Let me introduce you to England in February. Cold, bitter wind, dark freezing mornings, pipes iced up. 6am and even the walk from the bedroom to the bathroom turns your kneecaps blue.
Now I am the sort of person that normally enjoys my showers scalding. I mean so hot it takes a layer of skin off. The concept of standing under an icy jet of water was beyond unfathomable.
The advice I had found on the internet in preparation was anything but helpful.
“Yeah man, like, after your morning jog on the beach, finish your yoga session, then jump in a cold shower. Totally refreshing man…”
Unfortunately, minus degree howling wind did not allow for beaches, gentle jogs or morning stretch sessions, so I decided to settle for:
- Curse at my stupidity for signing up
- Count down from 10
- Leg it into the bathroom to get it over with.
So there I stood, in the bathroom, looking at the water slicing down.
And I looked at it for a long time.
The last thing in the whole wide world I wanted to do was to step under that shower.
I knew I could walk away from it, go back under the covers, pretend to everyone that I did it. But what would that prove? That I was too "comfortable" to take even one shower....
Cursing again at my stubbornness for stupidity, I took a deep breath, shut my eyes and stepped under.
I screamed (in pain? in shock?). It was so cold that it felt like it was scalding me.
Needles pierced my skin and the wind was knocked out of me.
I lasted about 16 seconds and washed a total of one leg.
Was it worth it?
Every day I stepped into that cold shower, and every day I did not want to do it. However, I slowly began to tolerate it, lasted longer and longer, until I could even wash my back under the icy stream (eek!).
And as the weeks went by more and more good things started to happen.
Imagine jumping into an icy plungepool. The adrenalin hit knocks the wind out of you and sends you into a brief state of shock.
To control this, I started experimenting with breathing techniques and clearing my thoughts to moderate my response.
Instead of shock, I distanced myself from the feeling and pushed myself to remain calm. The adrenalin was still there, however I was controlling my response, and I started to feel it like electricity in my body.
It was like having a huge power hit of columbian expresso strength adrenalin every morning, and I was starting to love it.
My skin was tingling, I found myself laughing (I may have even “whooped” once or twice), and I left the shower feeling limitless.
And if not only the physical feeling of pure exhilaration, I had smashed apart all the lame excuses that I (and others) had given as to why I could not do it.
What are you normally thinking at 6.10 in the morning if you are awake?
For me, after that shower the main thing running through my head was:
“I can do it! I can do what 99% of people are too lazy, too comfortable or too scared to do”
How about that to set you up for a successful day?
The great secrets it taught me:
I learnt a lot during the cold month of February, and these ideas can be applied throughout our lives, but especially in relation to productivity, procrastination and resilience.
1. Know what your "Cold Shower" is
What is your "cold shower"? What do you avoid doing because you are too comfortable/scared? For many it is making that call, doing that presentation, taking that leap, talking to that person.
What do you look at and say "oh no, thats not for me, I couldn't do that. I am far too..... (enter self- damning word of choice here)".
Find that thing and....
2. Stop making excuses
When I suggested people join me on this challenge, the overwhelming reaction was “no”. Everyone (apart from Claire Stone- good on you girl!*) I met over the course of the month gave me one excuse or other as to why it was not for them.
- I don’t want to do it
- I don’t see the point
- It will be cold
- I like my warm shower
I see this all the time in life and in the coaching I do. People staying safely in the bubble of their comfort zone, people falling behind because they procrastinate, not trying new things because they don’t see the point, or are afraid, missing opportunities because it is easier to be comfortable.
What I learned from this is:
How you do anything is how you do everything.
If you have these attitudes in one part of your life, you will have them in other (more important) parts of your life.
So how to resolve it? ...
3. Step out of YOUR comfort zone. Actually
No that doesn’t mean tell someone else to step out of their comfort zone. People seem content, proud almost, to tweet an article on the benefits of making change and stepping out of their comfort zone. However understanding it is important is not taking action. Taking action is taking action.
This means YOU step out of YOUR comfort zone.
The only way to be creative is to push yourself to try new things and to do old things differently. If you still have the same routines, are still eating the same dinners, still have the same job, friends, hobbies and problems that you had 2 years ago then get out there and try something different.
And, as an incentive, if anyone DOES try the 30 day cold shower challenge and writes to me about your experience, not only will I personally take them out for a Bristol cider, but you will go down as a legend on the CreativeMind hall of fame and respect forever more.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat
If I had just done one day of Cold Showers I would be telling you how horrific they are. It is only with repetition and practice that the uncomfortable becomes comfortable.
Do not stop doing something just because the first time you hate it. You are supposed to hate it. Funnily enough, doing challenging things is challenging. But if you are finding it difficult it is a good thing as it means you are changing. Get up and keep going.
5. Get in the right Mindset
Do you think I would have survived 30 days if every day I was reminding myself how horrific it will be?
Check your beliefs : what are you thinking? Are you telling yourself“I cant do it, its too cold”?
- If you believe it will be horrific, it will be.
- If you believe it will be energising, it will be.
- However, do it for a month and you will be believing that you are more resilient that 99% of all others out there.
Tell that bully inside your head to go screw himself: believe that you can, and you will prove that you can.
6. Learn how to clear your mind of thoughts
Just before you step into the shower (or presentation/ meeting/ stage) clear your mind of all thoughts so you are totally present. I learnt to do this through meditation techniques (you can access a good taster course here : www.headspace.com)
This is amazingly helpful in all aspects of life for controlling your reactions.
7. Don’t forget to breath
The cold takes your breath away and remembering to breath takes you out of the state of shock. Breathing works for stress, anxiety, nerves… breath deep into the bottom of your lungs (so you are almost puffing out your stomach) and keep breathing deep breaths until you are calm.
Standing there and looking at that icy water blasting down is like looking at the many business decisions you will face on a day to day basis. Do you do what you always have done? Do you turn the heat up and make it warm and comfortable? Or are you the person who says "No. I can have warm showers for the rest of my life if I want. But today I am going to take that columbian expresso coffee hit and step up to the challenge"
It may be hard, but life is often hard.
It may be uncomfortable, but, if you know that you can bear the uncomfortable, then suddenly you have the freedom and resilience to make choices knowing that whatever the outcome, you are tough enough to endure it, survive and grow stronger
Have a great week!
Fantastic articles to stimulate your mind and push you out of your comfort zone:
LifeHacker: The science of breaking out of your comfort zone:
IMPOSSIBLEHQ: Cold Shower Therapy
High Existence Blog
Navy Seal Blog
Alastair Humphreys: Explorer
Motivational Video: Human Beings are Awesome