The Problem With Resistance

by Stephen Mills on October 13, 2010


I’m on vacation right now and while sitting on a beautiful beach watching the waves roll in, I was reminded of rip currents and the approach you take to escape them.  Therein lies an important lesson that can be generally applied to much of our lives.

The worst thing you can do is to fight the rip current by swimming against it.  You will quickly become exhausted and in danger of drowning.  The way to escape a rip current is very simple: you calmly swim parallel to the shore (perpendicular to the current) until you are out of it.  With a fraction of the energy needed to swim against the current and almost certain failure, you can swim away from the current and live.

Resistance and struggle against that which opposes you or that which you don’t like is very often the worst thing you can do.  Just like the rip current, you should generally step aside and just watch whatever is bothering you roll on by.

Instead of wasting your energy on the negative, you can focus it on the positive and with far less effort achieve far greater results.  Certainly there are some things you should resist and there are things I will and do resist.  But I chose my battles very carefully now and they are becoming increasingly rare.

I’m convinced that most of what we resist accomplishes little more than making us miserable and sometimes amplifies the problem rather than diminishing it.  Resisting the nutjob in Florida planning to burn the Koran, increased his audience from about 50 people to hundreds of millions.

I spent decades of my life resisting almost everything I didn’t like and it was an enormous mistake.  My youthful idealism and cockiness led me to believe I might be able to change something or convince somebody they were doing it wrong.  I ended up frustrated and stressed.  I learned years ago to let go of many of the big things, but for some reason I thought I could still resist the small.  It’s only in the last few years I’ve begun to stop resisting those small things as well.  I’ve found they grow even smaller as a result.

When you resist something you immediately make it a much bigger deal in your own life than it would otherwise have been.  Whether it’s the government, toxic people, traffic, bureaucracy, the media, the masses, the neighbors, unpleasant tasks, poor design, inconsiderate bozos, or or anything else, do your best to step to the side and ignore it.  Let the currents rip by you without allowing them to suck your precious life out of you.  You need to conserve your energy in order to progress your agenda.  Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it is difficult, but in most cases you will be better off.  I suggest you seriously consider it.

I have a long way to go, but I’m getting much better at not resisting that which I don’t like.  As a result, I’ve discovered a much better way to live and that same way is available to anyone who is willing to give it a chance.  Stop resisting life!

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Dianne Lien October 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Stephen, Your blog is insightful. The stepping back, getting out of your own way, let the force move by you. Sometimes problems are made bigger just by becoming emotionally involved. Sometimes we keep things going by becoming a part of the flow. Choosing your battles is wise. Thank you for your observations.♥


Stephen Mills October 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Hello Dianne and thank you for the comment. It seems to be a hard lesson for most of us to learn. I know it was for me for sure 🙂


Eugene October 14, 2010 at 5:13 pm

You are correct. Most people do not learn this in their entire lifetime. When you do not agree with someone or something, all you have to do is come back at a different time or different place and things will be better. Then somethings are better left unchanged.


Stephen Mills October 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Hi Eugene, and thanks for participating. Unfortunately you are right and most people never learn 🙁


Rick October 15, 2010 at 5:11 pm

It is nice to hear you speak of things that we all should do naturally. I like the way you put it in your article, too. I am glad that you have learned this lesson early. It took me along time to learn it.


Stephen Mills October 17, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Hello Rick, it’s often easier to see it in others. Observing how miserable resistance made others feel, was a tremendous help in my own battle to overcome it. I recognized myself in what I was seeing in others and it wasn’t pretty. Thanks for your thoughts.


Hunny October 15, 2010 at 10:00 pm

In the current society , many trival matters occupied our life ,and feeled very tired.Howcan we have a easy and simple life?


Stephen Mills October 17, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Hello Hunny, that’s a very big question, but it does have an answer. Much of those trivial things that occupy your life can be eliminated and others can be done with far less stress and effort. If you think creatively it can be done. Send me an email and I’ll send you some resources to help.


Barrie Davenport October 16, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Hi Stephen,
Practicing non-resistance seems counter-intuitive for those who want to control and direct their lives. But when you go with the flow, you open yourself to a wide variety of possibilities that could be better than what you think you want or need. Even when the thing you are resisting seems “bad” or unpleasant, it could be that it leads to something profound or life-changing. And really the only thing we can ultimately control is ourselves and how we respond to a situation. Like they tell you in childbirth classes, “just breathe into the pain — don’t resist it.”


Stephen Mills October 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Hi Barrie, that was a wonderful comment and you are absolutely right about opening yourself up to greater possibilities. When you resist, you often just make it worse. Thanks for dropping in.


Sparky October 16, 2010 at 11:08 pm

This was really a nice article to read. It puts things into perspective. I need to let a few things go. This may make my life a little better to work with. I know that I am trying to juggle too many balls at one time.


Stephen Mills October 17, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Hi Sparky, as a totally irrelevant aside, some colleagues of mine nicknamed me sparky many years ago. Thank you for the compliment!


jonathanfigaro October 17, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I love it. I needed to hear that. Sometime my thoughts go haywire at times. And i try my best to resist it, but now i know to let it pass. Let it go and focus on something more pleasureful. Thanks a lot. Great post.


Stephen Mills October 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Hi Jonathan, I think we all get there sometimes. Thank your for the compliment 🙂


Nea | Self Improvement Saga October 18, 2010 at 9:03 pm

What a wonderful post, Stephen!! I don’t think that most people realize just how much they can improve their own lives by stopping short of trying to control others. This has been hard for me. When I see people doing things that I perceive to be wrong, stupid, flawed, etc, it still has an initial impact on me. However, I no longer feel compelled to intervene. I no longer need to be an activist for everything, defending my position on everything. That was an exhausting way to live. It is so true that what you resist persists.
Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog post ..Inspirational Words- Making Choices


Anna October 27, 2010 at 6:12 pm

I never really thought about it that way. I will have to start making my corrections so that I do not get pulled in the wrong direction. This is the reason why I like to read your post. You always help me out in some form or fashion.


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