The day after a big snow storm, I woke up to a pain in my left arm that brought tears. I knew I had shoveled a lot the day before, but I didn’t know what I had done to make my arm hurt this bad. I made an appointment with a physical therapist who diagnosed it as a torn tendon.
She worked her magic, but I was still in a lot of pain. She told me it would take 16 weeks or more for it to heal. She explained that I needed to relax it as much as possible and ice it twice a day. I didn’t do either. The next time I saw her, I was in more pain than before. Again, she worked her magic and again I felt instant relief. Again, she gave me the same instructions. Again, I didn’t follow her advice. Again, the next time I saw her, the pain was back.
For the third week in a row, she gave me the same set of instructions. And for the third week in a row, I didn’t follow anything she said to do. In fact, I cut down a small tree in our front yard with a chain saw, an axe, and shovel. By the time I finished, the pain was intense. I went back for my fourth visit in four weeks and told the physical therapist what I had done. It was time to have a talk.
She told me if I kept ignoring her advice about rest and icing, I wasn’t going to get any better.
Somehow, this woke me up. Following that visit, I kept my arm limp and relaxed as often as possible. I also iced twice a day. And wouldn’t you know it—my arm began to feel better. But then, because it felt better, I figured I could start using my arm again as if nothing was wrong. Well, this didn’t go too well. Within two days, the pain was back in full force.
So, what was I missing? What didn’t I get?
The same thing most of us don’t get. Healing—or any change—is a process that evolves over time and it has to include:
- A belief in what you’re doing that’s different from what you were doing before
- A commitment to what you’re doing
- A focused attention throughout the day to what you need to do
- A willingness to repeat the same action over and over and over again
- An understanding that you have to do whatever you need to do for as long as necessary
My arm is still on the mend, but I’m doing a lot better. I understand what I need to do and I’m making a commitment to doing it. But it’s hard. There’s a lot I want to do in the yard and I get tired of focusing so much. I just want it to be better now! But if I act on the components of change listed above, I know I’ll be better a lot quicker than if I didn’t.
Think of something you’ve tried to change and haven’t been too successful with. What elements are missing? Identify them and keep trying—otherwise, whatever tendon you’ve torn in your life will only get worse.