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Wrestling with Resistance

Resistance to change is natural and inevitable. You may have felt resistance at personal changes you are implementing for yourself. Even when we willingly seek change for ourselves, resistance is always ready to rear its ugly head and demand to know why! Change is tough.

Early in my career I taught a program called Smokenders. I was on the corporate team, which meant I trained at the corporate offices for many Fortune 500 companies. Smokenders was a smoking cessation program and In my sessions I had a very successful track record of participants who would quit smoking in the 8 week program. One of the key factors in this success was the structure of the program. Participants could continue to smoke while in the class, until week 4. Back when I was teaching Smokenders, my students could even smoke during the training session, indoors, in an office. Wow – I just really dated myself!

The fact that they could smoke until halfway through the program was a fantastic way to help them move forward into the life they wanted (as a nonsmoker, aka the future state) from their current state as a smoker. Because they could still smoke, resistance was low and they were able to listen without too much mental noise and resistant thinking, and most importantly they were able to implement many of the habits that they would need to exist in the future state, without too much resistance. 

When they finally stopped smoking in week 5 – the habits and preparation that had been put in place and adopted were able to help them in reducing resistance and most managed to maintain their smoke-free state.

This program changed lives. I’m proud of the many students who did the hard work and quit. Some of them have kept in touch and would call or send notes to tell me how grateful they were to be free of the smoking habit and how much they enjoyed the health benefits of not smoking.  

When I’m working to reduce resistance, I reflect on the excellent design of the Smokenders program. Asking what do people need to maintain while they develop new habits and learn the behaviors and tactics they’ll need in the future state is an excellent start to the difficult work of reducing resistance. 

Recognized as one of the Top 30 Global Guru’s in Organizational Culture both in 2021 & 2022, April is an internationally known organizational change management expert who has implemented change for government, health care, higher education and corporate clients. April is the author of four books including the bestsellers “READY, Set, Change! Simplify and Accelerate Organizational Change” and “READY, Set, CCMP™ Exam Prep Guide".  Contact her at [email protected]