Breaststroke…backstroke…freestyle. This was the first time in well over 40 years that I swam laps. Frankly it’s the first time since I was 12—when I freaked out while swimming in a lake—that I actually enjoyed swimming. I don’t mean splashing around when the kids were young. I mean, swimming laps. It was very meditative and a good workout, and I felt great afterward.
Why swimming…and why now? It started a month ago with a broken pinky toe…a 10K run over Labor Day weekend…and a sharp pain that developed on the outer edge of my foot. Result: I could not continue my usual workout routines on my injured foot and hope that it healed before ski season. So it was time to change course. Swimming allows me to exercise and rest my sore foot at the same time.
A small example, but a vital concept in life—in order to get the most out of life, we must regularly adapt and change course.
This isn’t about working through disappointment and bouncing back from loss. It’s about the need to live in a constant state of adaptation, understanding that no matter how well you plan your life, sometimes you will need to detour…and I don’t just mean on your drive to the office.
Interestingly, our bodies are actually built for course adaptations. There is fascinating work being done in the area of neuroplasticity where brain-injury victims become functional again after the connections in their brains are rerouted. Truly miraculous recoveries! People who were assumed to be “lost forever” are relearning language, speech and motor skills. Dr. Norman Doidge has detailed a number of these works in his books The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.
Similarly, there is a treatment for angina and artery blockages called external counterpulsation therapy (ECP). ECP uses sophisticated patterns of pulsations and compression on the patient’s legs and buttocks to pump blood and open up new pathways when the arteries are blocked. It’s noninvasive and has been proved to be a safe and effective alternative to stenting.
Why don’t we hear about these treatment options? Because in our culture, we believe that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Arteries blocked? Balloon angioplasty. The patient just accepts that he/she needs this procedure right away. Brain cells dead? The patient is out of luck. Nothing to be done. But is giving up on the brain’s ability to compensate for injury or form new pathways really the only option?
Of course not. Our bodies are miracles of adaptation…and so should our spirits. Sadly, many people have a hard time changing their spiritual courses, preferring instead to wallow in anger and resentment, rather than adapt. As with blocked arteries, continuing to bang your psychic head against a blocked pathway will lead only to injury. Figuring out a new course not only opens a pathway to success but also frees you from the frustration and angst that come with “stuckness” as well as builds your confidence and self-esteem.
When our family had a sailboat, it was always fun adapting to situational changes. On more than one occasion, we changed plans due to weather patterns. Waves too choppy? Rainstorm coming? OK…new destination. Sure, we may have missed out on our original destination (disappointment), but we found new adventures, and if the goal was family fun and togetherness, we could find that anywhere—if we chose the path of opportunity rather than anger and resentment.
I know more than one person who arrived at a new job only to discover that his/her new boss had resigned or been fired. Ouch! Three choices: 1) leave…2) complain…3) find the opportunity in it and make the most of the situation.
I’ve spoken before about my friend Amy Dixon, US paratriathlete. In college, her plan was to become a pharmacist…but then she was diagnosed with an eye disease that would eventually make her legally blind. Distraught. Worried. Process. Course change.
I can guarantee with 100% certainty that your life will not unfold the way that you want it to or hold to the time line that you planned. When my father first conceived of our business, Bottom Line was going to be a magazine, but there wasn’t enough money for that, so he changed plans and became publisher of the most successful consumer newsletter of all time. Every month, day and week, I am course correcting Bottom Line Inc.’s priorities based on market conditions and business opportunities. Some things work—we need to do more of that. Some things don’t work—then we need a new plan.
The issue with the constant need for change is not what you will do, but what will your attitude toward that change be? Will you accept it? Have fun with it? Or complain that it’s not fair.
Success in life is finding new ways around problems and new pathways to opportunities.