I am here to tell you the 3 reasons why you should live in the uncomfortable and how it will change your life.
The truth is that we all do our best to avoid pain and discomfort. The further we are away from pain, the closer we are to pleasure. Right?
Living a good life means living a comfortable life!
I used to be Queen of the ‘safe zone’. Confrontation avoidance was a top priority and living an easy existence followed suit.
But guess what, that desperate desire to be comfortable and content meant that I was not leading a rich, fulfilling life.
Riddled with anxiety and struggling to manage added an extra layer of dread on top of the idea of doing something difficult that would take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me.
Running From Challenge Is The WRONG DECISION
Here’s the thing though; we NEED to be challenged in life and oftentimes when we run in the opposite direction of the uncomfortable situation ahead of us it is in fact the WRONG decision to make.
Today, I must persuade you that being uncomfortable can be a POSITIVE experience.
I need to explain to you WHY it is NECESSARY to run TOWARD these experiences.
I want you to finish reading this and crave that next challenge that fills you with dread.
And ultimately, I want you to be able to arrive at the same point I find myself at today where I can acknowledge that an action/event might be tough; I might begin to sweat, maybe suffer a little dry mouth and a few heart palpitations but by God I’ll do it anyway!
Don’t have time to read this article now (i’ts pretty hefty and work every minute!)? Download the Ebook to read later.
Reason #1 To Live in the Uncomfortable – The Safety Zone Does Not Encourage Progress or Success
Live in the UNCOMFORTABLE
You might think that this sounds extreme but let me explain something to you that may sound familiar.
When we feel safe we have no desire to make changes. When we feel safe we feel comfortable and would quite like to keep it that way. This is all completely understandable believe me, I’ve been there.
However, being comfortable does NOT mean that you are:
Being comfortable means that you are not experiencing pain BUT it can also mean that you are not experiencing pleasure. It’s a middle of the road existence, a limbo of sorts.
You are neither experiencing the perils of life nor the luxuries. You are not suffering from your actions but you are certainly not benefiting from your inactions.
Why This Is A MUST If You Want To Thrive!
The truth is this; you MUST live in the uncomfortable in order to thrive. If you have a burning desire to make something of yourself, be the best you can be and live a life that is fulfilling and meaningful then the only way is to run in the direction of those things that you fear.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…it’s not that easy Em!
When you’re faced with something that scares you it doesn’t seem to matter whether the outcome might have unimaginable positive impacts on your life, it’s just sh*t scary.
It’s takes courage beyond the dread and see the light on the other side but you must. You must get yourself acquainted with discomfort, it must become your friend and you must learn to love it because although it may seem like the enemy it is in fact, your ally.
You Are Not Alone In Your Fears
Now here’s a little story followed by a little challenge!
I was cripplingly shy as a child; extremely quiet with extremely low self-esteem. Talking to strangers was an absolute nightmare which meant that on more than one occasion my sister had to talk on my behalf.
Opening my mouth to have a conversation with someone that I knew was sometimes hard enough but to talk to Mr. Waiter about how my order was wrong?
That was PAINFUL.
It turns out that life can be quite difficult if your ability to communicate with people is impaired by anxiety. How are you supposed to explain what it is that you want?
If you’re hurt, if you’re upset, if something made you feel good or anything else for that matter if expressing it vocally makes you feel uncomfortable?!
This extended to the discomfort of the school classroom, workshops, group training’s and any other group activity you can think of quite frankly. I was a selective mute…or at least that’s what I told my parents anyhow.
Enough Is Enough. Time For Positive Change.
Always sitting at the back, eyes down and mouth shut but I didn’t learn much that way. I wasn’t able to absorb the information provided and I certainly wasn’t building any social confidence. ENOUGH.
A switch flicked during my early twenties where it suddenly dawned on me that my stubbornness to remain comfortable, to remain safe, was stopping me from achieving my goals.
Despite feeling good in moments where I had managed to avoid an uncomfortable situation it didn’t compare to the weight of unhappiness that I felt knowing that I was not progressing in life how I had wanted.
So, I had a year of saying YES. I finally decided to live in the uncomfortable.
During this year I attended more parties, more workshops, more training, more classes, more birthdays, more festivals, more gigs and more gym classes than I care to count.
At that point I knew something had to change and it had to happen now.
Believe me when I say, I did not want to go to A LOT of the above events. I wrote more, ‘I’m sorry I have to cancel’ texts before deleting them and throwing myself out the door than I have over the entire course of my life, just in this one year.
The Lessons Learned When You Live In The Uncomfortable
But here’s the thing; I can now speak to anyone about anything, be part of the group discussion and introduce myself to someone with higher status than me. I can discuss contracts with bosses, landlords and the like.
You have to make the decision, like I did, to do what makes you uncomfortable.
And you know what else, when you feel safe and relaxed in your body so does your mind.
And what happens when we feel content? We tend to switch off.
We turn the power down and plod along, one day to the next with nothing changing and no progress to be made but hey, at least nothing’s difficult! Right? Well, yeah, you’d be right.
Nothing would be difficult in living this way but nothing is thriving either.
- YOU are not thriving.
- YOU are not challenging yourself.
- YOU are not making life changing decisions and taking life changing action.
You Must Stay Alert And Receptive To New Opportunities
Keep your mind alert and receptive to new opportunities by looking for the challenges and when you find one you should acknowledge that first bout of nerves in your stomach, embrace the butterflies and carry them with you towards the discomfort.
There are lots of reasons to be fearful of a situation but more often than not, one major explanation is because there is something important at stake.
The fear is a fear of NOT achieving something. The fear is a fear of things NOT going the way you planned and the fear is a fear of failure. You’re nervous because you care. I get this.
Now, let me blow your mind.
If putting yourself in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable has the POTENTIAL to lead to something better, wouldn’t you want to jump at it?
Wouldn’t you rather live in the uncomfortable for a short period of time to reach a new level of progress?
If trying and failing one, two or three times meant that you would succeed on the fourth, wouldn’t you try? Worst case scenario, you remain exactly where you are. Best case scenario? Well, let your imagination run wild…
It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Now, my challenge for you:
Sit down and think, is this you? Do you avoid discomfort for an easy life but feel unfulfilled because of it? If so, I want you to:
- Write down something that scares you/that you find uncomfortable which if you conquered it could potentially help you on the path to leading a more meaningful life.
- Think about a moment in your life when choosing safety over discomfort has done you a disservice, write it down.
- Write down a moment in your life when choosing DISCOMFORT over safety has been of huge benefit.
- I want you to sit and think about your answers to points 2 and 3. Imagine both scenarios in great detail and feel the pain when thinking about point 2 and feel the pleasure when thinking of point 3. Make sure that you fully embody both experiences so you can associate pleasure with taking action even when it makes you feel uncomfortable and associate the extreme discontent that comes with staying in your safety zone and ultimately remaining unfulfilled.
Point 4 is a great technique used by Tony Robbins (You bet!). You can use these emotional memories to encourage you to live in the uncomfortable the next time you feel yourself retreating from it.
Once you catch the bug, there’s nothing that can stop you!
Remember, when we feel comfortable we have no desire to make changes and CHANGE is how we march toward a life of meaning.
Reason #2 To Live In The Uncomfortable – ‘Confrontation’ = Resolutions!
I know, I know. If you’re anything like me then confrontation is number one on the ‘things to avoid’ list.
It’s icky, it’s uncomfortable, it’s upsetting, it’s aggravating and friendships/relationships can be lost over a bad confrontation.
The truth is; confrontation is healthy.
Confrontation can be… wait for it…good for us!
We live in a world where we are quick to offend and quick to be offended and so we often restrain from making our feelings known for fear of dispute, for fear of a difficult conversation.
But let it be known that confrontation NEEDS to happen. Do y’hear me?!
I understand the desire in the gut to avoid discussions that we ‘know’ are going to lead to friction and distress, believe me I do.
But I’m going to quickly tell you 2 stories; the story of a past relationship and a past friendship where conflict avoidance ultimately was our downfall.
I had been with my ex-partner since the first year of University and after 3 years of happiness we were thrust into the real world where it quickly became very clear that actually, we were quite different.
Our work ethic, our indulgences and our priorities were all different. Slowly we drifted apart and the relationship became fraught with tension; he was quick to distance himself from me and I soon felt the loneliness creep in.
The desire to change the direction my life was taking was strong. The last 2 years of our relationship was a struggle.
It became increasingly difficult to find enjoyment in all aspects of life as we lived together as two miserable, unfulfilled individuals wanting very different things but, did I say anything?
Ding, ding! You guessed it, not a peep from me. I was certainly NOT prepared to live in the uncomfortable at this point.
Confrontation avoidance is so ingrained into the core of my being that even through times of severe loneliness; even through times of feeling so unloved and so worthless, I could not bring myself to utter the words, ‘We need to talk…’ 1 and a half years of disconnect and friction resulted in the worst conversation of my life where all I can say is that we both effectively EXPLODED!
And believe me, when it all has to come out this way EVERYONE gets hurt.
Your emotions aren’t able to censor what you say or what you hear. Your mind can’t think logically to find solutions or be understanding towards the others plight.
It is just raw.
Following the worst holiday of my life we still did not fully separate for another 6 months.
I left for London without him and we maintained a long distance relationship for about 4 months before finally a midnight phone call had us in tears, crying that it had to be the end.
The second story I have for you is of a friendship that I wish could have continued but my inability to talk honestly about how I felt made it impossible to maintain.
This friend was a housemate of mine and we were like chalk and cheese.
Our backgrounds couldn’t have been more different; our personality types, our values and beliefs and our interests – any aspect of a person you can think of and ours were polar opposite.
Yet somehow we slotted together as a friendship quite nicely, to begin with. I had a lot of joy with this friend.
She was a major part of my YES year and is part of the reason I have managed to overcome my selective mutism but unfortunately it became clear after the first year that the friendship was a tad one sided.
As I said, we were very different and one of the ways we are different is our independence.
I value alone time and need this time to unwind and recharge, I can’t spend every second of every day with someone because my introvert self would hate me for it.
However my friend was admittedly quite co-dependent.
This transpired into difficult situations whereby I might say that I’d rather not go out to this or that and she would be hurt and upset, taking it out on me with the ‘silent treatment’ or blunt language.
Alternatively, I would say I would go even when I didn’t want to in order AVOID moments like these! (The WRONG way to live in the uncomfortable!)
Leaving me frustrated with myself and angry that I didn’t have the guts to simply explain why I didn’t want to go.
Over time this became a larger issue than you could imagine until it reached a point where suddenly all communication was lost and neither of us made an effort with the other.
Now, these are very much the short versions of these stories just so that I can explain to you why confrontation was NECESSARY in both.
This could have saved the relationship and had the conversation been had 2 years prior it would not have been as explosive as the conversation that was had on that horror holiday. Or, perhaps we would have come to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to work which would have still been heart-breaking, but it would have saved us 2 years of pain.
A lost friendship is truly saddening especially when you feel as though it could have been a friendship for life.
Rather than take the hard step of opening up a dialogue with her, I took the easy root and ignored the problem.
To this day we have not discussed how or why our friendship fell apart. She does not know my side of the story and I do not know hers. A simple conversation could have saved our friendship.
I have no doubt it would have been unpleasant.
There might have been disagreement and frustration but even if that meant the end of it all at least I could have left knowing that it was for the best, that it couldn’t be saved.
Things to consider:
Confrontation doesn’t have to be gruesome
1. Often we ASSUME it will be difficult before we have even tried
2. We WORK OURSELVES UP thinking that we will not receive a pleasant response
3. We try to CONVINCE ourselves that ‘It wouldn’t make a difference anyway…’
What can embracing ‘confrontation’ do for you?
1. It lets people know what you WANT.
2. You can let people know what you NEED.
3. It allows you to take RESPONSIBIITY and CONTROL of a situation.
4. It opens healthy DIALOGUE between you and…whoever you need it to be!
It gives you the opportunity to RESOLVE a problem.
Here’s a little twist for you.
It’s NOT confrontation we are talking about here, it is CONVERSATION.
Conversation can transform into confrontation but it is not always where we will end up!
The issue is that we make the assumption before any words have even uttered our lips that the discussion will end in conflict because, realistically, this is always an option.
However, you owe it to yourselves and to whoever you need to speak with to initiate a dialogue.
Confrontation is uncomfortable there is no doubt about that but think about this; if you are feeling hurt, upset, angry or frustrated toward someone it is because you have a need that needs to be met.
Perhaps you need an apology, a change in behaviour, acknowledgement, respect or understanding.
IF you go into it with a valid reason for why you need to express your feelings and if you do it with clarity and respect, then your requests are reasonable.
It is not SELFISH or RUDE or DISRESPECTFUL to bring your feelings and needs to the attention of someone whose lack of awareness or acknowledgment is hurting you – it would be UNREASONABLE to keep it to yourself.
With that said I focus on these 3 GOLDEN RULES for starting a conversation (not confrontation) with someone that could potentially become difficult.
If you can justify why you need this discussion to take place and if you can see that what you are requesting is reasonable, then so long as you explain in a calm, open manner there is absolutely no reason why a confrontation needs to ensue.
Ah but Emma, how sheltered you are! I can’t control how they will react!
You’re right but here me now when I tell you that if you have identified your need, if you have a valid reason for needing this conversation and if your request is reasonable then an unexpected, negative response says everything about them and nothing about you.
You have followed the three steps above and opened the chat with calm, respect and openness but the response you receive is not what you had hoped?
Well, you’d be right, you can’t control their reactions.
In this circumstance you may well be dealing with someone who is unreasonable in which case confrontation may well ensue, BUT IT STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE.
Ask yourself: have I expressed myself clearly?
Am I getting my point across and my feelings known?
If the reaction wasn’t what you anticipated then try explaining it in a different way but make sure it is clear and concise.
Your voice must be heard and your needs need to be met.
Do not suffer in silence.
Speak up and always assume that the conversation will take the best possible route because the assumption of confrontation will lead to a fear of conversation, and that way no-one wins.
Reason #3 To Live In The Uncomfortable – Desensitization of Discomfort
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. This might sound obvious but trust me, you won’t know until you do it…
The more you can live in the uncomfortable, the more comfortable you’ll be. TADA! I know, I got you with that one didn’t I.
The more you live in the uncomfortable the less it frightens you, the more you live in the uncomfortable the more likely you are to see it for the huge benefit that it is.
If what we have discussed in the first 2 reasons is true and your comfort zone is actually the danger zone then it’s really important that we start to view discomfort as a friend.
A friend who makes it hard to love them admittedly, but a friend none-the-less.
Like anything in life the more you expose yourselves to these uncomfortable moments, the more you desensitize yourself to them.
Before you know it, you are:
Nothing can stand in your way because you have lived in the uncomfortable, you know what it feels like, you know how to handle it and you know what happens if you continue to live in the safety zone – nothing.
Once you start to feel comfortable with the previously uncomfortable then you know it’s time to find a new challenge; keep yourself alert and moving forward.
Our creative juices flow like the rivers of Babylon when we are in fight or flight mode.
Our brains light up like a Christmas tree and sometimes (in this context) it’s brilliant, so we must use it!
But the moment we’ve experienced it enough times that it no longer conjures this reaction then it’s time get your butt in gear and step out of this new found comfort zone.
Challenge a) speaks for itself I think.
If there is something niggling inside you, constantly poking at you, which you would like to learn or implement then now is the time to do it.
- Spanish lessons? Start now.
- Set up a new website for my business? Start now.
- Paint a canvas for the first time? Start now.
- Write a novel? Start now.
What desire have you been stopping yourself from doing out of FEAR?
That fear, that discomfort, is exactly where you need to be and as soon as you go for it and discover the benefits from doing just that then you will begin to see what I’ve been trying to tell you for the last few pages!
As an example for challenge b) I still had a fear of making phone calls up until last year.
I would avoid them at all costs; 3 emails, a letter, social media contact and another email before finally making the call if I REALLY HAD TO. So this was my challenge to myself – whenever I needed to speak with a company or work or the dentist, I would call them.
Likewise if my phone range, I made myself answer it. This might sound like nothing but this was HUGE for me.
I cannot express how uncomfortable I feel having to make a phone call; I break out in sweat, my face goes red and I can’t string a sentence together or remember my own name!
So this is the kind of thing I would suggest for challenge B.
Why live in the UNCOMFORTABLE?
The point is that for every phone call I made I experienced discomfort. And for every phone call I made the fear slowly dissipated.
On top of that, I now resolve issues SO MUCH QUICKER because shock horror, a phone call is a lot quicker than ping ponging emails back and forth.
This was a HUGE achievement and has become a massive benefit to me in day to day life and especially my work life.
So, find your small thing whatever it may be that you can use to regularly put you in a position of discomfort and CONQUER it.
Learn to love it. Don’t play safe – live in the uncomfortable.
MOVE ON TO THE NEXT LESSON IN THIS GUIDE TO LIVING A GOOD LIFE: WHY PERSONAL GROWTH IS DO HARD (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT)