Many of the health-based conversations I have lately revolve around motivation. Actually, it’s not just with health. We’ve got so many reasons why we can’t find the energy to improve our eating habits or our self-care routines or our parenting or our relationships or our work.
Excuses run rampant through your head and stuff happens in your life which stops you from moving forward with your best intentions.
Like when you make a conscious decision to eat more vegetables, cut out the sugar and take a proper break for lunch. Then the usual reasons come flooding in, “reminding” you why you need eat at your desk, and grab a slice of banana bread every afternoon.
You have too much to do and there’s a bonus attached to finishing that contract…it takes time to actually cook the squash and beets and greens you finally remembered to buy…your kid’s hockey schedule changes at the last minute…an email alerts you to a crisis that needs your immediate attention,…
How many times do you blame your boss or a colleague for the amount of stress at work, or your husband for the lack of intimacy in your marriage?
Even in my woo-woo circles, people seem to love hearing that Mercury Retrograde is in full swing, because it offers a cosmic reason why every type of communication and forward motion they attempt gets derailed for days or weeks at a time.
When you weed through the tangle of every possible reason you can’t or don’t move forward, it usually filters down to some form of resistance.
Resistance is the current catchword that practically gives us permission to stay stuck where we are.
We post about it in our favourite groups, so our friends can nod knowingly and send us a virtual hug and some sympathy – “Yeah, been there, know what you’re going through, sister!”
Now you feel heard and understood, but you’re no further ahead in the face of your frustrations.
What if resistance weren’t a bad thing? What if it had a purpose other than making you feel that the Universe is conspiring against every effort you try to make?
What is resistance anyway?
Let’s start by doing a little physics lesson.
A resistor is a passive component in an electrical circuit that converts electricity into heat, which dissipates into the air. A resistor impacts how easily electricity can flow, depending what it’s made of; a metal tube has little resistance, a piece of plastic, a lot. When passing through a material with high resistance, the current has to work much harder to get through it. (The technical definition of resistance is the voltage needed for 1 amp of current to flow through a circuit.)
Electrical resistance is valuable. You actually make practical use of it; without it, the appliances in your house wouldn’t work.
It takes so much energy for the flow to get through the little filament in a standard lightbulb, that the wire heats up and gives off light. The element in your kettle and oven work the same way. The volume control on your TV has a variable resistor that lets more or less sound out when a little or a lot of resistance is applied.
What does that mean for you?
Apply the same principles to the flow of movement you want to create in your life, like when you’re trying to eat better.
First and very important point to repeat: a resistor is a passive component. Like the rain, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s not the Universe’s way of trying to derail your efforts. It’s just there. It’s the nature of the resistor and your level of opposition to it that causes the issues, and determine how hard you have to work to get around it.
So, you’ve decided to cut out sugar. Inevitable circumstances happen (as described above) which make it harder to plan and get around the shortcuts.
* The self-denigrating voices start in your head, “I can’t do this…I don’t know what to eat…I hate kale…it’s too much work…I’ll never look like Kate Moss no matter what I try…”
* Your mother’s voice nags in there too, “Just eat smaller portions and you’ll be fine…have you seen all the weight Betty lost on her diet…”
* The associations start to surface: the need for a cookie or a big plate of pasta after an argument, the need for a drink after a hard day at work.
Those parts of life come up. They just are.
You can choose to fight those facts and listen to the voices, you can let them derail you – not to mention increase the pain of the pressure they inflict by beating yourself up about it. Like with the electrical resistor, the energy you use to let these circumstances antagonize you will only get dissipated.
All the effort you would have put into the doing of the improvement gets diverted in any number of ways.
Functionally an electrical resistor will
- slow the flow of current, that is, make it seem like no progress is being made, like when your pants still don’t fit;
- adjust levels, or make the goal harder to meet, like when the excuses for why you can’t accomplish this simple goal get the better of you, “I don’t have time…I’m too tired…it’ll never work…”;
- divide voltages, that is, distract you from your original intention and/or split your focus, like when you finally decide to go ahead and eat Paleo, only to come across a great article about the virtues of veganism and your best friend raves how the Mediterranean diet changed her life;
- terminate transmission lines, in other words, stop you in your efforts altogether, like when you cheat on the second day and give up completely.
Great for the electrician who places a particular component into his circuit to achieve one of those specific electrical effects, but how can this have a purpose for you?
Could it be that the Universe places those resistors in your life for a specific reason as well?
Going back to the cosmic example will make this point easier to understand. As frustrating as it can be, Mercury Retrograde has a purpose in your soul’s journey. It forces you to stop what you’re doing, take stock and re-evaluate whether those are in fact the steps you want to be taking. Its energy could even make you look backwards and force you to see (and shed!) some of the baggage that’s still dragging you down around this particular movement.
What if, like with Mercury Retrograde, you could look at those circumstances as a need to slow down and re-evaluate?
Is your time worth more that the overall quality of the food you eat?
How can you set yourself up to weather sudden changes in the day?
Do you need to recognize the voices in your head as your ego trying to steer you clear of failure?
Is it time that you released your mother’s “helpful” comments into the compost of no-longer-serve-you items?
If you can’t avoid stopping for food as you rush from A to B, is there a wiser choice you can make? If not, can you swallow a side order of compassion with the chicken nuggets?
The other term that comes to mind as I let the word dance around in my head is resistance training, AKA strength training. This is the practice – with weights, machines, straps and certain yoga poses – whereby you contract a muscle against an external force to improve strength, tone and endurance.
What if you use the resistance that shows in your life up as the means to strengthen your resolve and your efforts? That is, sometimes we need to be reminded that life changes, big projects, enriched relationships take a certain amount of effort and work.
The pride you feel from saying no to the fries or the cookie on offer provides an energy boost to your stamina for doing better yet again tomorrow. The more you exercise the buy-&-cook-more-vegetables muscle this week, the more efficiently you’ll flex it next. The relief of saying No, that is when the pressure to say to say Yes is lifted from your shoulders, you’ll be able to stand that much taller in your resolve and your needs.
Strength training also improves bone density, your circulation, blood sugar balance and coordination – it impacts more than just the muscles doing the direct work. Using your energy to lean into, work through or push past the hindrances that show up in your life will have an overall benefit to your entire being. Balance, flow and peace of mind can only follow when you move with life as it happens rather than fighting it.
Slowing down to work with the resistance that shows up in your life gives you the energy necessary to shine brightly and speak loud & clear through the flow of your personal current.
Let me put this another way: the root of the word resist is sistere, Latin for “to take a stand”.
When faced with resistance, you are being called to (again) take a stand for who you are, your values, your priorities, and how you want to move through life.
Stop fighting it!
Go with the flow!
Need more concrete help moving through the many faces of resistance in your life? Here are some suggestion to help you withstand a few of them:
- For when you need better eating habits to be easy
- For when your emotions get the better of you as you change those habits
- For when you need a hand getting through the inevitable stuff of life
How do you get past the resistance that blocks your efforts? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.
Don’t hold this idea back – let it flow to your friends so they can shine more brightly too: