Resistance is futile! So why do we do it?

Worry not; Pocket Change remains free from the Borg.

“Resistance is futile” conjures images of a villain taunting a hero with inevitable failure. I want to look at this now-cliche phrase from a different perspective. Most of us don’t confront tyranny and oppression on a daily basis. We do, however, face our own inner villains. These villains tell us we can put off going to the gym one more day. We can wait until Monday to start the diet. It’s more important to just get the work done than it is to write a process that would let others do the work in our place. Offboarding those non-ideal clients will be more trouble than keeping them.

Most of us resist at least a handful of things that would be good for us. And it’s completely futile. To quote the dictionary (while begging forgiveness from my high school English teachers): “futile” means “incapable of producing any useful result.”

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

So, why do we do it?

Why do we face resistance toward the things we know are good for us?

Theories abound regarding why people face resistance toward the things that are good for them. My favorite – and the one I think is the most accurate – is the dual process theory, which was popularized by Daniel Kahneman. You can read about this theory in depth here. In a nutshell, dual process theory postulates humans process things in two different ways – by intuition and by reason. Our intuitive process is fast and automatic. It is wired to keep us free from pain and difficulty. Our reasoning process is only consulted when a decision requires more thought and deliberation. This process allows us to see the long-term benefits to a decision which may be painful in the short-term.

Want to take a guess which process people use most often? Yep. We tend to use intuition much more than we use reason. In fact, we have to make a conscious effort not only to engage our reasoning process, but also to allow the reasoning process to win our internal arguments. Even though we know going to the gym, or starting a diet, or writing a process, or disengaging bad clients is good for us, our intuition will usually keep us from starting the process. It tells us we can wait until “later.” Later all too often becomes never.

Our intuition sets us up for resistance. And resistance is futile.

How do we overcome this resistance?

Much like the hero who throws up his hands and walks away from the fight, only to return and re-engage the villain in the pivotal scene of the movie, we can train our reasoning process to overcome our intuition. We’ll look at some simple ways to do this in next week’s post.

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