Why Discomfort is Good and a Sign of Growth
We currently live in a world in which the goal of most people is to be comfortable. In fact, a large number of us not only strive to live a life of comfort, but we also do our best to avoid discomfort. We are constantly trying to maintain our level of comfort or increase it. However, what I have learned is that one of the greatest skills a person can learn is the ability to be comfortable with discomfort.
Most people bolt in the opposite direction when they encounter any sign of discomfort. The moment they feel slight discomfort, they attempt to eradicate it because it is not, well, comfortable. What they do not realize is that experiencing discomfort is often a sign of growth and progress. It is a valuable opportunity to improve and become a better person.
Setting goals in life is important. And if a person is able to be comfortable with experiencing discomfort, he or she can achieve almost anything. Let’s look at a few examples:
- Almost everyone in this world wants to be healthier and get in shape. But not everyone wants to experience the discomfort necessary to do so. That is why many people do not exercise. Lifting weights and doing some form of cardiovascular exercise requires effort, sweat, and feeling some discomfort. It is only through this discomfort that we can get healthier and in shape. The old adage ‘no pain no gain’ summarizes this perfectly. The discomfort we feel while exercising is a sign that we are getting stronger and healthier. But it requires that we accept the discomfort and get comfortable with it.
- Most of us know that a healthy diet is important for our health. Yet, many of us avoid eating healthy food because it requires us to change our tastebuds and experience some temporary discomfort. Instead of eating more fruits and vegetables, we reach for the fried chicken. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, experiencing some discomfort when changing our diet is not the end of the world. We can do it if we look at it from a positive point of view and acknowledge that it is a sign that we are improving ourselves.
- Many people want to start their own business or change their vocation. But this requires facing uncertainty and feeling some discomfort as we venture and try new things. Instead of being comfortable with this discomfort, a great number of people will opt to stay in their comfort zones because it is familiar to them. The moment they feel a little fear and discomfort, they return to their cocoon where they will remain stagnant or, worse, regress.
I can go on with more examples, but you get the idea. In order to change and grow, we must experience some discomfort. I am not talking about ‘placing your hand on a hot stove’ type of discomfort. I am referring to being uncomfortable. Think about a young child who is learning to walk for the first time. He or she is bound to fall down, experience some pain, perhaps scrape a knee or two. Yet children do not stop trying to learn to walk despite this discomfort. They will keep getting up every time they fall until they master the art of walking. The problem is that many adults forget this and become comfortable living in their comfort zone.
If you want to be a better public speaker but fear facing a large audience, the only way to achieve your goal is to get up on stage and do it, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. If you want to be a biochemist but fear the organic chemistry class you have to take, you have to experience some discomfort while enrolled in the class. If you want to successfully run a marathon, you will inevitably have to experience some discomfort while training and even while running the race.
Every time we experience some discomfort, we must look at it as an opportunity for growth. If we learn how to ease into our discomfort and get comfortable with it, we will grow stronger and make progress. There is no other way around it. In fact, when you come across people who have accomplished great things, remember that they went through discomfort in other to get to where they are at. They embraced their discomfort and learned to be comfortable with it. Many high achievers even look forward to the discomfort because they know that it is a sign that they are on the path to accomplishment and success.
Imagine for a moment viewing discomfort in a positive light. Instead of shunning it, what if you were able to get comfortable with it? What would you be able to achieve in your life? You could learn a new language, start that business you have always wanted to, get fit, become a prolific public speaker, write that novel, thrive in social settings, get up early every morning, become vegetarian, be a better parent, read more books, complete a marathon, improve your relationships, lose weight, save money and use it to travel the world, etc.
I used to shun discomfort. I wasted a lot of time and opportunities by opting to stay within my comfort zone. Even though I still have to constantly remind myself that discomfort is a good thing, I am now much more comfortable with it. This blog is one way that I have manifested that because it was not easy to start it and to write blog posts consistently. I now view discomfort completely differently and try to embrace it. And it has changed my life for the better.
How to Get Comfortable With Discomfort
- The first step is to view discomfort differently. Look at discomfort as a sign that you are improving your life and experiencing growth. Know that it is a stepping stone that leads to your eventual goal.
- Take small steps. Instead of trying to run an entire marathon on the first day, run for 10 minutes instead. Make it manageable by breaking it down into smaller increments, but be sure to do it no matter what. Then slowly raise the bar when you no longer feel any discomfort. Know that you are getting better.
- Surround yourself with others who share your desire to get better. Find positive people who are comfortable with experiencing some discomfort and motivate one another.
- Change your words. Avoid using words like can’t, impossible, no, too difficult, etc. Your words have tremendous power so be conscious of how you talk to yourself.
- Do instead of think. Rather than think about how difficult or uncomfortable a task might be, just do it instead. In fact, too many people torture themselves with their thoughts rather than leaving their comfort zone and just performing the task at hand. You are tougher than you think. And your progress will inspire you.
- Acknowledge your fear. Fear is normal and it is okay to feel it. Courage is not the absence of fear. It merely means doing it despite the fear. You can get used to fear the same way you can get used to discomfort. Welcome it because you know it is a sign that you are challenging yourself and experiencing growth.
In this modern world full of quick-fixes (which never last), the key to lasting growth and happiness is learning to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Discomfort is good for you so embrace it.