Issues to Consider: Overcoming Resistance
Our own hidden assumptions thwart our efforts to change.
Can these techniques be dangerous to my health?
Absolutely! These techniques can help us to get more done in the same amount of time. So, ironically, potential exists to use these anti-overload techniques to accomplish the opposite and lock in chronic overload with a vengeance—to increase output until the same, barely tolerable, feeling of overload is again achieved. This temptation may be reinforced by rewards for our higher output. But if our work life is not balanced, fulfilling, and sustainable—however we define those things—then we flirt with health-related tragedy in ourselves and our relationships.
Why don’t we change, even when we want to?
Resistance to change, resides in ourselves. Usually, when we say that we want to do something differently but don’t, our desire to change is balanced by a hidden assumption that if we actually made that change, something really bad would happen. Why don’t we leave our disruptive offices to do reflective work?
Perhaps we don’t because we believe that our students and colleagues would think we were goofing off. Consequently, we would not get tenure and we would have to leave our college in disgrace. Unable to find another academic position, our spouses would divorce us and take the kids. We would end up living under a bridge somewhere. Sounds extreme? Think about it. We all have our version of this slide into utter catastrophe which is linked to our not making that change we are always saying we want to make.
In addition, resistance can reside in our relationships. Few of us are strong enough or socially obtuse enough to withstand messages in our environments that undermine us.
If I am trying to adjust my workweek from 70 hours to 50 hours, or even, in an extreme act of courage, to 40 hours, and I have daily hall-chats with colleagues who persistently one-up each other about how much they work, I will have a hard time sticking to my new commitment.
What can we do about it?
In Making Time, Making Change, I have adapted four questions developed by Kegan and Lahey which can help identify hidden assumptions that create resistance to change in ourselves. Think about some change that you’ve wanted to make with regard to structuring your work as a teacher but have never been able to accomplish, then explore what YOU are doing to prevent that change and why. Bingo. You’ll unearth how your hidden assumptions are holding yourself back. Then you can explore these assumptions and test their validity in small, fail-safe experiments.
In our relationships, we need to discern who supports the change, who doesn’t, and who is ambivalent. Then we can develop specific strategies to increase support in our networks while decreasing resistance.