Friday, December 17, 2010

Short Term Pain Equals Long Term Change

It is my second year as a volunteer Youth Basketball Coach at the Y. It's so much fun to have the opportunity to coach my son, as well as interact with the other kids. Last Saturday, our first game was about to begin. One 5-year-old was struggling with a case of the nerves and was crying to go home. His mother brought him to me and explained the situation. I asked the young man if he would just stick around and sit with his mom. If he felt better later, then he could come over and join the team. It wasn't long before the nerves were gone and this little guy was on the bench ready to play. He got in the game, our team scored some points, and everyone was cheering, high-fiving, and having fun. At the end of the first quarter, with the team seated on the bench, the same young man spoke up. "Coach," he said somewhat out of breath, "this is the greatest day of my life."

I have a friend who is estranged from his daughter. Following a family tragedy, the daughter made many poor and destructive decisions many of which have been difficult for the remaining family to forgive. After years of non-communication, my friend has initiated connection and family counseling with his daughter. My friend knows full well that the next steps involve pain, fear, and raw emotion that has been ignored for far too long. But, he knows that at the end of that road lies hope and reconciliation.

Many people come into the Y with the New Year's Resolution of losing weight or becoming more fit. There are countless stories of people who started with a similar goal and have transformed that goal into significant life change. They become healthier in spirit, mind, and body. However, the road to a new you is painful at the start. It involves trading new, healthier foods for the comfort foods you crave. It involves making time for activity and exercise in what is already terribly busy schedules. For many other people, the resolutions unfortunately fizzle in the sometimes difficult first steps. But, for those who stick with it, small changes lead to different attitudes and behaviors that lead to healthier people.

I know people who have recently given up the chew. After a very difficult first 30 days of nervousness, shaky hands, and foul moods, the cravings lightened and the time and money previously spent on an addiction was directed toward other, more meaningful things. And they didn't have to worry about the spit cup spilling on the carpet, a definite bonus.

The point is simple. Change means facing our fears and moving from the comfortable to the uncomfortable. Change involves persevering through tough first steps. Getting to the "better" often means having a willingness to deal with the "worse." A mentor says that we bury our issues in our backyards thinking that we can hide them. Of course, the issues don't go away, they just poison the well. The only way to take care of this is to dig up our issues and deal with them. This involves time, effort, and an openness to working through the junk in our lives. But, at the end of the day their is something better, something more than the mundane of getting through another day.

So, if it's deep emotional things that you are wrestling with, a resolution to be healthier, or if it's just a bit of anxiety over the first basketball game, I'd encourage you to strive through the painful beginnings because in the end, you might just find "the best day of your life!"