time to implement it.

It will tell you that you should prepare more or wait for better conditions to emerge to take the final leap. This form of resistance can make you postpone your project indefinitely, preventing you from taking action and achieving your goals. It is essential to be prepared to carry out an idea; however, it is common for the voice of resistance to be disguised behind the argument of not being sufficiently prepared, which leads to postponing taking action indefinitely.

To discern whether it is resistance or lack of preparation, a general rule can be applied: if you are holding yourself back, then it is resistance. If, on the other hand, you lack preparation, you can continue to advance as necessary, but you should not stop moving toward your goal. Remember that you can’t get rid of resistance. You can only move forward despite it without holding back on what you have set out to do.

Strategies to deal with internal resistance.

Here I present a list of strategies that can help you move forward despite internal resistance. Although they are not all possible, here is a selection of the most effective ones that I have learned:

  1. Set deadlines.

Setting deadlines is crucial in project management for maintaining progress and accountability. By breaking down tasks and setting specific timelines, you ensure that work moves forward efficiently.

Deadlines help combat procrastination and resistance by focusing efforts and resources on achieving goals. However, setting realistic deadlines is important to avoid stress and maintain quality.

Effective communication within the team ensures everyone understands their responsibilities and can work towards meeting deadlines together. This way, any necessary preparation will be done within the established times, and then you must continue moving forward. If you stop, then the voice of resistance will have triumphed.

Setting realistic deadlines drives productivity and ensures project success by keeping tasks on track and overcoming resistance to progress.

  1. Remember that “the best is the enemy of the good.”

In practical terms, this means prioritizing progress over perfection and making decisions based on what is feasible within the constraints of time and resources. While it’s important to strive for excellence, it’s equally important to recognize when good is indeed good enough to meet the project’s objectives and deadlines.

Therefore, when setting deadlines, it’s crucial to strike a balance between aiming for the best possible outcome and acknowledging the limitations of time and resources. This approach fosters productivity, maintains momentum, and ultimately leads to successful project completion.

“Release the tension of resistance and embrace the ease of allowing. That’s when magic happens.” – Esther Hicks

Perfectionism can be counterproductive, as it can lead you to procrastinate and not act, which is worse than producing something that is not perfect. Instead of seeking absolute perfection, focus on creating the best product possible within the time and resources available.

You must respect the deadlines you have established and avoid falling into the trap of thinking that you can always improve what you have already created. Remember that with experience, you will improve the quality of what you produce.

  1. Reward yourself.

In psychology, the idea that any behaviour that receives a pleasant consequence is more likely to be repeated is known as the “reinforcement principle.” This principle underpins various aspects of human behaviour, including learning, motivation, and habit formation.

Applying this principle to project management and personal productivity, it becomes evident that acknowledging progress and rewarding oneself for achievements can be powerful motivators. By giving oneself recognition or a reward each time progress is made on a project, individuals effectively reinforce their motivation to continue and diminish resistance to the task at hand.

“Resistance is the ego’s way of protecting itself, but true liberation comes from surrendering to the flow of life.” – Michael A. Singer

Recognition and rewards need not be extravagant gestures; simple acts of self-affirmation, such as acknowledging a job well done or giving oneself praise, can be remarkably effective. By consciously acknowledging progress, individuals tap into their intrinsic motivation, fostering a positive feedback loop that encourages continued effort and perseverance, making it more likely to be repeated in the future.

Therefore, you must give yourself recognition or a reward every time you progress on your project. This will program your motivational system to want more and resist less.

 

  1. Separate your identity from the “voice” of the resistance.

A fundamental aspect of dealing with the “voice of resistance” within you is to separate your identity from this voice. You are not this voice, it is not your thought, but it is a kind of automatic program that is running in your operating system. This way, you can learn to distance yourself from thoughts of resistance and recognize them for what they are.

“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” ―Stephen Covey

You can say to yourself, “Here is my resistance speaking again.” “Now I realize I’m having thoughts of resistance.” The phrase is not as important as the act of taking some distance from your thoughts and recognizing that it is something that does not define who you are or what you are capable of. This way, resistance can have less influence on your behaviour and what you decide to do.

  1. Start by forming micro-habits.

As the size of the change, you want to make increases, the resistance you feel also increases. Therefore, if you start with small-scale changes, it will be easier to move forward. Micro-habits are habits that require very little time and effort, allowing you to do them consistently and with less chance of resistance holding you back.

These habits are designed to help you progress toward a larger goal by breaking it down into small, manageable steps. For example, if your goal is to exercise regularly, you could start with the micro-habit of doing just one push-up each morning. If it’s a reading habit, you can start with one page each day, etc.

 

  1. Efficiency in Action: Harnessing the 80/20 Principle

When we apply the 80/20 principle, also known as Pareto’s Law, we recognize that a significant proportion of outcomes are driven by a small subset of inputs. In practical terms, this means that roughly 80% of the results stem from just 20% of the causes. Whether we’re working on a project or striving to enhance our well-being, understanding this principle can guide us toward more effective and efficient efforts.

Similarly, when it comes to personal development goals, applying the 80/20 principle involves pinpointing the key actions that yield the greatest improvements in our health, skills, or overall well-being.

Rather than spreading ourselves thin across numerous activities, we concentrate on the vital few behaviours or habits that drive the most significant results. Whether it’s committing to regular exercise, practicing mindfulness, or cultivating specific skills relevant to our aspirations, channelling our energies into these high-impact actions propels us closer to our goals with greater efficiency.

In essence, thinking in terms of the 80/20 principle encourages us to prioritize ruthlessly and focus our energies where we can make the most substantial difference. By identifying the key drivers of success or progress and concentrating our efforts on these critical few elements, we optimize our resources and enhance our chances of achieving meaningful results in both our projects and personal endeavours.

  1. Focus on the task and not the result.

If you focus solely on the result you want to achieve, you are likely to perceive it as something much bigger and more threatening than it is. Instead, you can focus on a specific action that gets you closer to your goal without worrying as much about the result.

Focusing on the task rather than the result involves directing your attention toward the actions you need to take rather than fixating on the outcome. When we concentrate solely on the result, it can often appear daunting and overwhelming, leading to increased stress and anxiety. This heightened pressure can hinder our ability to perform effectively and can even lead to procrastination or avoidance of the task altogether.

By shifting our focus to the specific actions required to move closer to our goal, we break down the larger objective into more manageable steps. This approach allows us to concentrate on the present moment and the immediate tasks at hand, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of the result.

Moreover, focusing on the process rather than the outcome encourages a more proactive and solution-oriented mindset. Instead of becoming paralyzed by fear of failure or uncertainty about the outcome, we can channel our energy into taking concrete steps toward progress. Each action taken becomes a small victory, reinforcing our sense of competence and motivation to continue moving forward.

In essence, focusing on the task rather than the result allows us to approach our goals with greater clarity, resilience, and effectiveness. It enables us to break through the paralysis of perfectionism and fear, empowering us to take meaningful action toward our objectives while embracing the journey of growth and learning along the way.

Final thoughts

To deal with internal resistance to personal development, it’s important to recognize and confront the inner voice that holds you back. This voice often leads to feelings of inadequacy or fear of failure, hindering progress towards your goals.

Strategies for overcoming this resistance include setting deadlines, focusing on small actions rather than worrying about the result, rewarding yourself for progress, and separating your identity from the voice of resistance. Additionally, adopting micro-habits, leveraging the 80/20 principle for efficient efforts, and prioritizing tasks over outcomes can help you overcome resistance and make meaningful strides toward personal growth.