Professional Athletes don’t become champions by not making sacrifices.
Comedians don’t become stars by giving up after one failed joke.
Soldiers don’t become soldiers by training in calm and predictive environments.
The person working your dream job didn’t get there by giving up after one, two, or a hundred missteps or failures.
The individuals who excel in their respective areas of life all share one defining characteristic – They have found the comfort in discomfort.
The Universal Disdain
Humans are very adaptable creatures; We are exceptional problem solvers and are apparently very good at surviving.
Our incredible adaptability has spanned generation to generation by sharing one common universal disdain: discomfort.
Our ancestors would not have survived if not for the constant bombardment of discomfort – it was the driving force behind the hunt for food and the desire for stable shelter. It was the reason they discovered fire, invented the wheel, created more effective tools, explored new lands, and advanced civilization.
The unyielding push of discomfort continues even in today’s society; we are constantly striving to better ourselves and the world around us, constantly seeking out a better tomorrow. While the discomforts we face may be much less dire than those of our ancestors, it does not mean they are any less important.
Modern day discomforts vary from person to person, situation to situation, they can be divided into 4 separate challenges that can be overcome to lead to exponential self-growth:
- Social Challenges
- Intellectual Challenges
- Physical Challenges
- Emotional Challenges
Humans are social creatures by nature, we yearn for connection and relatability. As children we interact with each other with little to no hesitation – with no fear of judgement.
It’s only as we get older are we beat into isolation through fear of saying the wrong thing or encountering the horrifying “awkward silence” – our childish charisma is drained and replaced by fear and disconnect.
Letting the discomfort of social challenges take over leads to such a detrimental impact on the quality of life. It causes countless missed life experiences, missed relationships, missed networking connections, and missed opportunities for growth.
In order to re-establish the level of social interaction that we once had we must step outside out comfort zone of isolation. We have to smile at strangers that walk by, we need to dive deeply in our conversations with peers, we need to spark conversation with our fellow passengers of life – we need to re-connect.
The mortal anguish of embracing the discomfort of social challenges is a very daunting experience, yet it yields such amazing results through practice and patience. Interactions become fluid, people become interesting, and experiences seemingly fall upon your lap.
There is no feeling quite like the sensation of when you’re about to take a make-or-break exam that you’ve poured hours upon hours studying for, only to have every neuron in your brain shut off the nanosecond the paper touches your desk.
It’s an itch in your brain that you can’t scratch.
That itch turns to panic.
That panic turns to rage.
Rage at the professor, rage at the stupid paper sitting in front of you, rage at the person next to you effortless breezing through, and most importantly rage at yourself.
Learning something new is such a unique and indescribable sense of discomfort – it’s a sense of frustration deep within when you find yourself struggling with a new skill set of learning a new topic.
The concept of learning seems pretty straight forward: “If I read, re-read, and re-re-read this topic I will eventually absorb the information” – but this old-age concept is so very far from the truth, contrary to what your teachers taught you for so many years.
Benedict Carey, author of “How We Learn“, explores common misconceptions of learning and demonstrates how learning can become less of a chore and more of a welcomed life changing endeavor.
By embracing new and effective ways of learning we can alleviate the discomforts and pressure that come with the intellectual challenges we face.
When most people hear the word “discomfort” they almost always think of the physical sensation of the world – the feeling of running the extra mile, the feeling of a personal record in the weight room, or the feeling of the last steep incline of a hike.
You find that voice in your head telling you to walk away, to stop – the mind trying to outwit the body. “If you stop, if you cut this short, you’ll feel better. You’ll be comfortable again,” but by pushing through that feeling of wanting to quit, by embracing the discomfort, you produce incredible results of personal strength.
It’s almost impossible to put into words how it feels to push yourself to the absolute breaking point only to pick yourself up and push through, to find deep within yourself what motivates you.
At the point where you are at your lowest – when you find your legs are no longer made of flesh and bone but are made of concrete and sticks, when you find your lungs squeeze tight with every labored breath – you find what truly motivates you.
I’m willing to bet all the $27 in my bank account that it won’t be “I want to look good at the beach” or “I’m not as toned as I want to be“.
It will be:
“I’m going to prove to myself what I can do”
“I’m going to be a reflection of determination for my children, so that they know to never give up”
“I am strong. Stronger than I’ve ever believed myself to be.”
You find yourself deep into that hole of discomfort only to climb out a new person, one with unbreakable self-confidence and a burning passion to continue to better yourself.
The feeling of emotional discomfort through life’s emotional challenges are probably the most powerful and most difficult to overcome.
(It’s interesting to note that the same areas of the brain light up when we experience emotional pain as when we experience physical pain.)
Throughout life we experience innumerable amounts of emotional challenges: rejection, anger, fear, loss, anxiety, and many others – so the question is, how do we find comfort in such discomfort? While we may not see such emotions in a positive light in the moment, it is possible through self-reflection to view these emotions as strengths rather than perceived weaknesses.
Just as in the previous three challenges, in order to grow as an individual you must face your discomforts directly. Emotional challenges require a great deal of effort, especially when dealing with life shattering events. By looking at past challenges you have faced, you are better equipped to face future events by learning to regulate emotions.
The regulation of one’s emotion is a key factor in overcoming life’s ups-and-downs – it helps create a healthy and stable base line of emotions. This isn’t to say that one should not feel “negative” emotions, or should feel guilty for experiencing a “negative” feeling, but by learning to regulate emotions, one does not dwell in that emotional challenge; they feel “negative” emotions, they embrace it, they learn from it, and they let it go.
I Challenge You
Finding comfort in discomfort is vital for self-growth.
The mind will push itself against this idea on a daily basis, it wants you to stay in your comfort zone – but by staying there it’s almost impossible to grow as an individual.
Each day you must make a conscious decision to oppose the minds desire to stay comfortable.
Seek our social challenges.
Welcome intellectual challenges
Embrace physical challenges
Confront emotional challenges.
I challenge you to push yourself, to go out and embrace discomfort – to find comfort in discomfort.