Twice a year, in mid-Spring and Fall, we flip our mattress.

It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it always gets me thinking, mainly because the first night sleeping on that wonky mattress reminds me of all the other areas in my life that stay the same out of habit.

I didn’t think I’d be getting into the physics of a mattress flip today, but let’s dig into it. We flip our mattresses once or twice a year because we don’t want them to warp permanently, weighed down from the one third of our lives we spend sleeping. Sleeping, it turns out, is heavy business.

It’s all about the dip: we don’t want to erode away a dip on our mattress to the point that it becomes unfixable and worse, uncomfortable. By flipping it, we spread out the random weight differences over time, so the dips become less noticeable. It’s an equal opportunity mattress space thing: it prolongs the life of our mattress and no one spot on the mattress gets overused by our sleeping.

Sleeping on the mattress that first night post-flip is always irritating to me. My dude outweighs me, so I always feel like I’m sort of sinking into a mattress hole void of sorts—his dip is deeper than mine! It isn’t fair! I want my regular spot on the mattress back! Change is awful! THE VOID! IT BECKONS!

But then, the next night, the mattress flip was warranted. It’s leveled itself out again, and by switching sides, we’ve given it a chance to regroup. To re-mattress-ify. The dip is gone and it’s back to normal for me. At that point I’m glad we flipped it, and usually filled with a mild sense of superiority that we managed to remember to flip the thing at all.

So my question to you is: where are the areas in your life where you could use a mattress flip? Not a literal one, though that’s useful, too!

I’m talking about the habits and paths in our lives that we keep the same out of habit. Not because it serves us. Not because it’s achieving some goal. I’m talking about the places where we’re stuck in our little homemade mattress dips because we want to stay comfortable. The path may be worn in, but at least we know it, right?

It’s incredibly uncomfortable to flip our mattresses. Just like it is to switch our perspectives and try out something new. Some new habit, some new mindset. Some new something.

But are you avoiding a change like this because you don’t want to suffer through that first irritating experience? Of course, when it comes to creativity, the proverbial mattress flip irritations can last much longer. Finding our writing voice, trying to get published, or tackling a massive creative project are all long games, and might require more than a handful of mattress flips as we journey along. Truly great artists flip their mattresses all the time, refusing to stay comfortable for long.

But just like with our dear mattress analogy, it’s worth it to be uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable—for however long it takes—is the only way to really get anywhere new. There’s a fine line between a well worn path and an all out ditch. By refusing to take on these uncomfortable changes, we’re risking a lot more than long term discomfort: we’re risking wearing out the path completely and finding ourselves in a rut.

Now your turn. What mental and physical paths do you walk every day? What habits have you stuck, comfortable but not growing? There are a million decisions you make in a day: do any of them need a mattress flip? Do any of your habits need a shake up, so you can push yourself a little further out of your comfort zone to a place you really want to be?

It may be scary or uncomfortable at first, but eventually you’ll find yourself supported again. Maybe by a new habit. Or maybe just by the realization that you made it through yet another mattress flip, and are constantly learning from it. It’s all okay.

So in the words of the Godfather (and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail):

Go to the mattresses.

Then flip ‘em.

You got this,

-Jess

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