Dealing with discomfort

Starting an exercise plan isn’t easy.  Quitting a bad habit like smoking or drinking is mentally draining.  Trying to start a business is demanding on both your time and energy.

Any time you try to make a real change there’s an element of discomfort involved.

People often look for tips, tricks and shortcuts to ease this discomfort, but I believe we should be taking the opposite approach.  We should lean into the discomfort and start making ourselves more comfortable with discomfort.

The discomfort that we feel in most changes or challenges that we undertake aren’t dangerous to our health.  Sure, they may make us feel tired, sore, frustrated, among a wide range of other emotions.  But it’s not really something that we can’t endure.

We’re all worried to search for the past of least resistance.  It’s easy.  Maintaining the status quo requires much less effort that bringing change to your life.  But if you’re even thinking of change, then the status quo in your life isn’t cutting it for you.

So how can you get comfortable with discomfort?

Exercise/Diet

A prime example of dealing with discomfort is when you look at exercise programs.  Any exercise program that actually works is going to involve a significant amount of discomfort if you want to see results.

It’s not comfortable to start using muscles you haven’t used in ages.  It’s difficult to start a cardio program when you haven’t run since high school.

But people all too often give up without truly exerting themselves.  It may be because they’re starting to get winded on the exercise bike.  They may have promised themselves that they would do 30 minutes of cardio to start, but gave up halfway through because it was getting hard.

Or maybe they get through the first week or two of the program, but they’re feeling sore and decide to start skipping some trips to the gym.

Instead of focusing on the discomfort, start re-framing this discomfort as if to say to yourself “I’m feeling sore because I’m working hard.”  Keep reminding yourself that change is never easy, but that you expect discomfort and you’ll work through it.

The same goes for sticking to a diet.  It may be uncomfortable to skip your evening junk food binge.  It may take some extra time to make healthier meals instead of relying on frozen dinners or even worse, take out.

But passing up on eating empty calories isn’t going to ruin your life.  Acknowledge to yourself that you have the craving, resolve to deal with the discomfort for a few minutes and let the urge pass.

Quitting a bad habit

Habits are part of our life.  They are so ingrained in our lifestyle that they are automatic.  So training ourselves to not do something isn’t easy.  Our mind will revert to doing what it’s accustomed to doing.  If the habit is something like smoking or drugs, it may even be worse as our body is craving it.

Ending the bad habit of procrastination is another great example of discomfort.

Doing meaningful work is taxing.  It may be physically demanding if your job entails manual work or mentally demanding if you’re an information worker.  Sometimes it’s both mentally and physically demanding.

We’re all too aware that it’s much easier to browse the web, chat with colleagues, go on extended breaks, or call friends then it is to get down to business.

If we truly examine what’s going on when we procrastinate, it basically comes down to us avoiding the uncomfortable work that needs to get done.  But if we work through the initial resistance of this discomfort, we start building momentum that lets us push through this barrier.

The added benefit is that you’ll start feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment in getting these tasks off your plate.

Dealing with discomfort

Humans are creatures of comfort.  We like the comforts of relaxing and knowing what’s ahead of us.  When we start pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, we start to resist.

But the area just outside our comfort zone is where true change happens.  We start reaching and trying to get a little bit better at whatever we are pursuing.

It’s the people that don’t quit when they encounter this resistance that make real changes.

Make sure you push through the discomfort.

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