Sign me up for pain and discomfort on this one.

Anyone who’s ever played a sport or done something physically strenuous knows how the first week or so goes. Whether it’s two-a-days in football or basketball or spring cleanup in the lawn; it hurts. Muscles you didn’t know or had forgotten you had are painful. Normal motions like sitting down, going up stairs or bending over can get your muscles zinging you in a most unfriendly way. However, if you continue on with the activity eventually your body adapts. The human body is absolutely amazing in that way. Too bad our psyches and our minds don’t follow suit.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve avoided a situation or an encounter or a task because at one time it made me uncomfortable. At some time in my past I experienced dis-ease in that thing or even something that was just like that thing. I felt awkward and out of my element and I established in my mind that whatever it was, it was NOT for me. I decided that I was no good at that despite how it may have turned out. To others my handling of the situation may have appeared to go just fine; they may have even thought I did well. However, in my mind, because of my discomfort, I thought it went awfully. I formed a limiting belief.

If you’ve done any reading or study about personal growth you’ve probably heard of limiting beliefs. They’re things we, and we alone usually, believe about our limitations. Ask our friends about how well we handle the situation and they’re likely to say we do okay. Ask us and we give a starkly different account and we hold that belief for years basing it on the person we were then, not who we are today.

It’s silly if you think about it. If you were to ask us about our friends and how they’ve changed over the years, chances are we could enumerate several ways they are not the same people we knew five or ten or more years ago. However, we hold ourselves in a completely different light and judge our current abilities based on something that happened when we were a teenager or even when we were a child. To believe that our talents, our skill set and our capabilities haven’t changed in years defies logic. So why do we do it? I think it goes back to that old nemesis: pain.

Over many seasons and sports I learned that the pain passes if you keep going. Sadly, and I don’t think I’m alone in this; I struggle to apply that experience to the things I avoid today. No one likes having a difficult conversation with someone at work or in their family. I find it difficult to put the right words together and I’m unsure that I’m getting the message across that I intend but I know it has to be done. I know that no matter how well I deliver the information we both will probably be uncomfortable. I also know that no matter how poorly I handle it, the conversation has to happen. So, today, this Thursday, I’ve resolved to quit shirking those things I don’t think I do well.

Now, I’m not going to sign up to tap dance at the Rotary Club meeting or sing a solo at church. What I am going to do is fight back the urge to say, “I can’t do that” and forge ahead with those things I know I should be undertaking. It might not be pretty but that temporary discomfort will be worth it I think. If I press through the hard stuff my psyche, like my muscles so many years ago, will adapt. And while I know that, like sports, I may not excel in the things I take on I will get better and I will have the satisfaction of knowing I overcame the fear and trepidation we all go through. Coming out the other side will be worth it even if I didn’t knock it out of the park. And who knows, maybe if I go through with a few of these things I’ve previously avoided, I may come upon something I’m really good at, something the previous me couldn’t handle. I might even discover I have… talent. (Okay enough of the crazy talk) Wish me luck.

I think everyone tells themselves they can’t do things when they don’t have much evidence to back up the belief. I hope my resolution to quit doing this encourages you to do the same and if you know someone that could use a nudge in that direction, please share this with them.

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