why i’ve taken a cold shower every* morning for the past 3 weeks

shower head

*Full disclosure: Okay, two of those mornings I didn’t bathe or have a shower at all. But I swear – all the other mornings, cold showers were had.

Am I crazy? Why would a sane person take cold showers every day?

It’s all because of this book by Julien Smith.

It’s called The Flinch. It’s about recognizing those deeply ingrained habits that we all have – the habits of drawing back from the things that scare us, threaten us, or might hurt us.

The thing is, most of us have become so habituated to flinching, we don’t even notice that we’re doing it.

And the other thing is, it’s not just physical threats we flinch from. It’s emotional, and relationship, and career, and health ones…

And the other, other thing is, it’s not just obvious threats, like your toxic colleague or bad real estate deal.

It’s good things, too – things that can move you forward – things that can free you for the life you’ve always dreamed of – but things blocked by the unconscious fear planted by other, well-meaning folks. Fear you might fail. Fear people will scorn or laugh at you. Fear they will reject you. Fear (gasp!) that you might actually achieve what you want.

The book is free, by the way. In case you’re thinking you might like to read it. You can download it here.

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Anyhow, this book has changed my life.

Without this book, I would never have started this website, or gotten out of bed a 5:30 a.m. every morning (even on weekends!) instead of sleeping in, or re-started my daily yoga, or stuck with my meditation practice. Or confronted a friend about a behavior of theirs that was making me uncomfortable.

And I have the cold showers to thank.

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Throughout the book, Smith suggests several practial exercises for identifying your own flinches. Taking cold showers for a week is one of the exercises. And as he points out in the book, if you don’t actually go through with it, you lose all the benefits. Because the flinch is a visceral reaction, and the only way to overcome it is by pushing through it. And the lived, physical experience of forcing yourself to go forward (when every cell in your being is screaming “NOOOOO!”) is where the real learning happens. You can’t obtain it rationally.

So I get under that cold stream of water every morning because I don’t want to. I don’t want to, and… I want to learn how to do other things that I don’t want to do.

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Take this morning, for example. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I feed my cats a snack every morning at 5:25 a.m., but today I wanted to crawl right back under my warm, comfy duvet as soon as I was done. I wanted to sleep for another hour or two. I had been awake in the middle of the night, after getting to bed late. I hadn’t had much rest. I deserved a lie-in, right?

Wrong. Number one, I get migraines if I disrupt my sleeping habits too much. I need to wake up at the same time every day. Weekends too.

Two, I could just feel the flinch as my mind tried to rationalize going back to bed. And the flinch was my alarm bell.

And because I make myself get under a cold shower every morning, I know what do to when I hear that alarm. I do the hard thing.

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I’m sure you’re saying, That’s fine for you, but I don’t have that much discipline.

Yes you do.

You just haven’t trained it.

Like a muscle, it gets stronger with use.

But what good is it to force yourself to do things you don’t like, you may ask.

Speaking from my own experience: A lot of good.

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I have many things I want to do before I die. (Someone in my life has cancer right now, so this topic has been heavy on my mind, lately.) I’ve spent many (many) years of my life putting things off until tomorrow. Those books I want to write? That career I want to have? Those works of art I want to create? I can do them all later, right?

Wrong.

Forcing myself to do things I don’t like has an added benefit: I learn how to fight Resistance.*

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Yeah, I am pretty crazy. Crazy in love with the me I always wanted to be.

What are you flincing from?

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*To learn more about resistance, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.