You Have to First Encounter Discomfort Before You Can Be Comfortable

It’s science… I think.

Photo by Daniel Gaffey on Unsplash
“Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph: a beginning, a struggle, and a victory.”
-Ghandi

Quoting the wise one, one more time.

I was seriously thinking about this the other day. The most stressful things we encounter on a daily basis have to do with life accomplishment, life work, or our deepest concerns and desires.

Why can’t life just be easy, though?

Why can’t I not get stressed out when I’m looking for a new place to live? Buying a house should be fun! You get an opportunity to pick a location and you get to sometimes decide what amenities you want in your house.

Why is starting a new job stressful? This is exactly what you wanted to be doing. You’re finally in a place where you can do your best work, and you’re stressed. There are policies to follow, specific things to learn about the job, and not to mention a constant pressure to not screw up.

Here’s the thing —

The things that mean the most to you, the things that are worth the most, will always cause you the most pain and discomfort.

The things that often bring you the most happiness are the things that will also bring you the most anguish.

I was doing therapy with a guy one time and he was (understandably) busted up over the loss of his wife. He was just trying to get through the day, let alone be a productive member of society again.

But I remember thinking about the amount of discomfort he was in. His social life revolved around his wife. She always set up the events. He had no idea how to be social without her.

He experienced a lot of pain without her, the person that meant the most to him.

That’s a sad, but very real example of what some of us experience in this life.

Unfortunately in his case, the loss of his wife forced him to become comfortable with himself socially.

It was something he never had to focus on before, but now without her, he needed to re-learn how to meet new people.

He was really uncomfortable, but without that discomfort, he would have never been able to become comfortable with meeting new people.

I use this example a lot, but it’s kind of like stretching a muscle.

You have to deal with the discomfort of that pain in order to adapt to the circumstance ahead of you.

When you stretch, your muscles adapt and become ready for that jog.

When you’re pulled out of your comfort zone. You have to adapt. You adapt or you shrink. And no one likes to shrink. Because ultimately your problems aren’t going away.

You can’t bury your problems, either.

This could be you, or you could know someone like this, but have you ever met a person that just buries their emotional feelings in most circumstances?

They don’t like to talk about feelings, they don’t like to show emotions, they certainly don’t wear them on their sleeve.

And then, one day, they just blow up. It could be a minuscule issue that causes them to go off.

The real problem is that they never gave themselves a chance to blow off some steam and deal with their issues. They buried them.

You know what happens when you shake up a Coke and then try to open it, right?

The truth is, you have to be uncomfortable sometimes. You have to force yourself to chat about your feelings, as much as you hate it, you have to talk to someone.

There we go talking about our theme again — you have to be uncomfortable to feel that comfort of peace later.

This idea is really all around us, embedded in our daily life. Chances are, if we’re never uncomfortable, then we’re not challenged very much, either.

If we’re not challenged, then we don’t grow. And you know how that story ends.

I remember thinking when I was going through undergrad, how much I just hated giving presentations.

The anxiety of standing in front of people while they analyze you. The way that you have to focus on how you say the right words and sound appealing, so that you can keep everyone interested in what you’re talking about. I hated presentations.

I found that the more I did them, the better I got at them. The more I talked in front of people, the more comfortable I became… talking in front of people. Imagine that.

It’s similar for anyone that plays an instrument for the first time, especially in front of a crowd.

You aren’t comfortable the first time. I don’t care how good you can play. There are a lot of external factors that can affect your playing in front of an audience that don’t affect you while you’re in the comfort of your home. Anxiety probably tops the list.

The point is that in order to become more comfortable with anything, you have to force yourself into the realm of discomfort.

Will Smith says that the best things in life are on the other side of fear.

He would suggest that you actually have to go through the fear, through the anguish, the discomfort, in order to experience the best things in life.

Isn’t that a crazy thought? Like we can’t just fast-forward to laying on a sunny beach sippin’ on a sangria. We have to work hard for those moments.

Most, if not all, of the things I’ve accomplished in life up to this point have caused me anxiety to some degree.

That’s just how life works, folks.

So if you’re sitting there wondering if you should go for it. Ask yourself what is holding you back.

If any of your answers amount to fear and anxiety, then I think you know what to do.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +422,678 people.

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