Filling Your Niche

Overcoming resistance to change

I dimly remember my dad trying (and failing) to teach me how to ride a bike when I was little. I don’t remember well enough to tell you why I couldn’t do it, but I do remember a huge parking lot and lots of disappointment.

A few years later, we moved to a new state and a new house that had a circular driveway. I decided (again) I wanted to learn how to ride a bike, so I dragged the object of my betrayal out of the garage and set about figuring out how to conquer it, without my dad this time.

Again and again I tipped over, got back up, and tried again. Around and around in that circle driveway, at first in short spurts of a few feet at best but eventually– success!– coasting around the curves, feet barely touching the pedals because the slight hilliness on one side delivered exactly enough momentum to propel me around the opposite half.

(My dad loves telling this story, by the way. “Just like Maarit learning to ride a bike” has become synonymous with its own level of pig-headed obstinance and determination.)

Despite my late start, riding a bike quickly became one of my all-time favorite activities for so many reasons: my first taste of freedom at a young age, the ability to go places under my own steam, the click-whirrrr of gears, chains, and air through spokes that whispered anything was possible– anything at all.

Over the years, though, as driving a car became more practical, bikes fell away. Sometimes I thought about getting another bike and riding again for fun, but I never followed through.

Then the other day, we took Miss G’s bike in to get tuned up and serviced. While we waited, I hopped on one of the display bikes and took it for a spin around the shop. I don’t have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve been on one– long enough that for a brief and wobbly second I thought “Can I still even do this?” before reminding myself that there’s a reason that “It’s like riding a bike!” is a saying. But two pedal strokes were enough to rekindle the biking obsession I had no idea was still hanging out somewhere deep in my psyche; my first coherent thought: “WHY did I ever stop riding a bike when this. THIS.”

I went home with the intention of taking over care and maintenance of Miss L’s bike and biking everywhere: the library or coffee shop with my laptop strapped to my back, around in the parking lot at the office building complex next door…. I could go anywhere! Anything is possible!

But since then, about two months ago, I’ve been on a bike exactly once. One time.

Every night, Miss G and I talk about biking to her school together and every next morning she sets off alone accompanied only by my excuses. And I’m left baffled by my own reluctance to embrace something I love so much, my resistance to recovering the joy I feel in riding on two wheels instead of four.

It’s not just biking, though. I crash into that same resistance when it comes to committing to daily yoga– even though I’ve never felt better mentally or physically than when I was dedicated to my practice. Or my resistance to eating foods that keep my body happy and my moods stable, and instead continually falling back toward too many grains and too much sugar and feeling unpredictable and crappy again.

Resistance to change– even when those changes are things that are good for you and feel amazing and provide their own reward– is universal. It’s also one of the universal mysteries, because resisting things that make us feel better and proud of ourselves and help us evolve into better humans makes zero sense.

Michael Hyatt did a great podcast on overcoming resistance to change, which he dubs simply “The Resistance.” Although his advice is from the perspective of entrepreneurial ventures, it’s no less applicable to things like wanting to floss every day and somehow being unable to.

The first step in overcoming resistance to change?

Just start.

Stop thinking. Stop planning. Stop fearing.

Start doing.

Tap into your inner stubborn streak, drag that bike out of the garage, put two tires to asphalt, and pedal. And once you have momentum built up, don’t stop. Move forward. Stay focused. Keep pedaling. Push your comfort zone as needed to ride wherever you need to go.

Overcoming resistance to change means being stronger than The Resistance itself. Which seems impossible at first, because The Resistance is intimidating and feels inviolable and flawless.

But then, so would glass, if you didn’t know that one sharp blow is enough to bring down every wall you thought kept you contained.

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Maarit • 09/30/2014

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