It's quite normal to avoid discomfort to prevent feeling life's physical, emotional, and mental distress. However, this behaviour affects our emotions and creates challenges.
In my lengthy career in senior roles at a large institution, I learned something crucial about discomfort:
Failing to lean into challenging situations can stop talented and intelligent people from succeeding in life. Accepting change and getting out of our comfort zone is essential to personal and professional growth.
This article will help.
When you're empowered with these four reasons for leaning into discomfort, you'll be motivated to make the moves you need to advance yourself.
#1 | When you face forward, you move forward
When you put emotions and feelings on the back burner, it prevents you from being productive and completing a goal – and the thing is, you will eventually revisit those feelings.
There's no escaping them.
If given a choice, it's natural to take the path of least resistance. But until you work through your emotions and face your discomfort, you will continue to waste your time and energy. Instead of dodging your feelings, you need to move toward them and eventually work through the discomfort.
Instead of dodging your feelings, you need to move toward them and eventually work through the discomfort until it’s no longer uncomfortable.
Wondering what that looks like?
Let's say you're struggling with a challenge at work - maybe it's a project you've been putting off.
Don’t walk away when you start to feel uncomfortable.
Instead, look at it from a different perspective: could this be a lesson in disguise? Is there something you need to learn about relationships, conflict, money, friends or work? Take time to consider the situation. Then, if you still feel like walking away the second time, stop yourself.
Take a deep breath and try again. Change your behaviour by breaking any pattern of walking away.
#2 | The results may surprise you
When you lean into discomfort and make it through to the other side, you'll often feel a heightened sense of confidence - armed with the knowledge you CAN overcome challenges. Often it is just a matter of changing your behaviour and adopting a growth mindset.
A great time to practise leaning into your discomfort is during a workout. When you think you have done all you can on the treadmill or out for a jog, add one more minute. Then, when that minute is up, add one more. You may surprise yourself with what you can do when you don't allow yourself to quit or take the easiest way out!
#3 | It gets easier with practice
Leaning into your discomfort gets easier as you practise strategies and work through challenges. Eventually, you won't even think of avoiding negative feelings or emotions. It can become second nature to do something difficult because deep down, you know there's something better waiting on the other side.
If you begin by learning how to be just a little comfortable with resistance, you can manage any challenge that arises gradually with experience.
#4 | It’s okay be feel afraid
Discomfort is a part of life. Unfortunately, trying to outrun what life dishes up means you'll be served that same meal over and over again. Leaning into life's challenges IS part of life—it's what makes you strong, capable, and successful. It's also what makes you a leader. By leaning into our discomfort and pushing ourselves each time without giving up immediately, we enhance our self-awareness.
By leaning into our discomfort and pushing ourselves each time without giving up immediately, we enhance our self-awareness.
These four reasons are part of an important lesson: It's empowering to achieve goals we feel are too complex. After all, being stretched and challenged only brings out the best in us.
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This article was originally published on November 18, 2017, and has been updated (June 2021).
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