Recently I injured the wrist on my dominant hand. It was nothing severe but enough to warrant the use of a brace for about a week. The healing process was not difficult, but it offered some unique challenges. Through these challenges I learned some unexpected lessons that I want to share with you today.
We tend to think of ourselves and other humans as creatures of habit, meaning that while we cherish spontaneity we often follow the same patterns day in and day out. These patterns are hard to form but once crystallized are even harder to break.
What does this have to do with my wrist? It just so happened this injury occurred at a time in my life where I was starting to realize I could be in a better place if I had better habits. These habits, as mentioned earlier, were proving difficult to change. But I was about to get some unsolicited (but not unappreciated) help from my situation.
There is a blog I will hunt down and link here that talks about changing habits. The article says the easiest way to change your habits is to prime the mind with small changes. If you want to quit smoking, change the way you drive home from work. If you want to start an organizational system, order a different coffee than your usual latte.
Essentially what you do is snap your mind out of it’s repetitive cycle by throwing something new in there. It could be as mundane as turning off the radio during the commute or wild as calling in for the next week and hitchhiking old highway 1. This is where I saw the first benefits of my injury.
With my wrist in a brace I had to do things very differently. Driving was awkward, typing was arduous, and even eating was a challenge. This broke my old habitual ways of doing things by forcing me to do things in a new way.
When I first started reading about changing habits and other self improvement topics, there was a very strong negative voice that I still occasionally hear. It mostly says things like “That’s dumb, it’ll never work.” or “You’ve always been like this, you wouldn’t be yourself if you changed. Stick with what you know.” This voice was very effective in it’s aims. I recently thought of how I’ve been exposed to personal development material for the greater majority of my life but I had never fully practiced it because of this constant inner discouragement.
This changed the first day I wore that brace. I sat down to eat dinner and went to pick up my fork with my left (and injured) hand. Feeling immediate dismay, I almost didn’t eat that night. Instead, I followed what will be the advice I emphasize the most in this article,
It may sound silly to some, but if I hadn’t challenged myself to eat with my opposite hand, I wouldn’t be writing this today. That dinner was fun. Most of all because it was an opportunity to prove that negative voice wrong. At the end of the meal I got to say, “Despite what you think, I can eat with my other hand.” It’s a very satisfying feeling to prove someone wrong, even when that person is yourself.
Starting with the success of that small challenge, I worked up to greater challenges, writing with my opposite hand, driving with my opposite hand, completely restarting a major project mid-semester despite advice to the contrary, and even writing a blog post about personal development. So far I have met these challenges with success, and it has done much but mostly it has helped build a foundation of successes for further positive change.
I think at this point I should stop to talk about the power of the mind, and the human body in general, to change. We often forget that, lacking sharp pointy teeth, thick skin, or wings, we rely on our adaptability to situations as our primary competitive advantage. We change often, we change quickly, and we even change without noticing.
Habits are hard to change simply because they are adaptations to situations we experience frequently. We don’t think about the intricacies of pouring a bowl of cereal because we do it every morning. It’s a habit. If we thought about it every time we would waste energy that could be better used determining how to adapt to instabilities in our surroundings.
The fact is that despite what we may think at times, there is no moment in our lives where don’t have the opportunity to learn. Tom Clancy said, “Life is about learning; when you stop learning, you die.” This is one of the most important concepts this blog will ever talk about. Nothing is so bad it can’t get better. No one is so dumb they cannot learn. Nothing is over until the weight challenged person who identifies with the female gender belts out a boisterous tune.
This brings us to the next point : The importance of perseverance. I had these “crazy” ideas to do things differently because I had to, but at any point I could have caved to the negative voice and said, “This is dumb. Why am I still doing this?” And sometimes we do. But if we want to achieve our intended goals, we must keep moving.
Do it now, Keep it Moving, There Ain’t No Half Steppin’.
Now before I wrap up I want to touch on two more things. First, it is imperative that you keep the process fun. A bored mind is not an engaged mind, and a mind that is not a part of the process will not benefit from the exercise. For example, when I was writing with my off hand I wrote silly phrases I thought of, or humorous things that were said in class. I made a game out of eating exactly two peas at a time. I did what I could to make sure I enjoyed what I was doing to ensure I would keep doing it. Granted this isn’t always possible. I hate waking up early so that change is one I still dread, but I know that if I keep at it I will find a way to make even that something I look forward to. Early morning swims are the next thing I’ll try.
And lastly remember to express gratitude. It’s hard to imagine thanking your hand for being injured, but I am thankful for all that it brought me. It is very difficult, unless you are already trained in such, to be thankful for mishap, but if you continue to look, I promise you there is always a silver lining that makes everything worth it.
It may just take a bit of creativity to discover it.
What have you done recently to break yourself out of old frame works?
I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.
Especially if you have a way to make early mornings appealing 😉