My freshman year, I seriously twisted my ankle during a tournament. That evening, I limped to my dorm and took a long hot shower to relax and “heal”. When I couldn’t walk the next day, folks who know about acute injuries, won’t be surprised that the doctor told me a hot shower was the OPPOSITE of what I should have done.

Handing me a pair of crutches and she schooled me in good ol’ RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Since then. I’ve been fascinated by counter-intuition i.e. when we want for one thing, but need another.

When our intuition goes wrong

Below are some Mind / Body examples of when to ignore your gut.

  • “Lean-In” running up a hill. My instinct is to keep my head down and charge. However, my friends who actually did track taught me that holding myself upright helps with both balance and breathing!
  • My “Tight” Hamstrings. My hamstrings are often sore and feel tight, but are in fact overextended. This is super noticeable by training coaches when I squat. Instead what I need to is to stretch my quads and strengthen my hammies.
  • Hushing babies (and anyone). When babies cry, I have found that it is more effective to agree with them, to acknowledge them and listen. “Yes, baby, I know, I hear you.” Holding space for their “suffering”, rather than denying it allows them to let it go. Actually, this works for other adults and ourselves as well. (See also Happiness Project + Radical Acceptance)
  • Coffee stimulation. Since I started getting into meditation, I’ve begun to pay attention to my heart beat before ordering another cup. While my instinct is often to get more coffee to charge ahead and focus. Often it is the last thing I need to get into the flow state. More often than not and too energetic and I would be better served by slowing down with a chamomile tea or a 20-minute meditation.
  • Social Anxiety. As I get older I’ve found that my introverted side really comes out. Reading a book or watching Netflix is generally so much more appealing than going out. The consequences of doing that too often, however, is you miss out on nurturing healthy social connections. Generally, reminding myself of this fact, and visualizing how good I feel after connecting with friends (and also giving myself permission to leave early) is enough to get me out the door. Nine times out of ten, I’m super happy I did.
  • Pressing harder on a task. My dad’s in construction and I was raised to be gritty and work hard. However, sometimes it’s best to slow down, listen, and re-evaluate when something isn’t working. Too often we grind away pursuing an old goal, or plan, when the target has moved or when there is a new opportunity. We all know folks who focus on doing work, rather than results. That’s safe. At least you can say you tried. Don’t give into that. Real leaders focus on doing less with more impact.

It’s all about balance

I’ve said it before but I think, the reason so many self-help gurus stay employed is that the answer is rarely a straightforward “either or.”  (Sidenote: Brene Brown mentions that she was taught that whenever you see a false dichotomy, ask yourself who benefits from requiring that choice!)
Life is all about balance, a “both, and.”  Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, nuance is hard to market, especially if our automatic brain is driving the bus. As an example, look at the seven deadly sins, each represents one negative extreme. but if you think about it, the extreme opposite isn’t any better. The answer generally lies somewhere in between.

So what’s the point?

There will always be plenty of critics, real and imagined, who will accuse you of being too much or too little. Screw the critics, they aren’t doing the work you are and they don’t won’t understand your vision until you make it real.

Keep going!

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