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Making Big Changes: Energy and Resistance

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~Laozi

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~Laozi

When a new year rolls around we often look to things that might improve our lives: small changes we can make, new habits we can adopt or old ones we can shed.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in small self-improvement tweaks or keeping the status quo that we neglect the real issues: the toughest, most transformative changes, the ones that will have the most impact on our lives. But this is no accident.

In general, we avoid the most meaningful changes with everything we’ve got. Because they’re big, and because of their transformative power, we’ll call them “Big Changes”.

Most often, the Big Changes have to do with one of the following:

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Living Circumstances
  • Physical or Emotional Health
  • Facing Addiction
  • Some Other Fundamental Life Change

Big Change Theory

They’re the most meaningful changes, yet difficult. They are of the self-directed type, the kind that brew under the surface for a while. They’re born of deep desire, an inner knowing. Once born, they bring with them their own energy, even before we make them. We could say they arise from the very human quest for happiness, the life force, or our own evolution toward a higher good.

Regardless of where they come from, we know making them will result in very powerful and positive transformation in our lives, the type that permeates our being and trickles into everything else we do. Some say they are our aliveness coming to get us. Yet, we put them off.

Initially, we don’t embark on them for a variety of reasons: we’re not prepared, the time isn’t right, it’s hard, we don’t know how, we don’t want to hurt someone, our finances aren’t in order, there’s something we don’t want to give up, etc. And though the reasons abound, they really don’t matter much, because the energy of these changes doesn’t go away. Instead, it stays with us, just below the surface, fighting for our conscious attention.

At times we can put these changes out of our minds for a while, but they remain there in the background and continue to haunt us. They exert their force on our subconscious even when we’re not thinking about them. Still, oddly enough, we avoid them not just for weeks, but often months, and sometimes even for years. How does this happen, and why?

Sure, change is uncomfortable, we already knew that. And with this type of change we’ll often face much more of the unknown than we know what to do with. That’s scary, too. But it isn’t really fear that holds us back. It’s the misdirection of our energy.

The Holding Pattern

We tell ourselves we’ll embark on this change later, when we have more energy. We just can’t see ourselves having the energy, focus, and will power to make it through right now. Somehow, (we hope), we’ll have what it takes later. And therein lies the problem.

We always have a limited amount of energy and will power available to us at any given time. And we end up using everything we’ve got to hold things together where we’re at right now. We’ve entered the Holding Pattern.

First, it takes a lot of energy to keep the force of one of these meaningful changes at bay and out of our minds (which really doesn’t work, anyway). Next, we use the rest of our available energy trying to keep the familiar working for us, trying to keep the comfort in what has now become uncomfortable.

We choose the familiar because we think it’s easier, that it somehow doesn’t require effort and energy. And maybe at one time it didn’t. But now it does. Because when one of those Big Changes is born in our consciousness and brews there, every move we make to stay with the status quo, every amount of energy we expend not choosing that change, suppressing it and choosing instead our current routine, is extremely taxing.

We also think sticking with the familiar is choosing the path of least resistance. It’s not. It’s actually choosing the path of resistance itself. We’re holding back the force of that change on our minds and spirits, holding together our current unsatisfying circumstances, and all the while we’re scrambling to deny or hide from the discomfort all of this creates. The toll on our energy is enormous. All of our will power, all of our energy is directed at resisting, and that takes a lot of work. It’s why we feel so tired.

This is how even the thought of dealing with that Big Change becomes so overwhelming to us. It’s hard to imagine having enough energy for something in the future when the present is leaving us so depleted.

We go in circles trying to find smaller, more manageable things to inspire or divert us. To make the present comfortable like it once was. But nothing really lasts, or feels very alive. And once the diversion subsides, the discomfort returns.

When we’re in this place, inspiration is hard to find, and motivation doesn’t really last all that long, either. The impact of the smaller changes we chase instead is minimal at best, and nothing really, truly excites us. That’s because all the positive states we crave, along with the stuff of real, lasting change, flow through the same emotional pipes as that Big Change does. And we’ve got those pipes blocked up.

The Leap into the Void

Sometimes (but not always) time spent in a Holding Pattern can be used to prepare and plan for a Big Change. But that time is limited. There’s only so much planning and preparation one can do, because the rest of that Big Change often means flying through the great void of the unknown, and just going with it.

If you’ve got a Big Change on deck, I’m not saying to run right out and make it tomorrow. These changes often cause disruption before things settle down. They’ll be a lot to deal with for certain. But if you’re in a Holding Pattern, you can at least recognize that you’re there. Only you know for sure if you’re resisting a Big Change. And if you are, you’ll understand why the things that seem like they should work aren’t working, and why you often feel exhausted and uninspired.

However, when we do take that big leap, that first, committed, and sometimes irrevocable step into a Big Change, something amazing happens. All that pent up energy is unleashed. It’s becomes ours to use. We’re no longer in a state of resistance, holding back with all our might. Instead, we’re flowing with life. Inspiration and motivation are reborn, passions arise anew, and joy is found more effortlessly.

This isn’t to say that flying through the great void in Big Change is all peaches and rosebuds. It’s not. A different discomfort awaits us. Not the one of resistance, but one of newness, of the unfamiliar. We might find ourselves groping around in the dark for a while. Tears may await, too. Because now, the flood gates are wide open. There will be turbulence, and uncertainty. It will definitely be exhilarating, sometimes scary, and the charge will be high. But our energy will rise to meet us. It’ll be palpable. And then we can flow with it, use it, and leverage everything that’s been unleashed… It will be there to help us find our way.

Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly. ~Danaan Perry

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27 comments… add one

  • Miche – this is a well articulated post to the perennial problem of making change. I think we too often get focused on trying to see immediate results and that is what shuts us down and prevents us from moving forward. Depending on the change or issue one wants to address it is possible to simply set small goals for what appear to be overwhelming areas in life we want to address. For me the most dramatic changes happen in very small steps over a long period of time. I just decide to focus on the issue, if it is important enough, and set an achievable goal that is very short term. I am not solving the problem per se, just part of it. Looking back 6 months or a year later and big, significant changes can occur this way. You have a terrific blog by the way!

    • Hi Marc, thanks and welcome! I totally agree that the desire to see immediate results often thwarts our motivation and our efforts. And yes, taking even “baby steps” through the “big leap” is definitely moving in the direction, much better than resisting and trying to forget. I’ve made a lot of fairly big changes that way, slowly, over time. Other times, I had to leap right in… it was the only way. Cheers, Miche :)

      • Hey Miche – fantastic post! I find that often when we make a habit change we need to fill the void. For example, when people quit smoking cigarettes – if they don’t find another hobby to replace it they will very often go back to their old ways or even pick up a new, but just as bad, habit. Gotta make a conscious exchange between one habit to another…instead of just “quitting cigarettes” exchanged it for “going to the gym.”

        I personally think the gym is a better way to manage stress anyway….health reasons aside.
        .-= Steven | The Emotion Machine´s last blog ..Mindful Risk-Taking: In Life And In Business =-.

  • Hi Miche – Well said! So great that you make the point that staying too long in a holding pattern doesn’t conserve energy, but rather drains it. When a big change is in the wind, it can be so tempting to think that the yearning is false, and we can simply get back to our “normal” life if we choose. Of course, it would be easier to just go back. I’ve been there myself, wishing for things to stay status quo. But in my experience it never works. Better to acknowledge that I’m in the midst of a transition, and will, as you so beautifully say, find myself “groping around in the dark for awhile.” Funny thing about the dark, though. Our eyes get adjusted to it pretty quickly! Thanks for the great read.
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays: The Hummingbird Edition =-.

    • Hi Patty, thanks for stopping by! It definitely is pretty tempting to think the yearning is false.. or that things would just go on as “normal”. I’ve been there, too, wishing the “normal” would just be like “normal” again… I often wonder why we’re such creatures of habit, especially when in reality we really are so adaptable. I love what you say about the dark, that our eyes adjust to it pretty quickly. They really do. Cheers, Miche ;)

  • Hey Miche,

    I totally agree that a lot of times, we get so caught up in the little things we forget about the big and really important ones. We makes sure the pebbles are in place, but not the bricks. Which is pretty ineffective, cause in the end, the bricks are what builds the house, not the pebbles.

    • Hi Eduard, great to hear from you! Love the analogy of the pebbles and the bricks! We can definitely become pretty myopic sometimes, focusing on the small and ignoring the big picture… until something snaps us out of it. ;)

  • Great post, Miche, and well worth the wait since your last one.

    I am in the middle of turbulence right now and can relate to it very well. Yes, the energy is released as soon as you stop resisting and let go.

    Thanks for the great blog and good read, as always.

    .-= Rasheed Hooda´s last blog ..What Do You Mean “Do Nothing” =-.

    • Hi Rasheed, thanks a bunch, and thanks for stopping by! The turbulence during transition is an interesting phenomenon. It may be rocky at times, but the energy available to us and our heightened senses and awareness help us think on our feet, and be more resourceful and imaginative, than we often able to be otherwise. It’s often not a state we yearn for, yet what happens while we’re in it, when we look back on it, is usually pretty amazing. Cheers, Miche :)

  • Great ideas Miche. I think by human nature we are very resistant to change, even if it is a good change. They key is get comfortable with being uncomfortable as weird as that sounds. I’ve found often part of what keeps us from manifesting what we want in our lives is also resistance. While we want something we also don’t 100% believe that it will happen and as a result we create resistance and we bring more resistance into our lives.

    • Hi Srini! Great to hear from you. Learning to get comfortable with being uncomfortable is an excellent point, and even though it’s sort of a paradox, it’s definitely something to strive for. I agree that resistance keeps us from manifesting what we want, and it even keeps what we don’t want stuck to us, which is lousy for sure. I think you’re right, too, about belief and faith. When we don’t believe we can create something we want, that doubt itself might just kick the whole resistance cycle into gear. Cheers, Miche ;)

  • Painfully true, damn it!
    .-= Cathy Elaine´s last blog ..Starting Off 2010 With a Sis-Boom-Bang =-.

    • Hi Cathy, welcome! Lol! Yup, change is tough and so is resisting it! But the transition through change (the toughest part) is often exhilarating, and where the most growth occurs. Plus, when we look back, we usually don’t think it was as tough as we thought it was going to be when we stood on the threshold. ;)

  • Hi Miche, great post. I RTd this last night but also meant to comment. For me, with any conscious change, everytime I’ve made a mental switch, it’s impossible to go back. That holding pattern beocmes a place for me to be patient about rather than a comfortable place for me to linger. But the key, at least for me, is that mental swithc — that acknowledgment that I want to make a change. It helps to decrease cognitive dissonance and allows me to move forward at the right pace.

    • Hi Belinda, thanks so much for stopping by, and for the RT! Yes, it’s funny that those “mental switches” click something on that we really can’t click off. I think patience in a holding pattern is pretty important, especially if we acknowledge that we’re in it, and that there’s no going back to the prior bliss of the status quo we once knew. For me, patience becomes really important, too, since often the fruits of making the change, and the gratification, are sometimes a long way off, whatever the pace I’m keeping. Cheers, Miche ;)

  • Joy

    This is exactly the spot that I’m in; contemplating big change. It’s new for me to contemplate– usually I just jump right in. If something seemed overwhelming, I used to baby step through, but found sometimes my baby steps diverted me away from my path; so i learned to jump. Just jump. I know Energy is precious so if I’m resisting for me personally it’s a sign that Fear stepped in and overshadowed Faith. The only way I know to banish my personal fear is to grow my Faith so there is absolutely no room for anything else; I grow Faith as I gather my resources and face Fear head on. Then change effortlessly flows.

    • Hi Joy, you’ve really got something there with Faith. I think that’s the only real way to make a difficult change less discomforting, and the only real way to counter the anxiety that often builds up before we make a big change. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Cheers, Miche ;)

  • Hi Miche,
    Thank you for considering this important question.

    I’ve been considering this very thing in my life and in my last few articles. The answer for me is that in the times of low-energy or uncertainty it is best to completely and lovingly allow and watch. It is not a satisfactory answer because of course ingrained beliefs and social conditioning have very different ideas, nudging us to get up and move, pick a direction and go. And in the past, this is exactly what I would have done–used self-discipline and self-improvement to set goals and achieve. And that does get me over the hump, but those methods can lead equally to resonance or egoic dissonance.

    In allowing, perhaps we can realize that the problem of inertia is really a problem of conflicting beliefs, and these can be released.

    So I suppose my answer is it that I should be very patient, and lovingly allow. Loving ourselves is important, otherwise the ego can commandeer even the allowing. I realize this is not a satisfactory answer, not even to me, and I have no way of explaining why this works.

    Thanks for considering this important subject, and your coverage is, as usual, balanced and insightful.

    I hope you are well!

    .-= Kaushik | beyond-karma.com´s last blog ..Why we don’t do the things that are good for us =-.

    • Hi Kaushik, thanks for visiting, and for the thoughtful comment! I think you’re right, to “completely and lovingly allow and watch” is great advice. And while it may not be a “satisfactory” answer, it’s often a necessary part of the process, to find out what’s really going on underneath the discomfort. I also think you’ve really got something there with conflicting beliefs, too, and I checked out your post on it, too. Good stuff! Cheers, Miche :)

  • Dear Miche, It is heartwarming to be here again. This is sooo beautifully thought out and expressed. I found it just stunningly written. WOW!! But then, I never read anything by you that was not expressed in this deep elegant way. Your insight is profound.

    I loved this line: “…because the energy of these changes doesn’t go away. Instead, it stays with us, just below the surface, fighting for our conscious attention.” I’ve often thought what a blessing this is. Because as this wave of energy builds — if we are blessed — it makes our current comfort zone less real, more uncomfortable until we are straddling two realities, the new one nudging us to change and the old one that is comfortable, but becoming less so each day. In this no-mans-land we DO become exhausted or drained and not FULLY living in either reality. And since we can’t go back and make our comfort zone or familiar “place” like it once was, we must take a leap of faith into this wonderful wave of change.

    I can’t get over how wise you are. And how beautiful is your sense of Life and awareness. You are someone I’ve thought would be a great joy and soothing experience to sit down and talk with. I think because I FEEL the depth and beautiful openness of your soul, your perception and view of life. It is truly quite remarkable. I am deeply moved and so glad to be here again.

    I am hugging you and sending love,

    • Hi Robin, great to hear from you as always! Thank you so much for the compliments, too. I totally agree that it’s a blessing, though it doesn’t always feel that way. You really hit it on the head when you say that we’re “not FULLY living in either reality”… I wish I could go back and put that in the post, because that’s exactly it: we’re not fully living AT ALL in that place of resistance.

      I’ve thought how great it would be to sit down and talk with you, too. I think we’ve had very different paths and experiences yet we always seem to understand each other really well, and always “get” the very essence of what the other is saying. I think that’s really awesome. You’re life’s adventures and insights always amaze me… And I can’t wait until your book comes out! Cheers, Miche :)

  • This is another example of your awesomeness. I love your perspective and how you come at a topic, already written about numerous times, in a way that is refreshing. I’ve never considered the energy spent resisting the change but I am completely in agreement!

    And, talk about reading what you need, when you need it.

    I seriously had a smile on my face while reading it…I’m finally, finally, taking that leap because I’ve finally, finally, figured out that once I do the net WILL appear. I was already very ready to do this but now, after having read this, I actually feel happier about this transition phase! Whereas, before, it was just an uncomfortable place to be between there and here. Thanks for the encouragement!
    .-= Suzanne´s last blog ..TCOY Lessons From My Favorite Bloggers (Jan10) =-.

    • Hi Suzanne, great to see you! Thanks for the kind words… hearing things like that really helps me! I’m so glad reading this made you happier about transitions… I was a bit nervous that people’s take aways would be more on the negative side, especially since I didn’t provide a “how-to” within the post. But I didn’t feel like a could write one… changes are often personal, circumstances differ, too… you know? At any rate, thanks so much, and I’m keeping pace with your declutter challenge, too! Cheers, Miche ;)

  • Jen

    Wow! One of the best posts I have read in a long time! Beautifully written and inpsirational … stumbled.

    • Hi Jen, great to see you! Thanks so much! Awesome job on the success thing, too. Looking forward to more! :)

  • It’s best to just start the change now. Postponing the inevitable only creates stress and anxiety. Just let go and let god!

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