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You Can Endure Anything For 15 Minutes

March 8, 2017

How long can you hold your breath? I used to be a swimmer in high school. It was for one year and I never made it very far out of the “newby” stage. When I started I could swim maybe 25 yards or half the length of the pool, while holding my breath. Consider that I was also swimming and using up my oxygen. But, still not a particularly impressive feat. By the end of the season, I could swim from one end of the pool to the other and back, all while holding my breath. Many of our top swimmers could go farther than that. Much farther.

The point was that holding my breath was a temporary thing. I knew that eventually, whether it was at the 25 yard mark, the far end of the pool, or a round trip, I was going to hold my breath for a set amount of time and then get to breath again. That “get to breath again” knowledge is what kept me going “just a little more,” “just a little longer.”

I got very sick as a kid. I had Crohn’s disease. It’s basically an ulcer in your intestines. Fortunately, I got better. But, during my treatment, I had to endure some pretty uncomfortable examinations. And they were scheduled on a regular basis. I kept telling myself, “It’s only 15 minutes. I can endure anything for 15 minutes.” By looking at the end, I could get me through the middle.

No pain, no gain.

Okay, it’s a stupid phrase, but it illustrates the concept that we are willing to endure a short amount of discomfort for a long term payoff. In fact, without the pain, we don’t appreciate the payoff. Back in the 1970’s there was an antiseptic spray called Bactine. It was developed in teh 1950’s, but I remember my mom using it on my scrapes and cuts when I was a kid. At one point Bactine realized they had a problem. The ingrediants in Bactine were effective, but didn’t discomfort the patient at all. In other words, it didn’t hurt when you sprayed it on a cut.

And that was the problem. People tended to not trust it was working if it wasn’t painful, at least a little. The makers of Bactine added a slight inert irritant to make it sting slightly. Kids everywhere felt better because they felt worse.

We are similar to those kids. What is too easily optained is too lightly esteemed. Interesting that a man with the last name Paine said that.

Whether it’s in our exercise program, our personal study, or our careers, we should expect to endure some pain and discomfort. But, just like my swimming experience, the process will change us. We’ll not only get better and stronger, we’ll become more successful. We’ll find that we can hold our breath for a lot longer while swimming two lengths of the pool.

Just don’t try to hold your breath for 15 minutes. Pretty sure my metaphor doesn’t extend quite that far.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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