Episode 26: The Discomfort of Growth

Episode Summary

As humans our brains are naturally programmed to avoid discomfort.  This has kept us alive and it has allowed us to make huge advances over the course of human history.

But when it comes to personal development, being willing to experience discomfort can allow us to grow, leave our comfort zone, do things we've never done, and reach impossible goals.  

In this episode of the podcast, I'm talking about optional discomfort—and why you might want to do hard things, uncomfortable things on purpose in order to get different results in your life.  I'll show you what the willingness to experience discomfort can create in your life.

I share three important ideas about discomfort to help you as you go after the goals and the dreams and experiences that you want to have in your life.

1. You aren’t special.  Discomfort is the price everyone has to pay to reach their goals.  

2.  There is discomfort either way.  By not pursuing our goals we don't avoid feeling discomfort.  It's just a different flavor.

3.  The better we get at discomfort the more our capacity for accomplishment grows. Experiencing discomfort is actually a skill that you can get better at to impact all the areas of your life.

What if discomfort is the price to anything you want? Is it a price you are willing to pay?  

Maybe most importantly, when you opt to have experience the discomfort of growth you are developing the meta-skill of staying in discomfort, which allows for further growth in your life.

Who you become as you willingly experience the "optional" discomfort of growth is the real reward of any goal you work towards because it creates a version of you that is capable and available for even more possibilities and accomplishment in the future.

Episode Tools and Questions

The Case for Discomfort

Discomfort is something we avoid automatically.  This is probably exacerbated by our modern way of living.  I actually think our ancestors were much better and feeling negative emotion because we live at time in history when much of our day-to-day suffering has been mitigated to some degree.

We have air conditioning and drive thrus and electricity and running water and instant communication and prenatal care and heated car seats.  We can adjust our world in the tiniest of ways in increase our comfort to its optimum level.  When we are physically uncomfortable, in many cases we can do something about it.

This is the marvelous result of human ingenuity and it is amazing!

But it also makes us more resistant to emotional discomfort.  We have the idea that we shouldn't be uncomfortable and that gets in the way of our personal development.

Whenever we want to achieve big goals we are going to have to go against our natural programming to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and save energy.  This means we will be uncomfortable.  But it is the price of growth.  


How We Do Hard Things

The key is accomplishing whatever goal you have in your life is to be really willing to feel negative emotion in order to get what you want. 

The truth is:

  • discomfort is the price everyone has to pay to achieve the things they want.
  • you don't avoid discomfort by avoiding doing hard things.  Discomfort is non-negotiable.  You only get to decide what kind of discomfort you will feel.
  • you have to learn to ignore your feelings and do what you want to do through conscious decision.  This skill of overriding your feelings with conscious thought will enable you to go on to greater and greater accomplishments and possibilities in your life.  
  • you have to recognize that not only isn't it supposed to be easy, but you really don't want it to be.  Reducing the price also reduces the value of the things you want to accomplish.


Powerful Thoughts and Questions to Consider

  • What if I'm not special?  What if reaching goals is hard for everyone?
  • If I'm going to feel negative emotion either way, what do I want?
  • If I’m going to be uncomfortable either way, what are the results I really want in my life?
  • When you come up against the resistance of your brain in the moment, ask yourself what would future you say? Is it worth the price required to achieve the goal? 
  • What if experiencing discomfort was a skill that you could get better at?
  • What if you never thought it was supposed to be easy? What if you believed that hard is exactly the way its supposed to be?
  • What if you were willing to build a home in discomfort and to know it so well that you could visit anytime you wanted something more from your life? What could that willingness open up for you?


Why Our Brain Protests

When we go to do hard things, we find that our brain offers of lots of thoughts (which then produce feelings) about why we shouldn't do that thing.

This is because our brain is only motivated by our survival.  It functions according to the motivational triad: seek pleasure, avoid pain, save energy.

Understand that the protests of your lower brain are normal, natural and to be expected.  It wants dopamine and it doesn't ever want to feel pain or use energy.  

But the only tool the lower brain has is thoughts.  It can't act for itself.  It can only offer you thoughts which create urgent feelings in you to give up your goal or not do the thing you said you were going to do.  These thoughts and feelings can be loud, but in the end, they are just thoughts and feelings, and you can ignore them.

If you want to know more about how your brain works and how to overcome the thoughts and feelings that the lower brain offers us, sign up for a free coaching session.


Episode Notes

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