I recently came across a story in Spanish class called ‘Empuja la Vaquita’. Its author is unknown and it is translated into many languages. You might have heard it in English as ‘Pushing the Cow’.
Here is a summary: A professor and a student are walking through the countryside when they come across a small ramshackle home near the edge of a cliff. They meet the inhabitants, a man and woman with three children. All are dressed in rags and don’t appear to have been bathed recently. The professor asks the father of the family how they make a living in this small village with few opportunities. The father replies that they have a cow that provides milk every day. What they don’t consume, they trade for other goods.
The professor and student leave the home and, as the title suggests, the professor orders the student to push the cow off the cliff. The student is in disbelief but eventually gives in to the professor and pushes the cow. A few years later, still racked with guilt, the student returns to the village to find the family and apologize. However, upon searching the same location, the student finds a well-furnished home with a well-dressed and clean family of five. He asks about the people that used to live in that home and learns, surprisingly, that it is the same family. The father explains that they used to have a cow that fell off a cliff and died. Without the cow, they had to support themselves through other abilities that they didn’t realize they had and they were wildly successful.
The moral of the story? It’s a long-winded (and extreme) reminder that it’s important to get out of our comfort zone. Without the cow, the family discovered abilities they never knew existed.
When it comes to achieving your healthiest life, what types of cows are keeping you in your comfort zone? Maybe it’s the same exercise class you do every week and it’s time to challenge your body in a different way. Maybe you rotate through the same meals each week and are taking the flavors for granted. It might be a challenging habit, like reaching for a snack, a drink, or a cigarette in times of stress. Or it might be spending time with friends who don’t support you to be your best self. Routine is natural and comfortable. Without it, your life would be unnecessarily difficult. However, sometimes routine leaves you in a rut of repeated decisions that give you the same not-so-great results.
It’s hard to recognize when you are relying on these cows. The family was content and never dreamed that they had potential to live a better quality of life. If you are open to the feedback, you can ask a trusted family member or friend if they’ve noticed any cows in your yard. Or you can wait for someone else to make a decision that pushes you out of your comfort zone but you might be waiting a long time.
Maybe you have recognized that these cows exist but you’re not comfortable pushing them off the cliff yourself. Of course it’s scary! Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be as extreme as the metaphor. When it comes to exercise, there are low-risk, low-cost ways of exploring new ways to move your body. Go to a gym open house and try a new class. Buy a discount voucher (Groupon, Living Social, etc.) for a rock climbing, yoga, or circus class. Ask your friends about their favorite types of exercise and whether you can tag along with them to try it out.
As for a cooking rut, make a goal to try one new recipe each month. Search sites like Skinny Taste or Cooking Light for healthy spins on your favorite dishes. Have a recipe exchange with your friends. Splurge on a cooking class at a food store or community adult education program. Sign up for a trial of a home-order meal prep plan like Blue Apron or just get recipes without the ingredients from a program like Fresh 20.
Routine and stability play important roles in your life but don’t let them keep you from achieving your health potential. ¡Empuje la vaquita!
Disclaimer: No cows were injured in the writing of this post.