In our previous Wisdom Note, we learned the ten laws of a living legacy. This week we will learn how to be comfortable with discomfort. If you miss any of our Wisdom Notes, please go to the blog to catch previous installments.
We hear often that in order to be successful, you must get out of your comfort zone. The fact is, it is a choice of either forcing yourself out of your comfort zone now while you have a choice or being forced out by the changing world around each of us.
As with everything that we face in life, the choice is yours. If you learn how to be comfortable with discomfort you can master pretty much anything. You can beat procrastination, start exercising, make your diet healthier, learn a new language, make it through challenges and physically grueling events, explore new things, speak on a stage, and let go of all that holds you back.
Unfortunately, most people avoid discomfort. I mean, they really avoid it — at the first sign of discomfort, they’ll run as fast as possible in the other direction. This is perhaps the biggest limiting factor for most people, and it’s why you can’t change your habits.
Think about this…Many people don’t eat vegetables or wholesome foods because they have convinced themselves they don’t like the taste. We’re not talking about soul-wrenching pain here. No one is torturing you. It’s just a taste that’s just not something you’re used to. So instead you eat what you already like, which is sweets and fried stuff and processed meats, cheeses, salty things, and lots of boxed foods that are highly processed with little or no nutritional content. The simple act of learning to get used to something that tastes different is not really that hard in the grand scheme of life. Yet, by not being a bit uncomfortable, it makes people unhealthy and usually overweight.
Somehow in our minds, we convince ourselves that we are avoiding discomfort when all the while we are creating a lifestyle of long-term discomfort that can have major significance on our quality of life and ability to live a vibrant legacy each day.
The beautiful thing is I learned through the years that a little discomfort isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be something you enjoy with a little training and consistent persistence. When you learn this, you will gain the skills needed to change any area of your life that needs to be changed. Master your fear of discomfort, and you can master your world to live the legacy life that you desire.
Avoidance of Discomfort
When people are stressed, they often turn to habits that are detrimental to them such as cigarettes, food, shopping, alcohol, drugs…anything to get rid of the discomfort of the thing that’s stressing them out. If you take a deeper look at the stress, it is usually an unfounded fear that’s causing it. Many times we end up worrying about those things we have no real control over. It may boil down to the fact that you have the fear that you’re not good enough in some facet of your life. If you examine the root cause, then you can choose to become comfortable with going through beneficial discomfort.
As an example, let’s say you start to exercise after being sedentary for a lengthy period of time. At first, you will be very uncomfortable. You will never feel like starting. It’s hard! It can make you sore. It’s not as easy as not exercising. It’s not something you’re used to doing, and you fear doing it wrong or looking stupid.
If you are not convinced in your mind of the value of being uncomfortable then after a while, you quit. It is really not horrible to be uncomfortable. It is a mindset shift that must be made. We’re not talking about incredible pain or losing life or limb, but just discomfort.
Even though I have been exercising every day for years, there are mornings I really do not want to. I have to remind myself that the temporary discomfort for that day is worth the healthy body, mind, and soul that is achieved, which brings me comfort.
Let’s look at another area of life…and that is comfort foods. By the very name, we are deceived into thinking that it will bring us comfort. When you first try to stay on a healthier regimen of eating, you may not like it. Eating green veggies, nuts, flax seeds, fruits, or black beans isn’t initially as thrilling as eating fried, fatty, salty, or sweet foods. It’s a form of discomfort to change your taste buds, but the truth is, it can easily happen if you just convince yourself that you are willing to become comfortable with a little discomfort.
Discomfort isn’t bad. It’s just not what we’re used to, so we avoid it. Avoidance comes at a real cost. The cost of not being able to change things, not being healthy, not being open to adventure and the chaos of real life. In both diet and exercise, you need to ask yourself at the beginning of each day, “How do I want to feel today?” This will put you on the right trail to make wise and prudent choices.
Each day ask yourself, “How do I want to feel today?” This will put you on the right trail to make wise and prudent choices.
Let us look to Moses as our example of someone who chose to be comfortable with discomfort which we read about in Hebrews 11:24-26, “It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.”
The way to master discomfort is to do it comfortably. That might sound contradictory, but it’s not. If you are afraid of discomfort and you try to beat discomfort with a really grueling activity, you will probably give up and fail and go back to your comfort zone.
Here are five ways to slowly become comfortable with discomfort.
1. Pick something that’s not hard.
Take time for daily prayer and meditation as an example. It’s not really that hard. You will need to set the time aside where you are not interrupted. Relax and allow this to be a time of reflection. Try to be conscious of your thoughts and don’t allow them to wander. This may bring some discomfort initially, but give it time.
2. Just do a little.
You don’t have to start by doing 30 minutes of something you’re not used to doing. Just do a few minutes. Just start.
3. Push out of your comfort zone, a little.
Let’s use the example of exercising. If you are not used to walking, start with walking around one block each day for a week. The next week, walk around one block and an additional 100 yards. Each week, push yourself just a little bit more than you are comfortable with. Soon you will become comfortable with the discomfort. Push yourself a little bit more each week.
4. Watch for discomfort.
Watch yourself as you get a bit uncomfortable — are you starting to complain – even if just to yourself. Are you looking for ways to avoid it? Are you coming up with excuses? That is when you need to push yourself just a little bit more.
This is not trivial advice. If you can smile while being uncomfortable, you can learn to be happy with discomfort. It may take a little practice, but your attitude will change when you have a smile on your face. Repeat this practice daily. It will be strange at first, perhaps even difficult, but soon your comfort zone will expand. If you practice smiling while in discomfort and with different activities, your comfort zone will expand to include discomfort. Little by little, become the person that you are destined to be with your God-given talents and abilities.
As you consider the 5 ways to slowly learn how to be comfortable with discomfort, you will experience a change in your life. Next week on our trek, we will continue on the same theme and learn 10 Ways to Master Your Discomfort. In addition to our weekly Wisdom Notes, encourage your friends and family to also join us on our daily podcast – Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.