Plunge Into Life: Growing Through Resistance

Written by Gavin Sklar, 2023 Let Go & Grow Summer Intern
Edited by The LG&G Team

Have you ever done something that scared the sh*t out of you? Maybe it was a workout …. Going outside for a walk …. Having a hard conversation with a loved one…. Getting out of bed… or even taking out the trash.

All of these things can most definitely seem difficult depending on our mental, physical, and emotional state at the time. This article will talk about why we are resistant to doing things that are difficult but good for us, and how we can grow through this resistance– including cold exposure (particularly the cold plunge/aka ice bath), a practice used in holistic wellness that helps us confidently conquer life’s challenges. 

For me, some scary things I’ve done include going for a 10-mile run, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and most recently, an ice bath! Thanks to @thecoldexperiment, I tried this practice a couple of weeks ago, linked with movement and breath-work preceding, which left me feeling empowered in amazing ways. This experience left me with an abundance of energy and excitement for life, as well as many questions. Like, why do difficult things help us grow? Why do many of us tend to take the easy way out? And what was in those ice cubes?!


We are hardwired to find the path of least resistance. Our primal ancestors used to have to hunt for long hours to gather food, survive on little food, or travel long distances to escape danger. This may have helped us very much when we were in those different times. 

But here and now, in this day and age, this hardwired mindset can be more detrimental than we think. As we know, social media is on the rise, as well as YouTube videos and programs that offer quick fixes to our problems. These resources can definitely be helpful; however, this usage can easily turn into a habit of instant gratification– where people lack patience, critical thinking skills, and are programmed to take the easy way out. This habit compounded over time can lead to less quality of life, a lack of willingness to put in the work for what we want, and more importantly, a lack of curiosity and courage to figure out what we want! With the processes of self-reflection, self-analysis, and self-sourcing, we can find the answers we want already within ourselves, decreasing the tendency to look for immediate answers from the outside that may be detrimental to us long term. An added benefit, being that with proper analysis and questioning, we can learn to use these outside resources most efficiently for our maximum benefit.  

In a recent study published by the University College London, some interesting outcomes arose that have shifted our perspective on instant gratification. A total of 52 participants had to follow a group of dots on a screen and judge whether the dots were moving left or right, using manual handles. During the protocol, the researchers made one of the handles heavier- without the participants consciously knowing of this change.

The results were fascinating; without knowing which handle was heavier, the participants resorted to the easier task (the less heavy handle) in judging which direction the dots were moving. They also were given an alternate option to answer verbally in which they decided again to use the verbal option that was easier. The study described these easier actions as having a lower “motor cost.” Although more research is needed, these findings are fascinating because it shows humans have the natural tendency to take the “easy way out.” 

Previous research has focused on behavior change mostly through shifting certain conscious thought patterns- change your thoughts, change your behavior. However, with the results of this study, we see that it can work the other way around in which our behavior can influence our thoughts and our perceptions of what may seem easier or more difficult.

Essentially, this is called “top-down processing”. Top-down processing is a way to explain how the body processes stimuli; it is when our brain uses already existing information from our memory and past experience to respond to certain life events. These frameworks, also known as schemas, are constructed from past experiences, prior knowledge, emotions, and expectations (Piaget, 1953). Meanwhile, bottom-up processing is when our brain makes a decision directly from the stimulus itself. In the study, participants use top-down processing to choose the easy way out. Throughout the rest of this article, we explore how we can use this process more to our advantage.

Practical Applications

There are several exciting practical applications to this that we can use to Let Go & Grow:

  1. Use the Easy Way Out to Your Advantage

We like to take this easy way out. This is proven over thousands of years. Well, now that we have increased awareness, we can use this hardwired process to our advantage and create more capacity for change. For example, with awareness of this concept we can start to overcome a snacking weakness by moving a snack we eat too much to a different place in the cabinet making it “harder” to reach. Therefore, we may want to snack a little bit less. Another example is moving our water bottle to the counter instead of the cabinet so it is “easier” to stay hydrated. An even more expansive method is to change the label on our morning ringtone so we will be more motivated to get up- being that it is already “easy” to look at the phone right away to turn off the alarm. This one has worked wonders for me!

By doing this, we start to use the shared “easy-way-out” natural tendency to our advantage to either increase or decrease certain activities, for slow, but steady positive change. 

  1. Breaking Free

Despite the promising examples above, ideally, we want to break free from the thought pattern of just wanting to do the “easy” and “less effortful” tasks. Ideally, we would stop buying certain snacks in which we have negative usage patterns. Additionally, ideally, we would probably want to hardwire the habit of hydration into our life. 

Furthermore, we can use this newfound awareness to reprogram our mind that hard things are actually good. Instead of immediately trying to park as close as possible to the supermarket, why not park all the way at the end to get more steps in, enjoy the skyline, and possibly avoid the headache of trying to find a closer spot? In fact, we will probably still get into the store/restaurant in the same amount of time despite parking farther. Taking a lesson from our recent article “The Power of Our Thoughts,” we can say I GET TO over I GOT TO. I get to take more steps. I get to choose healthy options. I get to drive my car.

With these mental shifts, we can first use the already hardwired patterns to our advantage and second, break free from limiting behavior, evolving to more expansive patterns and habits. With just a simple shift in awareness, we can start to be more in control of our natural impulses and behaviors, and use this hardwired nature for us, rather than against us. If this is still hard for you, we offer our Mind-Body Reset program, where we show you ways to explore positive reframing on a deeper level by resetting your nervous system and reconnecting to yourself. The MBR is not a quick fix, but it is worth it. You do the self-work, we show you how.

The Cold, A Path to Freedom, Clarity and Confidence

You might ask, why would anyone want to jump into a freezing tub of cold water? It’s cold, uncomfortable, and… it’s super cold! Why?!

But that is the fear talking. The instant gratification mindset. The fear of the unknown. Which is totally normal!

However, just as described in the last section, with increased awareness we have a lot more power to change. What if I told you that cold exposure can increase your mood, metabolism, and build more resilience and grit? Would you be more open to it then? 

Well, it most definitely can. 

For example, according to Dr. Andrew Huberman, “cold exposure causes the prolonged release of dopamine. Dopamine is a powerful molecule capable of elevating mood, enhancing focus, attention, goal-directed behavior, etc. Even short bouts of cold exposure can cause a lasting increase in dopamine and sustained elevation of mood, energy, and focus.” Additionally, it is found that cold exposure activates what is called “top-down processing,” the same process that the researchers from the study earlier in the article also found to be very promising in behavior change. Where our past experience, emotions, etc., influence our perceptions and decisions in the present. For example in this case of cold exposure, with top-down processing, our memory of persisting through the extreme cold will help make us more calm, cool, collected, and resilient during other stressful situations that we are bound to encounter.

And sooner or later, those 3 minutes were done.

What’s even better, is that I can give you firsthand evidence that all these benefits are true!

I heard the water was 40℉ (4℃), and I still stepped in that cold tub. I did in fact experience extreme discomfort. I had thoughts coming in that said “get out, get out, get out.” I also had thoughts of “oh yeah let’s do this! I’m invincible!” I broke that mental wall that says “I can’t” by staying in the ice. I used my breath to relax. I had amazing people by my side supporting me. 

I got out and felt extremely blissful. Euphoric. Happy. Grateful. Love. Power. I felt like I could run a marathon and have the life of my dreams. All with breath-work, ice water, and human connection. 

And the truth is I still don’t feel the extreme euphoria as I type this. Science says it lasts for 2-6 hours. For me, it lasted 48 hours. Long, but not forever. However, these feelings of resiliency are still in fact embedded in my subconscious- for me to use in future stressful situations like managing multiple assignments at once, or a stressful family dynamic. The more I type, the more I remember. The more I can activate those positive neural traits again (refer to our article “Taking in the Good” for more detail).

Hence, those feelings of invincibility are most definitely still here and present. And once again, this is not a quick fix. It won’t last forever. But at the same time, it will! All with the power of our mind. The power of going out of our comfort zone and growing through resistance. 

So I dare you, how will you use this newfound awareness to… 



Dr. Brooke Stuart. (2022a, October 8). On self-sourcing, deconstruction and the choices that align with empowerment. Dr. Brooke Stuart.

Dr. Brooke Stuart. (2023, April 8). On reflection, what is and isn’t working and why. Dr. Brooke Stuart.

Sklar, G. (2023, June 10). Taking in the good – a powerful practice for more joy and peace in your life. Let Go & Grow.

Sklar, G. (2023, June 18). The power of our thoughts: Articles: Perspective. Let Go & Grow.

Hagura, N., Haggard, P., & Diedrichsen, J. (2017, February 21). Perceptual decisions are biased by the cost to act. eLife.

Huberman, A. (2023, April 3). The Science & Use of Cold Exposure for Health & Performance. Huberman Lab. 

Mind Body Reset. Let Go & Grow. (2022, November 3).

Rousay, V., & Victoria RousayMaster’s Student at Harvard UniversityB.A. (2023, February 14). Top-down processing examples in psychology. Simply Psychology.

Gavin Sklar

Gavin Sklar is someone who strives for excellence in everything he does and is. He is passionate about feeling his best within his own body and helping others do the same. Gavin grew up playing plenty of sports with his main sport being baseball where he competed at the Varsity level in High School and was the team captain for his senior year. Sports taught Gavin the values of commitment, discipline, and effort while doing something that he loves. Additionally, growing up as the oldest of 4 children and later on the captain of the high school baseball team, he needed to learn how to lead others in many different ways for both an optimal family and team dynamic. Now, Gavin holds the positions of Content Writer at Let Go & Grow International and President of the Holistic Living Organization at UCF where he aims to grow and impact others on a daily basis. 

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