As I showered the sweat off my body after my workout this morning I thought a lot about excuses, and how we talk ourselves out of exercise or anything difficult. We have obvious excuses – I’m tired, I couldn’t be bothered, I’m sore, I’m hungry – but there’s also less obvious ones that are sometimes more dangerous – the one I battle most with is ‘I don’t want this anymore’ (as in, I don’t want this goal). Of course, I do want the goal, it’s just my easy way out of things – because if I don’t want it, why do it?
At the end of the day, when we use excuses we’re really just saying that for one reason or another we don’t want to do whatever it is right now. And the more I think about it, the more I realise that really we’re just afraid of or avoiding being uncomfortable. We don’t want to be more tired, or more hungry, or more sore, or have to use more energy. We don’t want to risk people ‘seeing’ us fully, or doing an exercise wrong at the gym, or being the uncoordinated one in the class. We’d rather be at home curled up on the couch watching TV – what could be more comfortable than that?
The problem is, life is not comfortable.
I realised on my recent trip to Thailand to complete yoga teacher training that I have avoided discomfort a lot. As though I was almost afraid of it, I had shaped my life in a way that meant I was pretty comfortable most of the time. Suddenly, finding myself alone at Bangkok airport at 2am I realised that I need to step out of my comfort zone a lot more.
During our 2 hour daily yoga practice this was made abundantly clear to me as we were forced to hold postures for minutes on end. Initially a lot of anger arose: anger that I was weak, that I was shaking, anger that our teacher was making us do it (okay, no one was holding a gun to our heads and our warm and loving yoga teacher Gaurav was hardly standing there with a whip but regardless, I was mad and had to blame someone else).
Through these difficult and strong postures as I stepped into my anger I realised that discomfort is not as bad as we think – it reaches a high point (which is usually where we quit) but then it plateaus. Most of the time, you can breathe through it, and afterwards magic occurs and all the discomfort you’ve experienced transforms into feelings of fulfillment and pride and it all becomes worthwhile!
In fact, the more I practice walking into my discomfort, the more I realise it’s not such a bad place to be after all. Even this morning as I briefly considered whether I’d workout or not (it was cold, I hadn’t eaten yet and my early morning client cancelled just before I left the house so bed was calling my name), I recognised that actually the day-long feeling of letting myself down by choosing comfort was actually worse than any discomfort I’d experience from doing the workout. Lo and behold, as my workout commenced I warmed up, my hunger dissipated, and that incredible buzz and emotional high I got from finishing my workout was way better than staying in bed!
When we consistently choose to react to something in a particular way we reinforce that behaviour, even if its not our intention, so the chance of reacting in that way again gets more and more likely. If you want to get rid of excuses, choose to walk into discomfort rather than away. Explore the discomfort and challenge yourself to see what happens as you face it head on. I think you will find yourself pleasantly surprised.