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Let’s consider the age-old analogy of someone wanting to build muscles in a gym.
In order to increase strength and muscle size, we need to lift, push or pull weights. Doing so causes muscles to engage in a repetitive motion that exercises them.
Strength and size comes as the tired muscles are repaired and further bolstered – against future exercising – by your body.
The more you exhaust your muscles, the greater the repair job required to fix them. This fixing is what makes your muscles bigger and stronger.
If you want these gains, you must also increase the amount of strain placed on your muscles during exercise. How do you do this in a gym? By increasing the amount of weight you are exercising with.
This analogy helps us to understand the law of resistance: all movement in life is accompanied by resistance. Or, in other words, no movement occurs without resistance (think of the person wanting bigger muscles).
Taken a step further: resistance is a good thing; it is not our enemy or something to be avoided.
Too many people think that resistance is negative – and it can be if we allow it. However, resistance is the very thing that causes change and growth to occur. How we deal with resistance is what differentiates those who might say they are leaders from those who really are leaders.
Because leaders are able to see ahead – because they have a vision of what can be – they understand that certain changes need to take place in order to realise that vision.
Change is often difficult. Other words we might use to describe change include growth, development, expansion, transformation; all which, if we think about it, require some form of sacrifice to enjoy the later changes.
But are we really sacrificing something, if, at a later stage, because of that very sacrifice we enjoy something better, bigger or greater?
I believe that all will agree that we are not. Rather, this is called an investment.
To invest is to spend or devote timefor future advantage or benefit. So, today’s sweat in the gym with heavy weights results in the future benefit of strength and a good-looking pair of arms. Or not eating that large piece of chocolate cake today can result in a slimmer waistline tomorrow.
The point is this: resistance can either work for you as an ally towards greater development and growth or it can be your enemy and defeat you before you get to the point where you begin to enjoy the changes that are taking place (and you quit).
Let’s go back to the definition of the law of resistance: all movement in life is accompanied by resistance. So a true, seamless leader is in the business of leveraging (using to create an advantage) the resistance that takes place further to enhance the movement they are creating or pushing along.
This is a skill that needs to be developed. And its development begins with this one thing: are you sacrificing or investing? In other words, what is your attitude towards resistance?
Let’s consider the real-life situation of Nelson Mandela, such an extraordinary individual.
I believe it comes down to a few mature decisions that he had to take in order to realise his vision.
He began his political life by seeing a vision of a free people; his family, friends and loved ones walking the streets as they would like, occupying jobs they worked hard to qualify for, and enjoying peace in their homes.
As a result he became a freedom fighter. Unfortunately, in those days, the cost of the struggle for freedom was the blood of friends and colleagues – both black and white. This path ultimately lead Mandela to Robben Island.
But what did he do there that made him the man he is? If he had allowed his desire for freedom to turn into hate for his captors, he would have never grown.
We know he didn’t do this; rather, he invested his time there. He realised that movement of the bigger picture required that he use his current difficult (resistance) circumstances as best as he could.
He didn’t think about the now – this would have meant he was sacrificing something; he developed and kept alive his vision of a free people and nation, and this resulted in him investing every day in that vision by educating himself, learning to develop relationships with his white Afrikaner prison guards, and so on.
We often see only the now. We’re not raising our eyes and views to the horizon, to that which is to come.
This is the single most important thing we can do if we want to change our attitude and grow through tough times.
Resistance is our friend because it tests us,and it is only in moments of resistance that we can grow stronger.
Napoleon Hill makes this point well: “When your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.”
We can simply change his word desire, for our word vision. Mandela, I feel, had “superhuman powers to achieve”, but only because he chose to look up and invest.
Another quote by Hill goes: “The path of least resistance makes all rivers, and some men, crooked.” And I venture to say that this doesn’t make “some” crooked, but the vast majority.
If you wish to be extraordinary, you cannot walk the same path everyone else is.
If you wish to leave a legacy like a Mandela or whoever else you feel was a seamless leader, you need to live a life like them.
Men and women who choose this path understand that “all movement in life is accompanied by resistance”.
l This article was written by Gareth Armstrong, head of Leadership Platform’s Young Leaders division. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org