You Will Not Grow Until You Learn to Tolerate Discomfort
Face the subtle resistance that keeps you from becoming yourself
If you don’t learn to tolerate discomfort, you’re going to live your life in fits and starts.
You’re going to get an idea about what you want to do, or who you might want to be, and then as soon as you’re a few days into your new life, you’re going to revert to what you were. This isn’t because change is impossible. It’s because, eventually, reality kicks back in. You’ll encounter challenges, down days. You cannot coast on the high of an idea forever.
If you never learn to tolerate discomfort, everything — from small tasks to big-picture ideas — will end up unfinished.
You’ll buy a new piece to complete your wardrobe and it will sit, untouched, until you get around to donating it. You liked the idea of who it might make you, but you couldn’t tolerate turning that idea into reality.
You’ll start a new side-gig and leave once you stop being inspired, which will happen no matter what you do.
You will grow uncomfortable with things that call your attention to your patterns. You will deny your own growth.
You will try to make a budget and then decide it’s too overwhelming. As long as the bills are paid, you’ll tell yourself, everything’s fine.
Every time you begin to clean your home, you’ll get distracted, and what should have taken half an hour will extend itself — by a day, a week, a month.
This is how you will keep yourself from thriving. Until you are willing to tolerate discomfort, change is impossible.
Most of us build our lives around the pursuit of comfort.
You see this even in the smallest choices. We take hot showers because they feel good. We take the shortest route, find the closest parking spot, eat the nearest and most soothing foods. We engage in all of our most self-destructive and limiting behaviors because we pursue comfort, which is really a fear of discomfort.
Until we allow ourselves to see discomfort as the agent of change it is, we live in fear.
Discomfort is not inherently bad. Still, we avoid it because we think it signals something wrong. Often, our only experience feeling discomfort is when something actually is wrong, and discomfort is our cue to change.
When we habituate ourselves to defy our comfort zones and stick it out for the long haul, we begin to associate discomfort with challenging ourselves, breaking barriers, and creating opportunity. But until we allow ourselves to see discomfort as the agent of change it is, we live in fear.
When we imagine leaning into discomfort, we usually think of taking ice baths, engaging in daring feats, or making huge life changes — like quitting a job on the spot or booking a cross-continental flight.
Unfortunately, almost every one of these is the pursuit of some form of comfort. People usually don’t take ice baths unless they are athletes conditioning their bodies for recovery; they don’t make daring leaps of faith unless it’s giving them some kind of high; they don’t abruptly quit a job or book a flight unless they’re indulging in some form of escapism.
Confronting and adapting to discomfort is much more subtle.
Leaning into discomfort means setting aside time for a project and when that time comes closing your email, turning off your phone, and actually doing the work.
It means working out when you have a good excuse not to.
It means biting your tongue and picking your battles, even if you don’t feel like it.
It means taking a breath and preparing the food you’d set out for lunch this week instead of pressing “order” on Seamless once again.
It means closing out of your online shopping cart because you know you still haven’t worn some of the clothes in your closet.
It means putting your hand down when you start to bite your nails again, even though it really is satisfying.
It means putting away the dishes, making your bed, not canceling plans, answering your texts, honoring your commitments, and checking your bank account.
All of these tasks, though small, are far more uncomfortable than any sudden, sweeping life change would ever be. When we’re not busy being carried away by a high, we’re left to confront the very subtle resistance we feel toward doing what we know, deep down, will actually move us forward.
No matter where you are, what you do, or who you become — until you learn to tolerate discomfort, you will not grow.
Discomfort is not the monster we think it is. It is, at its core, a feeling of tension or hesitation. It may materialize in our bodies, albeit temporarily. And it speaks to us as we go. When we are in pain, discomfort heightens and communicates. When we are making progress, discomfort peaks and recedes, and clarity washes over us.
Discomfort, in its essence, is not bad — unless we never learn to use it to our benefit.
Author and speaker. instagram.com/briannawiest
original article – here