Flinch: verb– To withdraw or shrink from or as if from pain.
Right Now, if I told you to make a list of the things that are weighing you down like a boat anchor, slowing down your progress, and preventing you from becoming the person that you want to be – how many things could you actually come up with? How many of the things on that list are physically holding you back? Or worse yet, how many of those things are actually putting you in any real physical danger should you suddenly encounter them? One? Two? Are there even any at all? For as diverse and different as people are, there are a few inescapable ties that bind us all together no matter where you come from, what language you speak, or how you came to find yourself trapped in this maze that we call bodybuilding – we are hard wired to pursue the path of least resistance.
It’s a primal urge that has been built, bred, and ingrained in our DNA over the course of our evolution. For the majority of time that humans have spent on this planet, life has been unbelievably hard and littered with danger, death, and disease at every turn. You may have stuffed your face with a dozen eggs, six chicken breasts, and enough rice to feed a small Asian village today, but for our ancestors gathering, finding, catching, killing, and cooking meals was a painstaking and dangerous process. The only real danger presented by you shoveling food down your face is that you might accidentally choke to death on a chunk of that dry chicken breast you were too lazy to cut up – and even that is highly unlikely.
In order to protect ourselves from the clear and ever present danger that was our daily life, we developed a series of instinctual responses, or flinches, that tell us to pull back or proceed with caution. Our instincts tell us to pull away when something’s hot or sharp, to fear things like loud noises or falling, and we even have an extra special 6th gear that we like to call our fight-or-flight responses that we can mysteriously tap into just in case we’re being chased or attacked. These responses served us pretty well over the course of time. They taught us that easier and less dangerous was better. We learned that seeking out comfort and familiarity meant survival. We learned that by avoiding the things that made us flinch, we were able to live relatively long and stress free lives; but therein lies the problem, if we fast forward a few million years from the world of our ancestors who were literally one sneeze, or one ignored flinch away from wiping out an entire tribe, our lives have dramatically changed.
We only hunt for fun or for sport. We don’t live in fear of predators, or worry that an encounter with a stranger could be potentially dangerous. We aren’t generally concerned about shelter, and in comparison to our ancestors, sickness isn’t too much of a concern either. Our hierarchy of necesity has been met, but we haven’t found a way yet to override our flinches. Nowadays we don’t flinch due to fear of fire or predators, but we flinch due to fear of failure and progress. We keep pursuing the path of least resistance. We continuously flinch ourselves back into our comfort zone and then rationalize the outcome by saying things to ourselves like “I guess it wasn’t meant to be”, or “I can’t do it because if it doesn’t work out then I’m screwed.” That’s the modern day flinch, and it’s a visceral response to our illogical fears.
Very few of us are ever actually in any real danger anymore. If something doesn’t go the way we anticipated it’s emotionally damaging, and it’s embarrassing, but it’s nothing along the lines of getting trampled to death by an animal that you were hunting for survival. The flinches that prevent us from venturing out into unfamiliar territory have been with us since the beginning of time, but times have changed.
In life and in bodybuilding, seeking out the path of least resistance is the quickest way to lead you down a road full of regrets and what ifs. Often, people fall into a pattern of believing this state is permanent and never ending, but once this is addressed and we realize that we’re on this highway to misery and unhappiness, we can get ourselves together, and get back on track. Though often obscured, the exit from this mundane existence is there, bug it is the instinctive flinch that is telling us to carry on as we have, for fear that if we get off we’ll just end up even more lost and worse for it.
Learning to overcome the flinch is all about one thing – embracing the grind. The flinch developed to keep us on the path of the least resistance, and in order to overcome it we simply need to understand that something that bodybuilders figured out decades ago. Resistance is the key to growth.
The more resistance we apply to our muscles, the more they grow. Likewise, the more resistance applied to the flinch, the greater our personal growth will be. There’s a reason why the guy who refuses to squat or deadlift has weak legs, an even weaker back, and will never be more than just a regular guy wearing smedium tee shirts saying things like “I just have shitty genetics”. Because every time he goes into the gym he’s flinching. The same goes for the guy who can never manage to get in shape because he thinks he’s losing all his muscle so he skips cardio, adds cheat days, and doesn’t follow through 100%. Instead of embracing the grind he yields to the flinch – and the ability to overcome the flinch is what separates those that could’ve from those that did.
Look in the mirror. Overcome the flinch. Embrace the grind. Live life fulfilled.