In a previous post where I wrote about having the courage to change, I highlighted three common beliefs people have, which keep them psychologically stuck. The first of those beliefs was the belief that states, “I should never experience discomfort.”
In this post I will be discussing why discomfort should be embraced and two strategies to practice in embracing discomfort.
First, let’s understand why beliefs against discomfort exist in the first place. At some point during the middle of the twentieth century, the idea that skills and expertise were inherited, instead of developed with practice was born. (Perhaps this coincided with the popular discovery of the DNA structure.) Even today in my practice, I witness this mindset reveal itself in statements people make.
Take for example,
“My kid is smart “or “I dropped out, because I realized that I wasn’t cut out for the program.”
If you read between the lines of these statements, you will encounter the belief that success in any endeavor is supposed to come easy, after all what else should you expect if you are born with a set of genes that dictate success in a certain profession? This belief leads to the belief that if you start learning a certain discipline and you encounter difficulty, then it must not be for you, because if you had the genes for it it would be easy.
There is a second reason why people have become so zealous about having comforts in their lives. This reason is because most of us have come to see comforts in life as a stepping stone in human evolution. Some of us have come to see struggle as being so beneath us for so long that feelings of incompetency in dealing with certain difficult have set in.
For example, even though I grew up in Lagos, where electricity was grossly inconsistent, I am pretty sure that if electricity went out in my home, I would consider it an emergency, before talking myself back to a place of reason.
If child birth is any indication, the path towards any thing good in life is paved with significant struggle. We are designed to work hard, compete, enjoy briefly the fruits of our labor, before getting back into the routine of things.
Of course if you find the idea of routines boring and tedious, it’s probably because you are unfamiliar with the concept of meaning and purpose. Having a sense of meaning and purpose is what generates feelings of motivation and content in our lives. (If you are wondering why I didn’t mention happiness, read this post).
When it comes to feeling content, consistent feelings of content can be achieved even during periods of discomfort, this is because feelings of content are positively correlated with a person’s consistency in living up to his or her meaning and purpose in life. Now if you have found a sense of meaning and purpose in life but believe that you shouldn’t experience any discomfort, you are probably going to be experiencing a lot feelings of being emotionally stuck, due to your hesitancy towards taking risk and experiencing struggle.
So if you have gotten so used to, or married to the idea of comfort and you have come to realize that this mindset isn’t healthy, here are two strategies for you to practice toward liberating yourself.
Take for example, you have a goal and you have written a plan to achieve this goal, but you have become frozen in executing your plan. Most likely, because you fear losing some of the comforts you currently experience, or you fear that in the event you fail you will permanently experience a life more uncomfortably than the one you are living. More than likely it could be a combination of the two fears. Regardless you start by creating a list.
This list will start out with four columns. On the first column, you will identify all of the comforts you have going on for you, then in the second column, you will identify what pragmatic values these comforts add to your life. In the third column, you will identify changes you are hesitant to make, then in the fourth column, you will list what pragmatic value these changes will add to your life, in the event you follow through with making them.
The idea behind this four column list is simple, after your list is complete, you should now have a clear picture regarding which activities you engage in, help or hinder your ability to achieve your goal. Further, you will also have a clear picture regarding what changes you need to implement to set you on course towards achieving your goals. For further clarification, every thing that helps you succeed should be written down on a fifth column.
The second strategy is meditation, more specifically mindfulness mediation. The concept of mindfulness is straight forward, it is the process where you practice emotional resiliency towards non life threatening disturbances in your world. It is the act of doing nothing, by practicing the discipline of not seeking immediate gratification in response to experiences of discomfort.
The more mental strength you acquire from mindfulness mediation, the more focus you will be able to apply toward achieving your goals, regardless of how uncomfortable the process becomes for you. Here is a site, that offers more information on mindfulness medication.
Thank you for your time and if you know anyone who would benefit from reading this, please share this with him or her.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling private practice.