One day, a lifetime ago, when he was neither my Husband or my Trainer, Jamie and I walked a block together to get a coffee. The wind was strong that early Spring day, and I braced myself against the icy gusts as I walked.
Jamie glanced at me as he walked comfortably along, seemingly unaffected by the frosty wind, and said, “Do you know how to be less affected by the cold?”
“Yeah, put on a parka,” I joked.
“No,” he said, “you just let it blow through you.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but this advice would become the touchstone by which I dealt with difficulty from then on.
‘The wind’ is always blowing. It doesn’t matter if it’s real wind blowing in a storm, or life evolving through change; something new is always pushing against you. New season. New boss. New gym routine. New baby. Pandemic. Change is difficult, and for some reason we all fight against it like I did with the wind.
Why, though? We know that change is constant. Necessary. If nothing changed, we would be bored, unsatisfied. Yet we push vociferously back against the grain to protect our “comfort zones” out of instinct, hardly aware of the discomfort we’re inflicting upon ourselves in doing so.
I noticed the concept of innate pushback the other day at the gym. Trainer Jamie was in a combative mood and had the group of us girls playing a game: we stood on a line, toe to toe, and held hands; the point of the game was to push our opponent off balance until she stumbled and took a step in either direction.
At first, matches lasted less than ten seconds: one of us would push, the other would push back, and the stronger partner’s push would overcome. Or, one of us would pull, the other would pull back, and again, the stronger partner would emerge victorious.
I think it was A who first decided to go with the flow and not push back. B, her partner, pushed, and A let her. With a shocked look on her face, B toppled forward, propelled by the momentum of her push, and A remained on the line, grinning from ear to ear.
Why did A win? Simple: She stopped fighting it.
Your subconscious mind stores all of your habits. When you do something that falls outside of these habits, that subconscious mind pushes back. It says,
Hey, this isn’t comfortable! You’re making me work hard here. I don’t want to form new neural pathways and be ok with this new stuff; just do what you’ve always done! It’s so much easier for me!
We need to learn that the discomfort that arises from pushing comfort limits is a good thing. Why? Because everything is constantly in flux. Because change and discomfort leads to creativity and growth (Have you ever heard a Taylor Swift song? There’s a whole lotta discomfort being worked out there).
Because that wind is going to blow anyway, and we can either stand there and shiver miserably, or open our arms and embrace it.
When a new situation tests us, we need to learn not to push back out of habit, but to feel it out instead, at least until we get the measure of it. Once we do, we can decide to brace it or bear it.
As Jamie walked ahead on our coffee excursion, I allowed my shoulders to relax and turned my face toward the wind. A gust blew across my face and through my sweater, chilling, but surprisingly, a little exhilarating too.