Overcoming resistance

My last post focused on the futility of resistance. We use intuition much more often and automatically than reason. Because of this, most of us find it hard to form those habits which will benefit us. Our intuition, which protects us from pain and difficulty, causes us to resist the changes that form positive habits. To be successful in our attempts at overcoming resistance, we must make a conscious effort to engage our reasoning process AND to allow it to win our internal arguments.

Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

In order to overcome resistance, we must “flip a switch” in our internal processes. How do we do this? There are two keys: patience and starting small.

Overcoming resistance – how long will it take?

Chances are, you’ve heard the 21-day myth. This myth, which I thought was a fact before researching for this post, says if you do something consistently for 21 days that thing will become a habit. British psychologist Phillippa Lally disproved this myth nearly a decade ago. It actually takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. And 66 days is just an average; participants in the study took anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form new habits.

That doesn’t sound too good for quieting our intuitive process and letting our reasoning process take control, does it? 21 days was bad enough, but science says it could actually take three times as long. How can we overcome resistance for that long?

As it turns out, the 21-day myth was wrong on another thing. Pop science has led us to believe missing one day of doing the thing we are trying to make a habit will derail our progress. Ms. Lally’s study found missing a day here or there didn’t have a significant impact on the action becoming a habit. This means we can give ourselves a little bit of grace here and there – we don’t have to begin at zero if life keeps us from the gym one day.

Starting small makes overcoming resistance easier.

We only engage our reasoning process when a decision requires more thought and deliberation than our day-to-day decisions usually require. Certain practices like meditation can encourage us to use our reason with more regularity, but wouldn’t it be better to “trick” our intuition into thinking the thing we are resisting is fun and painless? Isn’t this switch easier to flip than forcing ourselves to use our reasoning process?

We can actually do this by starting small. When we start small, things we find unpleasant are a lot easier to tolerate. When something is easy to tolerate, our intuition – which encourages our resistance – doesn’t squawk quite as loudly. Over time, your intuition might even squawk at you for not doing the thing you once to resisted.

Resistance is futile. Overcoming resistance is easy.

Humans are strange creatures. The very internal process which once kept us safe from predators also encourages us to resist the things that keep us healthy and sane in our modern world.

Fighting things which would work for our benefit is incapable of producing any useful result.

Resistance is futile.

Fortunately, overcoming resistance takes a little bit of time and a willingness to accept small changes are as important as big ones.

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