As Julien Smith explains in his excellent book, we all have basic instincts to protect against certain dangers. When a baby stops themselves from falling or an adult hits the brakes to avoid a potential accident, this impulse, or flinch, helps us intuitively avoid injury.
Like many things, this flinch can be both a friend and a foe. When we face actual danger, the flight-or-fight reaction can save a life. But when we face a challenge to the status quo or, say, a CLEP test, this same instinct can cause us to choke in the moment of need.
Thankfully, this natural aversion to change can be overcome. By facing the flinch through voluntary practice, you can build up a tolerance to this instinct.
Take a Cold Shower
While the potential health benefits of cold showering are still being debated, the mental fortitude gained is indisputable. You don’t need to shower like this all the time, but do it at least once.
Turn the shower on as cold as possible and simply test the temperature with your hand. Now, as you prepare to step into it, you probably find yourself shivering and looking for a way to back down. Don’t.
After the first few seconds of shock and horror, you will be surprised to find that a cold shower isn’t actually that bad. The hardest part is overcoming the initial flinch.
Read a Book
To the detriment of our society, book worms are becoming fewer and further between. If you read regularly already, this might not be the best challenge for you, but if you rarely read outside of required school topics, this is a great way to face the flinch.
Choose a moderately long book (200 - 300 is a good start) and read it from cover to cover. If you have time, feel free to read it in one sitting, but that is definitely not a requirement. Do, however, read a few pages every day until you finish it.
As with any project, the truly difficult part is the flinch, that moment when you actually pick up the book and read the first sentence. From there, distractions can still tempt you to give up, but the flow of actually starting makes it much easier to ignore them.
Pick Your Fear
While general challenges can definitely help you overcome the flinch, the only person who really knows how to best overcome your flinch is you. What do you really fear?
Whether your fear is a difficult class, a challenging workout, or something else entirely, find small ways to beat your own flinch. Over time, all those small victories will start adding up.
As difficult as you will find it to face the flinch, you will be able to go farther, do more, and live more when you stop running from the flinch. As the Japanese Samurai used to teach, the real battle is internal. Before the first attach or parry, the results of the battle have been decided by the individual contestants. Face the flinch; win the battle.
How will you face the flinch?
Just remember, once is never enough. However little you do, make sure you face the flinch in some manner every single day.