Transformative Principle #4: Release the Death Grip, Restore the Humor
These Transformative Principles are part of a series on achieving permanent health change that began on March 21. The "principles" are not meant to be gospel. They are simply thoughts of mine that are based on observation of successful maintainers, personal experience and--to some degree-- my own conjecture. I hope they provide some food for thought as you continue your own quest for health transformation.
It seems to me that many people who are trying to transform have the feeling that they are holding on for dear life. It's not uncommon for maintainers to write about their "white-knuckled grip" on new behaviors. Constant vigilance, which is necessary
What strange beings we are. Here we are trying to accomplish something that must rank up there with one of the most difficult challenges in the world, yet we don't want to give ourselves any credit for the attempt. Only success will do. We find ourselves clawing at perfection and hating ourselves for failure.
Transformation is a process of shaping; of getting closer with each new try. I once had a friend whose child was having many difficulties. She told me that a psychologist had described her child's trajectory by comparing it to the course of an airplane. A plane doesn't actually fly in a straight line, the therapist had said. At any given moment, it veers off course a bit with the prevailing winds. It goes slightly too high, slightly too low, this way and that, and then corrects. The point is that it eventually gets to its intended landing spot.
Health transformation won't work if you allow each deviation to provide a reason to quit. If you give up because you get blown off the path, the journey stops there. But since deviations in the trajectory are normal to development, it does us no particular good to grip the process with clenched hands. Relax.
Remember to laugh.
In my book, I write about intensity. I talk about being a "warrior" and being "tough, not moderate" in your approach to transformation. I still believe in those principles and I will write about them later in this series. But let me add another analogy, this one from the tennis world. (I really like analogies!)
My tennis coach was recently teaching me how to hit a volley. The volley is a shot that's hit directly at you when you are standing up at the net. Because you are so far forward in the court, that shot comes at you fast. You must block the ball with your racquet quickly to avoid getting hit right in the nose. It's scary standing up there with someone on the other side gunning for you. As a beginner, your tendency is to hold onto the racquet for dear life. Your hands are clenched so tightly that they can hardly move. Your eyes look like saucers. Your jaw is tight. All the muscles in your body are tensed with anticipation. There's only one problem. As soon as you tighten up, you can't react to the ball. So my teacher taught me a technique. Keep everything loose and relaxed. Force yourself. As the ball approaches, THAT is the time to squeeze the racquet using a firm grip. Relax. React. Firm Up.
And when the ball hits you in the nose, shake your head and laugh at your imperfect game. Once, just a few years ago, you couldn't even contact the ball with your racquet.
You can be tough, determined, in fact a better warrior if you learn to relax. You're on a journey. It's strange, funny, human, and beautiful. Enjoy the ride.