“Again, again!” my little guy Parker yelled.
We were playing in the pool at our gym on a beautiful summer day and, like any lively 8-year old, Parker wanted me to throw him — again and again.
Rather than doing the sensible two-handed toss I’d usually do, I decided on this day to take more of a shot-putter’s approach. I would place my hand under his rear end and lift him up with one arm, then toss him as far as I could. I did this with each arm about six or seven times until I told him I was shot. I didn’t feel anything amiss, and it was only in subsequent days that I traced things back to this extreme activity. At last weigh-in, Parker was 67 pounds.
A few days later, I had some discomfort in my right shoulder, but assumed it wasn’t anything serious, so I went ahead and did my usually workout. After I warmed up, everything seemed ok. But a few days after that, things went downhill. When I woke up on Sunday morning, I was feeling some serious shoulder pain. Unfortunately, we had a bunch of family coming over for Tyler’s 10th birthday party, and I just had to get some landscaping done. So despite the pain, I was all over the yard, raking, trimming bushes and trying at all costs to use just my left arm.
Towards the end of the BBQ, I was done — laying on the couch with an ice pack on my shoulder in agony. I knew my days of physical activity were on hold until this injury had gotten much, much better, hopefully without the aid of a doctor. There would be no more yardwork, no more gym, no more anything. My body was screaming at me — I was in a pit stop.
The pit stop concept is something I’ve done a lot of thinking about in the past, usually brought to mind when my computer is giving me trouble. To define things, a pit stop is a required (could be voluntary or involuntary) cessation of all progress towards something you are try to accomplish. So when your computer isn’t working but you want to be working, you’re in a pit stop. When you go on vacation, you are in a kind of pit stop as well. The key with remaining calm and steady in all pit stops is this: do not compare yourself with those who are fully functional, but with those who are also in a pit stop.
For example, if you’re on an indefinite hold with tech support, do not think about your coworker or competitor who is firing away at the keys, rather think about them in a similar pit stop (knowing they have been, and will be, in the same position). Who stays calmer, who is able to get something, anything, done, instead of merely stewing in frustration? Who is able to work through the problem more efficiently because they’ve remained logical? Probably the most extreme example would be someone throwing their computer against the wall in frustration — that certainly won’t get them up and running any faster.
The point is to find the proper comparison for your situation so as to create the most positive mental state possible. And one’s mental state is totally constructed by comparison. We arrive at a point of being happy or unhappy only in relation to a point of comparison. For example, if a salesperson gets a $10,000 deal, they will be happy — they have $10,000 more in sales than they did before the call came in. But if a salesperson gets a call from someone considering a $20,000 deal, who then ultimately signs on for a $10,000 deal, they will likely be unhappy. Both salespeople have sold the same amount, but one is happy and the other frustrated. This is human nature, but it can be used to our advantage. You can pick your point of comparison.
So when I was laid up for three days, unable to sleep on my one side and seeing stars every time I sneezed or coughed, I chose not to compare myself to the able bodied but rather to someone experiencing my symptoms — I wouldn’t be as effective or productive as the former, but I could sure try to hold my own among the latter.
Luckily the worst of my pain has gone, though I now have less confidence in my body not betraying me as I traverse my 45th year. There are those in their 60s who will envy me and those in their 20s who will pity me — I guess it’s all about your point of comparison.