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I think about discomfort a lot. Mostly the desire to avoid it.
Oh boy, how hard I’ve tried to avoid it. I think about how it has driven my decisions and how it kept my life small in so many ways.
We put a lot of time, energy, and money into make our lives comfortable. It’s like the gold standard of things. Make a comfortable living, have a comfortable home, a comfy chair, wear comfortable shoes.
Ha. All good things. I only wear comfortable shoes. I love a cozy, welcoming home. I enjoy eating food and paying my mortgage.
But can life get too comfortable?
If we’re hungry, we eat. If we’re bored, we pull out our phone. If we’re thirsty, we grab a glass of water from the tap. If we have a headache, we can usually take care of it in relatively short order.
We instinctively react to our what ever urges come up. It's a bit like reverting to our more primitive urges - avoid pain, seek pleasure.
But what happens when the seek pleasure, avoid pain cycle stops feeling good? What happens when it stops feeling like enough? We’ve set up our life in a way that feels really comfortable, yet it isn’t quite working. We start to feel...who am I kidding...Pink Floyd said it best..."comfortably numb".
It’s a bit tricky really because at our core, we all want safety, we all want belonging, and we all want to matter. It’s likely that the pull to change, or grow is tied to one of these areas. This need unfulfilled tells us that some growth or change is required. But we also know that growth or change also requires feeling uncomfortable. We’re already feeling uncomfortable (in a comfortable, discomfort sort of way) and have taught our brain to seek comfort when this happens—take the pill, eat the food, scroll away the boredom. But when we seek a solution to this other discomfort, the only cure we see is more discomfort. So, naturally we do what we’ve always done. We resist.
It feels impossible and it feels terrible.
So, what can we do?
Discomfort as currency
I learned about the concept of money as currency at a young age. I learned that we trade it for things we want. We can save it up, we can spend it, we can earn it. I’ve always understood the value of it.
I don’t remember anyone specifically teaching me about the value of being uncomfortable. I was mostly told "it'll be okay", "smile", or simply "get over it".
But discomfort is a requirement of coming into our own. I think it can help to be reminded that there can be a difference between feeling uncomfortable and feeling like something has gone wrong.
Discomfort can be very “right”.
Resilience requires the practice of acknowlaging discomfort. Growth requires the application of it. Of discomfort.
Gross, I know.
But you can learn how. You totally can. You can decide to not miss out on something great because it might also be hard.
Totally up to you.