Rachel Baum

A love note to frigid lake water

Published 9 months ago • 4 min read

My family spent last week at a lake house in Wisconsin with my sister & her wife. The weather was beautiful, but not hot. The water was ice cold, but there was no way we were going to miss out on swimming. So we waded in, gasping at the cold, complaining the entire way.

We had a running joke, saying, It’s REFRESHING! It’s INVIGORATING! to ourselves and each other, to encourage us to go further in.

And you know, cold water can be refreshing and invigorating – and also, sometimes it’s just bitterly uncomfortable.

And it got me thinking: When is it positive thinking, and when is it lying to ourselves?

They can look quite similar.

Sometimes we’re making the best of a situation and sometimes we’re trying to bully ourselves out of our feelings, to convince ourselves we're not miserable when we really are. The difference isn’t always clear:

  • Staying married even though it’s been years since you felt anything for your spouse because you want your kids to grow up with two parents at home
  • Keeping a job you hate because your family needs the benefits and salary
  • Continuing to go to family events even though someone always says something about your [appearance/partner/finances/kids] because you want a close family

Are we lying to ourselves when we put up with these things, or making the best of things?

At the lake, we knew from experience that once you’re up to your shoulders, it gets better. The uncomfortable feelings turn into enjoyment. And in the end, after getting through the initial shock, we had a great time swimming.

The negative feelings got us closer to what we wanted.

This is how you decide if your positive thinking is serving you. Ask yourself, Does this get me closer to what I want?

The point isn’t to feel good all the time OR to convince ourselves that feeling bad is actually “refreshing.”

The point is to use our uncomfortable feelings to get closer to the things we want.

At the lake, the positive thinking (“Refreshing! Invigorating!”) worked for us, rather than against us. We weren’t lying to ourselves; we were using our brains to get us closer to the fun we wanted.

Choose discomfort that brings you closer to what you want. Consider:

  • Feeling unhappy in your marriage VS the vulnerability of telling your spouse what you need and want, or the vulnerability of living alone
  • Feeling dread every Monday morning when it’s time for work VS the discomfort of talking to your boss or looking for a new position
  • Feeling miserable because of family tension VS the discomfort of setting boundaries, which might mean leaving early, or not attending
  • Feeling bored with life VS feeling awkward and unskilled when you try something brand new

You get the idea.

So the next time you wonder, “Is this positive thinking, or am I lying to myself?” ask, Do my uncomfortable feelings bring me closer to the life I want? If they don't, see if you can choose a version of discomfort that does bring you closer. It might be a difficult conversation, a brave action, or a willingness to fail.

Those things feel worth it when you know you're swimming towards a destination you desire. ❤️

Our brains really like all-or-nothing thinking because it helps us to feel certain. So when we're exhausted, we often think our options are to stay depleted or to find a way to fill our tank. Showing our brain how to help ourselves even when it’s not enough to fill our tank is a valuable way of showing up for ourselves. That’s the topic of this week’s episode, my sixtieth (woohoo!).

Episode #60: A love note to the exhausted

So many people I love are feeling depleted right now. At these times, it can be challenging to know how to fill your tank.

In this episode, I offer three thoughts that make exhaustion worse, and offer ways to counter them. I explain why we may want to stop talking about filling our tank and instead focus on where we can go with $5 of gas.

Love, Rachel

P.S. Here's another example from my vacation. My daughter said, "I think next year you should treat yourself to a new bathing suit." My suit is over a decade old but since we don't swim much and it still fits, it's easy for me to keep packing it. I said, "That's a great idea -- but also, suits are expensive and not fun to buy. Why would I get a new one when this one is still fine?" And she said -- lovingly -- "I think it's not as fine as you think it is."

Ha! I really heard her. Does that 10+ year bathing suit move me towards the life I want? Honestly, it doesn't. I hadn't even seen it -- hadn't let my brain consider a new bathing suit -- but once I saw it, I saw how right she is. This is a case where my positive thinking ("It's fine!") was actually moving me further away from the person I want to be.

P.P.S. If you feel something stirring inside you and know you want something different for your life, so you can look forward to the future (eg, more confidence, stronger relationships, a better job, a new hobby, a retirement that delights you), the only thing standing in your way is your discomfort in booking a consult call with me. And I get it. It can be scary to try something new. But discomfort that brings you closer to the life you want is always a good choice. If you're ready, fill out my consultation form (link below) or send me an email at

I love having you in my world



IG: @rachelbaumcoaching


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Rachel Baum

Certified Life Coach and host of the Making Midlife Magic podcast

I'm a life coach, college professor, and former president of the Overthinkers Club. Also, I host the Making Midlife Magic podcast. I love helping middle aged people dream again and create lives they love. Sign up to get inspiring mind shifts sent right to your email box. I don't over-send, and you can unsubscribe any time. This March & April I'm celebrating my podcast-versary with some delightful giveaways, so now is a great time to sign up!

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