As 2016 comes to an end and 2017 dawns this morning, I’ve been thinking about resistance. It has such nasty connotations. For many years, I’ve been learning the very hard way that both resistance and force are futile and frustrating, stressful and damaging to both relationships and results. We’re told that flow and ease are better ways to live and be productive. Coaches often say, “What you resist persists.” They don’t mean in a good way; we’re not talking about consistency here.

I’ve thought resistance is something I should give up or get over, move past or grow out of.

There’s more to resistance, though; it also has positive uses and connotations. Resistance movements have delivered vast numbers of persecuted people to freedom under slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and during the Holocaust; there’s the movement that built the United States of America.

Physical resistance is what builds muscle. Pushing or pulling anything with resistance requires force, which in turn builds strength.

Resistance movements and physical training have two things in common: commitment and repeated, consistent action. They have tremendous positive results.

Even Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, wrote: “Contrary to what we usually believe… the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.”

Perhaps the lesson as we move from 2016 into a surely tumultuous 2017 is not to avoid resistance but to master it, to be committed, graceful, purposeful, and positive as we resist. Through resistance we can stand for justice, for equality, for democracy, for accountability. This is what great leaders do, and what many of the leaders I work with aim to practice every day. It’s what I’ll be doing this year, and inviting you to, too: join me, won’t you, as we redefine resistance, build this muscle, as we get strong & stand committed?

My two words for 2017 are resistance & contribution. I plan to get in shape and make a difference.

 

A version of this post also appears on tnmcoaching.com.