Why resistance is real - and completely normal
Updated: Nov 17
You've finally decided to make a change your working life. Yay!
But now that you’ve made your decision, you’ve found yourself standing still. Frozen. Unable to do anything.
You might have a classic case of resistance. Where your natural resistance to change is bigger than your wish to make it happen.
In change management (which helps people to overcome their natural resistance to adjust to - often - corporate changes) there is an actual equation for this: the Change Equation.
The equation goes like this: D x V x F > R.
So, what does it mean?
In the equation, Dissatisfaction (D) x Vision (V) x First Steps (F) should be bigger than your Resistance, for you to make any change happen. In fact, all the elements on the left hand side of this equation should be bigger than 0 to stand any chance of overcoming your resistance!
In change management this equation is being used for two purposes:
To understand why people are not making a change
To actively work on increasing any of the three elements on the left hand side of the equation (dissatisfaction, vision and first steps) to be able to overcome the resistance on the right hand side.
What does the change equation have to do with your career change?
Well, this change equation helps you explain why you are frozen, despite your conviction that you need to make a change!
Let’s start with the right-hand side of the equation.
Resistance is human and inevitable
All people are resistant to change. Our brains are hard-wired to choose the status quo over change. Any change - even if you really (really!) want it to happen - is still a step into the unknown. It takes courage and energy to overcome this.
So what are your reasons to be resistant?
You could be (too) invested in your current career - You’ve invested time and energy getting where you are. You’ve achieved a certain status, not to mention the pay check that goes with it, and might be reluctant to give this up in favour of a more uncertain future.
Lack of trust or confidence - You might not feel that you are able to make this change. You’ve not done this before. Or you feel you don’t have the resources to make it happen.
Fear of the unknown - You will only take steps towards a more uncertain future if you believe that the risk of staying where you are is bigger than the risk of moving forward in a new direction.
It is enlightening to understand what is causing your resistance. Understanding it and working towards a shift in your mindset will help you to reduce your resistance.
And what about the left-hand side of the equation?
Are you dissatisfied (enough) with your current situation?
Now, you’re pretty convinced that you need to make this change, right? So are you dissatisfied enough to want to make it a reality? Or is there perhaps a little niggle in your head holding you back? Are you 100% sure that you want to make a shift in your working life? Or even 80%?
People who are satisfied with where they are, are less likely to want to make a change.
If you’re hesitant it is worth exploring fully what is really causing you to be unhappy in your current role.
Is it really your career? Do you feel like a square peg in a round hole? Do you want to have more of an impact on the world? Have you got a great idea for a business or want to pursue a passion?
Or is it something else? What if your unhappiness is caused by an unappreciative manager, by not having enough responsibility, by a toxic work environment? And what if the little niggly voice in your head is actually telling you that you would enjoy your job if only you could alter some of these circumstances?
Exploring where your dissatisfaction is coming from will provide you with clarity around what change you actually want to make and with the determination to make it happen.
Is your vision clear enough?
It is very hard to make a change if you can’t visualise what your future will look like.
You might be completely clear on what you want and what your ideal working life looks like. And if so, good for you!
But if you only have a vague idea (or worse, not a clue!) on where you’re headed, your next step is to set out what it is that you want to work towards.
For you to make a move you need to know where you’re headed, or at least be clear on the first part of the road.
Your vision is the picture in your head of what your ideal working life looks like - and how it fits with the rest of your life.
What have you always wanted to do? What would you do even if you didn’t get paid for it? What causes are attracting you? What makes you happy? These questions will give you the clue to what you want your future working life to look like.
And what if you’re not clear on your first steps?
How do you make your first steps? How do you get going?
Well, how about:
Asking questions - Do you know someone who is doing a job you’d like to do? Ask them how they got to where they are.
Finding information - Do you need to go back to school? Or can you enhance your experience to get you where you want to go?
Experimenting - Having trouble deciding between multiple ideas? Is there any way in which you can experiment? Can you perhaps volunteer in the field that you are looking at? Are you able to spend some time with someone who does this work? Could you start a side project next to your work?
Doing a reality check - How will you finance your career change? What hurdles do you see in your way? It’s always better to know your challenges and find actions you can take to overcome them!
Supporting - How will you enlist the support of your friends and family?
Being clear on what you are going to do first will enable you to make the first brave steps on the way to a better working life.
See? A neat little equation that will give you some great clues to why you’re still hesitant to make this change!
What will you do next to change the equation?
Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.
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