Why is resistance so irresistible?

Why do we resist what is inevitable? We all know it’s coming. We can’t stop it. But we still try. Why do we struggle with change so much?

I’ve been working in change management for decades. Years of guiding people through change should have made me an expert. Yet I’m not very good when I’m faced with it myself. As the saying goes, “cobblers’ children have the worst shod shoes.” Or the 1546 version, “But who is wurs shod, than the shoemaker’s wyfe?”

There’s an equation professional change managers use to identify whether organisations or employees are ready to change. It goes like this:

D x V x F > R

D, V and F are the drivers for change. R is what stops it all dead in its tracks.

D stands for level of Dissatisfaction. I’m unhappy in my relationship, or I dislike my job. Without this frustration we won’t change, as there’s no driver.

V is the Vision of a compelling future. I want to buy my own apartment, or I want to get promoted at work. We need to know where we are heading, or we’ll spin with no clue of where to go.

F means the First practical steps. We may want to get into bioengineering. But if we don’t know what skills are required, or who to talk to, then it will be difficult to start.

R is where it can come unstuck — Resistance to change. If the others combined are smaller than Resistance, nothing will shift. We could be miserable in our work, unhappy at home, or just disappointed we’re not fitter. But, if the cost of changing is greater than inertia, then we won’t budge.

Stuck in the velvet rut. This is how Andy described his life. He’s one of my Spoon by Spoon interviewees and he’d been working in sales for 28 years. He didn’t like it, but stayed nonetheless. Why?

“It was nice and cosy. It was velvety in there because I had a pretty good salary. I was good at what I did. I was respected, was achieving, had the pension, the company car. All the above.”

And to put all of that at risk by doing something quite drastic led Andy to, as he put it, “bubbling along for years” thinking it would be nice to do something else, but not taking action.

He wanted to do something more meaningful, to give back to the world. But instead, he told himself, “Look at the nice holidays we can have.” And if the washing machine broke down, “I’ll just buy a new one.”

He knew there were very few people out there who had that luxury, “They’re credit-carded up to their eyeballs and struggling. So instead I just counted my blessings every day.”

So ask yourself these questions:

– What specifically is annoying you, making you unhappy, causing problems in your life?

– What would you like instead? Have you got a picture in your mind about what would be better?

– Are you clear about what you need to do, so you can move towards your goal?

– So what is stopping you making this change?

Andy went through a career change course as a way of forcing himself to do something. He said, “It’s unblocked certain things in my brain because I’m certainly back to being my old self again. I’ve completely re-engaged… despite being furloughed and the horrible things going on in the wider world. I’m thinking more clearly now.”

He’s not sure what he’s going to do next, but he’s keeping busy talking to a lot of people. “I’ve got no idea where I’m going to end up, what I’m going to do or when it’s going to happen. But it’s gonna happen.”


This is part of a series called Spoon by Spoon — a project I’ve run interviewing 100 people going through career, relationship and wider life changes. If you’re looking for support with your own career or life change find out more here.

Photo copyright of Charlotte Sheridan

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