Day Two of 21 Day Stoic Challenge – Cold Plunge. I’m taking a challenge like most do on post New Year’s to push on my old self, and give my new self or perceived new self, something to rub against. Each day is doing something that is completely uncomfortable. Learning from it. Perhaps even letting it change you for the better, for your future self. A great gift from a friend. A great time for me to have received it as I look forward with uncertainty into 2022.
Today was either taking a cold plunge in a lake or take a cold shower. I took the shower bit instead of the lake. Don’t even know where there would be a lake other than Lake Michigan I could jump into anyway. Does that mean I took the easy way out? Would I learn less or more whether the cold plunge was in a lake or very cold shower? Let’s see.
What I learned for the 21 seconds both surprised me and didn’t. I thought I would turn the warmth back on when I got to the end of the 21 seconds. I kept the cold water on to my surprise, I didn’t turn the cold water to warm. I kept it where it was. I didn’t feel like I had to make it warmer for comfort. I felt like I was getting warm. The cold bothered me less. A slow count of 21 seconds became a minute, minutes kept racking up, and still I kept the cold where it was.
I know biologically speaking, because I learned this about our bodies, I started to feel warm and less of the cold as a biological defense. This happens because when we get cold our bodily defenses send warmth, literally our blood that’s warmed from deep in our bodies, to the skin to keep our body warm. After I got to the end of the shower I learned this to be temporary as I started to get goose bumps again. More than likely hypothermia sets in shortly after that if one were to fall into a cold lake for to long I imagined. In a shower, I had control. I was out.
What I also learned through the challenge getting through the discomfort of something, we can, through that obstacle, learn. Something we can use. Something that tells us about our truth that we would not have discovered if we didn’t take the challenge to begin with. We can look back on an obstacle, overcome or not, and connect the dots to something better.
I learned that I can sustain through the discomfort to have something to learn at the end that had value. I learned that I can sustain through an obstacle more than I thought possible. I can try. I can always do more than I think I can. Before getting in the shower I thought to myself, 21 seconds is a long time, I won’t make it through 5 seconds. I literally not only made it through 21 seconds, I made it through my entire shower with out changing the temp.
What does this all tell me? Do our minds hold us back subconsciously when we are less aware? What does this tell me about uncertainty and “what ifs” that our mind likes to trick us into thinking we can not do something, when we actually not only can, but can do more? How often like the shower, have I let myself not try? How often have I lost out on valuable intel that could have made me far more successful? How long can we stay in an obstacle before it becomes harmful to us? Can we just turn it off like a facet, and how can we build a system that can help? Or, can we get stuck in it, and like hypothermia damage ourselves beyond what we should?
Reflection on the “tells” equals learning. Someone once told me, impossibility is just us not seeing what the possibilities are yet. We don’t get to do that until we try. Only then is it possible or not. You have to at least experience it in real time to understand clearly if it is or is not possible. We can only connect the dots going backwards of what’s possible, not into a future that’s not been experienced yet. We can assume our futures, but usually it will end up being less than the best versions of ourselves if we had at least tried.
Am I going to do the challenge again? Most certainly. But, I can not call it a challenge anymore because I made it through. It’s not longer an impossibility. I’ll do it, because as a healthy system or habit also tells us, the many benefits that can happen are too positive to not do it ever again. It’s earned a place in the system as a benefit to my days. Another learn?
I learned my showers are shorter, giving me more time back in my morning and in the day when I take cold showers. So there’s that unexpected learn. A non-renewable resource, time, back. I’m definitely a lot more alert with a cold shower shock to my system. More than I can remember with a warm comfortable shower that left me more groggy, less awake at the start of my day. Comfortable versus on edge or alert. Everything I read about cold showers being a good thing to do before a big day, are pretty true. My mind just wouldn’t accept that truth, until I tried.
So think about that as you let the shower run to the perfect temp. Is that perfect temp a comfort level you’ve always had? Is it teaching you anything? What can you do to shock the system? Reboot? Do something different than you’ve done before that pushes the limits of your thinking. One cold shower taught me a lot. What could it teach you?
19 more days to learn what’s possible.
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