Every morning when I step into the shower, I gradually turn down the temperature of the water to the point where most of you would consider it cold. May be even too cold for a shower. I first started this practice after reading Tim Ferriss‘ The 4-Hour Body over a year ago. His original hypothesis have been recently backed up by a New York Times article as well. I’m not here to discuss the actual reasoning behind it however. What I would like to point out is how easy it is to do it.
I think if you told most that having a cold shower would boost their metabolism, that’s exactly what they’d do. Have a cold shower. Dial back the temperature before jumping in, endure the excruciatingly cold water through the fastest shower they’ve ever had, and jump out again. The problem is that the metabolism / cold shower trick isn’t merely about exposure but time of exposure as well. The trick?
Instead of starting at the end result, you work towards it. I don’t jump in a freezing cold shower. I start at the normal temperature, turn it down a bit, get used to that, turn it down some more, and get used to that. By the time I get to the end result, it feels no different than the beginning. By working through to the end result, instead of starting there, I gradually normalize it.
Now regardless of whether you think I’m insane for taking gradually colder showers, there’s an interesting point in this observation. I think one of the biggest mistakes we make with any change in life is the expectation that we can begin at the end. That kind of attitude is just one big bag of failure. Change is best executed when it is a gradual process of normalization like my cold showers. Get in at your normal temperature, turn back the dial, get used to that, turn back the dial again, rinse, and repeat. This is true of Paleo eating, chewing your fingernails, or writing a book. Society (and ourselves by extension) places such an emphasis on immediate results that there’s a whole diet industry around shedding pounds in the shortest time possible. And sure, Jenny might get you into a Speedo in time for Summer but the sustainability of that change might be highly questionable. If you don’t change the habits that got you there in the first place, the system isn’t going to save you once you leave it. Systems are good for short term change and execution but it is only through actually changing yourself that you make that change part of your life.
So the good news is that if you’re sitting there today wondering where the hell to start, just start. Don’t have that eighth cup of coffee or fourth doughnut, make that normal, and dial back the switch again. Who knows where you can go from there? Walk 5 minutes a day and then 10! May be you end up making that your normal life?
My point is this I guess. You act like you act today because you normalized those behaviours to the point that they became the elusive WHO YOU ARE. Besides the actions that are based on biological processes, like your body telling you to hustle to the bathroom, all of the things you consider normal are normal because you made them normal. Just as easily as you made three cups of coffee and chocolate chip muffins your go t0 breakfast, you can make something better your go to breakfast instead.
But it takes time.
And the realization that you and only you are the agent of your own change.
All of these things are virtues and traits our world doesn’t extol. That’s the hard part.
And by the way, know that I am talking to myself as well. I’m in this process too. I’ve got 37 years of deprogramming to overcome as well. I’ve come far but I’ve still got far to go.
So what will you try to start making normal today?
Ask yourself that question and then start turning back the dial.