It is a fact of life that there are times when we all need to cope with discomfort. It might not be what we want but we put up with it. When it comes to physical discomfort, for example slightly sore feet or legs, or tiredness at the end of along walk, there is sometimes an almost enjoyable side to it as we have achieved something. Obviously I’m not suggesting we ignore all physical discomfort as it can be one way the body tells us it needs some kind of attention or something is going wrong and we’d do well to listen to it.
But the type of discomfort I’m talking about here is emotional discomfort – like when we do things that are outside of our comfort zone, learning a new skill, doing things differently, perhaps doing things we’ve never done before which might scare us a bit – and let’s be honest if we want to continue to grow and develop there will be times when we must do this.
Why we need to be comfortable with discomfort
In times gone by discomfort was often a part of everyday life it wasn’t unusual for many people to be hungry or cold or be under threat – those were aspects of life that most people got used to but in recent decades we seem to have become very used to comfort and often will not be accepting at all of discomfort. Many of us have grown used to the easy road to being comfortable to perhaps avoiding change or challenge because we know we don’t find those things comfortable.
But in today’s world, we all need to get comfortable with change and uncertainty. We also know that effective learning often means stepping outside of our comfort zone so if we want to continue to grow and develop, we need to be comfortable with a bit of feeling uncomfortable. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just download an app and learn a language overnight, or learn to play a musical instrument without practice? But that is not reality. We need to put in the effort and cope with the discomfort if we want to learn, whether that is the frustration of making mistakes when learning a language or the sore fingertips that come with learning to play the guitar.
If we get used to being uncomfortable perhaps even embracing that discomfort then often it can open doors to our growth and success and it can help us cope with things that aren’t under our control – one of the things that many people find a particular challenge.
How do I master discomfort?
For most of us this will be a lengthy journey but here are a few tips that can help you to get started:
1 – Don’t be afraid of discomfort.
Remind yourself that we aren’t talking about agony usually we are talking about discomfort – feelings like worry, anxiety, a degree of fear. But actually, as humans we are designed to be able to cope with those. If we constantly run-away from anything that causes discomfort then we restrict ourselves to staying in our comfort zone – and that isn’t the place where growth usually happens.
2 – Take small steps
Let’s imagine taking on a challenge like learning to run. Well, there’s nothing to stop you going from being a non-runner to doing a marathon. But most people start with a 5k run then 10k then maybe a half marathon. Chances are if you takeona challenge that is too big, you’ll completely put yourself off and retire back to the comfort of the couch.
3 – Do it regularly
Get used to putting yourself in situations of discomfort. Give yourself challenges do things that make you just a little bit afraid so that you can get used to mastering the feelings. Try learning a new skill, or maybe doing something that gets your adrenaline going, anything from karaoke to a physical challenge. It doesn’t matter and obviously it will be a very individual choice but if you know it’s a challenge for you then that is a good thing to do.
4 – Say yes to new opportunities
Have you ever seen an opportunity – maybe something like a new job, a promotion the chance of some sort of collaboration or new venture but ruled out the opportunity because you realised maybe you were short on a few skills or lacking in confidence. Saying no to things often keeps us in our place of comfort but that’s not the place of growth. So next time you find yourself about to say ‘no’ just take a moment to think and consider saying yes and maybe learning the new things you need to learn or embracing the discomfort that being out of your comfort zone might bring.
5 – Pat yourself on the back
If you take on a challenge and nail it and manage to cope with your feelings of discomfort then give yourself a good pat on the back and be prepared to do it again soon, things we fear often quickly become comfortable when we practice them.
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