Friday, January 14, 2011

Discomfort is a Good Thing

When we are feeling threatened or in danger, our instinct is fight or flight. This is an evolutionary mechanism that protects us. However, despite living in relatively safe environments, we still operate in this fight or flight mode when presented with challenges of a mental or emotional nature. It’s our primitive selves in action, even though the threat of physical harm is usually low.

As humans, we typically try to avoid anything that causes us discomfort. This is one reason why change is so hard. However, what people don’t necessarily realize is discomfort is a prerequisite for lasting change and growth to occur, because it requires that we break out of the familiar and stretch toward something outside our comfort zones. While I might not go so far as to say “no pain, no gain,” I will say that you want to strive to push yourself past comfort because that is the real sweet spot.

When I consider the areas in my life that had the most lasting impact, they were areas where I was pushed/pulled toward an expanded version of who I know myself to be. Just like growing pains were a natural part of our physical development, so is the discomfort that accompanies our emotional and mental growth.

Rather than resisting that which makes us uncomfortable or arouses fear, we can benefit from walking toward it knowing that is where the value and power lie. Don’t resist it (fight) or run from it (flight) -- it’s a good thing to feel uncomfortable because you know you are entering new territory. Stay with it and know it’s an important part of the process. Discomfort can be our friend if we are able to see it as an opportunity for growth and change.

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