Of all the valuable skills you’ll acquire, learning to deal effectively with discomfort is one of the most important. Consider all the times you’ve wanted to do something, but either never started or came up short. It’s likely that your inability to handle the resulting discomfort was the cause.
If you could handle discomfort better, you would never procrastinate, never quit a diet, exercise every day, and complete everything you ever wanted to accomplish.
Most of us avoid discomfort at all costs. It’s the biggest limiting factor for most people. But, a little discomfort can be a good thing. Even a lot of discomfort is a good thing if you want to change your life quickly.
Unfortunately, avoiding discomfort quickly becomes a habit. You instantly feel better when you evade the thing that’s causing the discomfort. It becomes a preferred coping mechanism. It also self-imposes limits.
The good news is you can free yourself from these limits!
The key to mastering discomfort is to work at becoming more comfortable in challenging situations. As you move forward, you increase your comfort zone little by little. Before you know it, you’ve erased the limits you had previously set for yourself.
Follow this process to become more comfortable with discomfort and set yourself free:
1. Start with something that’s difficult, but not too difficult. Learning Chinese is very difficult. But eating all your vegetables isn’t too difficult. Starting a gentle exercise program isn’t too difficult, either.
- Start with something that will enhance your life, but won’t be too challenging to implement or take an excessive amount of time.
2. Start slowly. If you’re going to start exercising, start with just 5-10 minutes. You can add a little bit of time each day or week. If you try to start with 60 minutes, it will probably seem too overwhelming to even get started.
- Why not give yourself the best chance to succeed?
3. Push through a little discomfort. Maybe you’re working on keeping the house clean. You’ll likely feel a strong urge to quit just 10 minutes into your cleaning regimen. Keep working. A little later, you may want to quit again, but keep going. The third time, allow yourself to actually stop.
- Try to do this with everything. Avoid letting yourself quit anything the first time you get the urge to stop.
4. Observe your discomfort. A great way to deal with discomfort is to simply observe it. How does it feel? How you try to avoid the situation that is causing the discomfort? Do you try to distract yourself with other activities?
- You might rationalize reasons why it would be better not to continue. Avoid falling into that pattern.
- Study your discomfort like a dispassionate observer. By simply observing and not becoming emotionally involved with your discomfort, you’ll likely notice that your discomfort lessens.
5. Find a way to smile. Smiling is a key component of learning to be okay with discomfort. It’s hard to be miserable when you’re smiling. When the going gets rough, take a deep breath and force yourself to smile.
6. Continue to push a little further the next time. Just like with exercising, you can always do just a little bit more the next time. Each time you work through a little more discomfort, it gets easier and easier. Your capacity to deal with discomfort will expand quickly.
You can learn to be comfortable with discomfort. Think of all the amazing things you could accomplish if being uncomfortable didn’t stop you! There really isn’t much you couldn’t do. Those that avoid discomfort the most tend to end up with the most uncomfortable lives. By accepting and managing your discomfort, you can build the life you desire.
Start small, but get started. Being a little uncomfortable never hurt anyone. Master your discomfort and you’ll set yourself free.