Nearly 15 years ago, I was working out, and I got a piece of advice from a trainer that struck a chord with me. It resonated so deeply, that I’ve never forgotten it.
As he demonstrated the next exercise in my workout, I groaned. “Ugh, I hate this exercise.” He looked at me curiously, and then very calmly said, “The exercise you dread the most is the exercise you need the most.”
I must’ve looked confused, because he slowly repeated his words. “Seriously. The exercise you dread the most is the exercise you need the most.” “Think about it,” he continued. “You dread this exercise, because it targets the weakest and least developed muscles in your body. So it’s hard and uncomfortable.”
I slowly nodded, seeing the logic. And I couldn’t argue. I hated that exercise, because it was hard. And those muscles were weak. Yet for that very reason, that exercise was what I needed most.
That was nearly 15 years ago, and that advice from a trainer has stuck with me. Because that advice isn’t just true for the gym, it’s true for life. If you dread something, if something is hard or challenging, it’s probably the very thing you need most.
The conversation you’re dreading and have been putting off? It’s probably the conversation you need to have. The health habit that’s the hardest for you? The one you’re struggling to stick with? Whether it’s meditation, eating clean, or getting more sleep, it’s probably the thing your body needs the most. That activity or meeting you’ve been meaning to join? The one you keep finding a reason to avoid it? It’s what you need.
What we dread, what we avoid is often a giant red arrow pointing to what we need. It’s a clue about our areas of growth and what’s healthy. In some ways, what we dread is a gift, because it gives us a sense of guidance and direction. In moments of choice and decision, look for what feels hard. If you’re wondering what the helpful and healthy choice is, notice what you dread. Nine times out of ten, that’s the healthier option.
That advice from a trainer nearly 15 years ago? It was spot on. For physical, for mental health, for relationships, and everything in between. The things that we dread are often the things we need most.
So rather than groining about them and avoiding them like crazy, let’s lean in. Let’s plant out feet, practice gratitude for the direction, and then move forward in the face of discomfort. The exercise you dread most is often the thing you need most.
What fills you with a sense of dread? What thing in your life feels extra hard right now? And how can you use that as a clue about how to proceed?