Identifying Internal Resistance

Jane Elliott PhD
3 min readDec 30, 2022

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When you wake up every day determined to do something and then go to bed every night knowing you didn’t do it, it can feel completely baffling.

Like: I know I want to go to grad school. Or get this promotion. Or start my business. So why do I just keep not doing it? Why do I keep steering directly away from the direction I actually want to go? Who exactly is driving this thing, and why are they so determined to thwart me?

I call this dynamic internal resistance. Since I started writing about it, the most common question I’ve gotten has been: but why the hell is it happening?

The reason I can’t answer this question in an article is that the answer is specific for every person.

That’s because internal resistance is like a fingerprint for the brain, a unique pattern of neural pathways we’ve each built across a lifetime worth of experiences related to talent, achievement and recognition.

It would be a lot simpler if this wasn’t true, if the reason was always really basic and predictable. Like: oh, we’re just afraid of failure. Or we’re actually just afraid of success.​

But human behaviour isn’t driven by floating generalisations like this. If we’re afraid of failure or success, it’s because our brains decided at some point that there was a specific, logical reason to be afraid. That decision might be one you want to change, and you definitely can — helping people do that is my main purpose as a coach — but only if you know what exactly the issue is.

A quick example: imagine you’re dragging your feet about going up for promotion and it just seems to make no sense. It might turn out that deep down you’re convinced your boss will say no and you’ll feel like an idiot for even trying. Or it could turn out that you’re actually convinced he’ll say yes and worried you won’t be up to the job.

There are ways to dismantle these kinds of convictions either way, but if we work on the first one when the real issue is…

Jane Elliott PhD

Coach, Prof, Writer, Swear-er | I help high-achievers overcome internal resistance—that mysterious thing that makes us struggle to do the work we want to do.