Growth from Resistance

Blog 2022-05-24 photo

What’s occupying my mind lately—racially motivated tragedies, war in the Ukraine, economic hardships (especially where I grew up in Sri Lanka)—also quells my optimism.

Before my mind does its ‘auto-balancing act’ to replace bleak thoughts with comforting images (about all the things that are going right in the/my world), I want to explore this discord a bit. Despite my wanting to resist current realities, I’m paying attention and noticing what’s available from this place.

There’s something powerful about resistance, my own and from others. It allows exploration into something else that is wanted but is not currently showing up.

I was recently introduced to the phrase “negative capability” first used by the poet John Keats in 1817. Despite my love of Keats as a teenager, I don’t remember learning this. It’s intended to explain the capacity of the greatest writers “to pursue a vision of artistic beauty even when it leads them into intellectual confusion and uncertainty” according to Wikipedia. 

So, where am I going with this? I am exploring and inviting you to explore with me.

This “ability to perceive and recognize truths beyond the reach of consecutive reasoning” (Wiki, continued, on negative capability) is something I leverage when coaching. I ask people to think of a belief they hold so firmly and then tell themselves why they might be mistaken about that. This brief exercise sheds light on opposing viewpoints and increases compassion towards others or circumstances. It also, purposefully, creates uncertainty…and that is a place from where exploration can begin.

Resistance, within and outside of us, is an invitation to explore. It is a figurative olive branch that offers an opportunity for growth. When we view resistance as a token of goodwill, we can evolve relationships and find potential avenues for peace.

What is the ‘dream’ behind my resistance to things happening in the world right now? Where do I wish to go? At a minimum, toward a state of internal peace through—and not instead of—my resistance. This requires raising my own consciousness and compassion towards alternative perspectives with which I might disagree.

BONUS: Learn more about loving resisters/resistance in a new podcast by Change Management Review (also available on Apple, Google, iHeart, and other podcast platforms) wherein I and other leadership experts share insights from our new book, The Secret Sauce for Leading Transformational Change.

This Week’s Challenge: Identify one thing you might be, or clearly are, resisting right now. Ask yourself what more you could learn by leaning into that resistance. Then ask questions about it, get deeply curious. What insights did you gain from this exploration process?

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1 Comment

  1. Doug Brady on May 24, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    Thought provoking indeed Jen.
    Thanks for sharing.

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