Does It Matter or Not – It’s Your Call!

Troy Nix
Troy Nix

“It’s coming!” I yelled at my teammates as I entered the office. “The polar vortex is coming, and I am so excited because the temperature is forecasted to drop below zero!” I immediately heard groans throughout the entire office, but not because of oncoming bad weather, but because by now nearly everyone on staff was hoping for me to stop telling stories about my daily cold plunging experiences. My level of excitement about the plummeting temperatures originated from the challenge I created in my brain – will I be able to walk outside in nothing but swim trunks in negative five-degree weather, break and churn the ice in a 120-gallon barrel and submerge myself for six minutes?

The exercise of cold plunging is an activity I recently demonstrated for over 550 attendees during my opening address at MAPP’s Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference last October. The purpose of the display was to ensure audience members would never forget the message about the human brain and its number one function of keeping us safe. My onstage antics were to highlight that growth and development occur when a person exits their comfort zones; exits their zones of safety. Anyone who has ever attempted to submerse themselves in ice water understands that the brain’s immediate response is “Get out and get out now!” However, after a short period of time, vasoconstriction and a reduction in skin blood flow actually act as an insulator and trick the brain into thinking that the water is getting warmer.

While exercising, sharp and sudden physical pain often is a good reason to quit what you’re doing, however, moderate aches or discomfort usually are signs you’re making progress. Likewise, moderate emotional distress usually is a solid signal that you’re developing as a person, but this discomfort often masks the benefits of self-growth, so it is imperative to keep going.

The reason I highlight the value of crossing your brain’s safety zones is that many people tend to set self-improvement goals or make resolutions at the turn of any new calendar year. For those truly wanting to succeed in making life changes, time must be taken to fully realize the human brain is not designed for success – it’s only designed for survival, and to survive, the brain must work to preserve energy. This is why it acts to subtly entice you to want the comfort of sitting in a chair, rather than expending energy to don your running shoes or workout at the gym.

Success takes energy, which means that goal setting and execution are like swimming upstream. So, when weakness occurs, when the brain says, “No, stay here, don’t leave the zone of safety,” or “You aren’t good enough to lead” or “Get out of the cold water,” you have to recognize that this is your brain’s attempt to sabotage and derail well intentions. You must push back and do whatever is necessary to overcome its tactics of talking you out of taking necessary actions to meet goals.

The ol’ saying, “If you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter,” is an easy way of saying that a person needs to rewire their thinking. Revamping and developing new neural pathways in the brain is not rocket science and is something we all do when we create a good or a bad habit.

Two days after the polar vortex hit the city, temperatures plummeted to a whopping negative five below zero with 20 miles per hour wind. I stood in my swim trunks peering through the sliding glass door where the frozen water waited, my brain yelling at me, “Don’t do this,” but my hands opened the door, and my feet carried me to the barrel where my body rested in ice for the longest six minutes of my life. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!