Finding Freedom in Discomfort: A Life-Changing Practice

Written by Scott September 30, 2010

Life begins outside your comfort zone

“It’s risky out on the limb, but that’s where all the fruit is.”

-Robin Sharma

Written by: Scott Dinsmore

Average Read Time: 3.7 Minutes

Think back on a time when you were ridiculously uncomfortable. Perhaps even terrified. Your palms are sweaty, your heart’s pounding, it’s tough to sleep. I’m talking about a feeling you’d do almost anything to avoid.

Got it? Ok, now what caused it? Whatever created it, chances are you are a better person as a result.

If you ever find yourself stuck in a rut, making zero headway on your big plans, you can bet it’s because you’re scared. Scared of the uncomfortable.

The biggest killer of progress I’ve seen with friends, clients and myself, hands down is comfort. To have a chance at living the extraordinary life, we have to get uncomfortable.

As humans we naturally do all we can to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Unfortunately this causes one to settle for mediocrity, leading to a whole host of problems. Not the least of which is fearing your path and living your purpose. You’ll simply find too many excuses.

Freedom comes at a price. Earn it.

When was the last time you got something super rewarding, with lasting value, without having to put some serious heavy lifting into making it happen? Other than fluke incidents, the true rewards do not come without taking some risk. You must earn your freedom.

We’ve come to think all pain is bad (here I refer to pain as discomfort and not the physically harmful and dangerous incidents most of us associate with the word). But the right pain is a crucial part of getting the best out of life. It’s what makes goals, accomplishments and victory so desireable. Without the effort, we wouldn’t value them. It’s responsible for close to 100% of our development. Without pain, you’d surely never reach your potential.

When you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing.

If you could pick one rule to experience amazing things, I suggest: If it feels uncomfortable then you’re doing something right.

The only way to experience a dream is through a little healthy discomfort.

Unlike a hiking boot that’s too small, this type of discomfort is what makes life rich. To really have a shot at living on your terms, the only choice is to learn to love it.

Life begins just outside of your comfort zone. That’s where the magic happens.

  • It’s the last few brutal reps at the gym that create the results.
  • The torture of public speaking makes the best influencers and communicators.
  • The terrifying job interview may give you a shot at your dream career.
  • Starting a business initially exposes life’s darkest doubts but it’s the price you pay to do what you love.
  • It’s intimidating to ask someone on a date but it’s the only way you’ll find your soulmate.
  • Publishing your writing risks a world of criticism but it gives you the chance to be discovered.
  • Switching to a healthy diet is brutal at first but is the foundation of an energy-rich, beaming life.

All of my most amazing life experiences have been a result of major initial discomfort: moving out of the country, starting my investment fund, beginning to write and coach, teaching my first speed reading class, proposing to my wife. The best fruit really is out on the furthest limbs.

Don’t worry about the fear. It’s natural. All the growth comes from stepping into the unknown and trying new things. They will be uncomfortable. You will find a thousand reasons to put it off. You’ll think of quitting. But that’s what makes the experience that much more amazing. Embrace it. Allow the fruit to ripen. Then begin the feast.

Take the Comfort-Killing Challenge.

The only way to break loose is to go at it head on. Instead of avoiding these uncomfortable situations, commit to doing the opposite. Do something that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. When opportunities come up, dive on them.  You’ll know when they do because you’ll feel it in your gut. That feeling won’t go away unless you confront it. Once you overcome it, your standard of what’s possible will rise and the world will be in the palm of your hands. I first learned of the comfort challenge from Tim Ferriss and it’s made all the difference.

Agree to getting out of your comfort zone at least once a week. Here are a few ideas:

  • Volunteer to give a talk to a group of friends or office mates. Any speech at all will do.
  • Start a conversation with someone new. Ideally an attractive member of the opposite sex if you’re single. Start with a smile.
  • Call a celebrity or famous mentor of yours and ask them 3 questions. Make them meaningful.
  • Negotiate a better deal on a fixed price item at a retail store. Don’t let them tell you no.
  • Pitch an idea to someone who could help make it a reality.

Once you’ve done a few weeks of the above, switch to daily comfort challenges for a week. You’ll be changed for good.

It never goes away.

The only way to avoid discomfort is through inactivity, i.e. laziness. Say no to every opportunity that crosses your path and you will be free of the anxiety that comes with stepping outside your zone. But be warned that with inactivity comes boredom. Your learning and growth will end. Without growth comes death. The first to die will be your passion and love for life. And if it goes on long enough, the rest of you will follow. No kidding. It’s these moments of truth that make us come alive.

Even little things can make all the difference. Last week I was invited to a small organic farming event at my favorite olive oil shop. I couldn’t find someone to join me, and almost didn’t attend for fear of not knowing anyone. Then I sacked up and went anyway, only to come away with my best local S.F. experience yet, and a handfull of inspiring friends, including a very cool French wine maker.

Let discomfort ignite your breakthrough.

Most people will stay in a job that makes them want to poke small pins in their eyes for no other reason than it’s comfortable. There’s no more dangerous place to be. When things are comfortable or manageable, there’s no motivation to make a change for the better. Don’t let fear of the worst case scenario suck you into this fate. It’s never as bad as it seems and the opportunities will be worth their weight in…well, your freedom.

It takes courage to try new things. It takes courage to blaze your own trail.

The crowd lives in comfort. An extraordinary life thrives in testing the limit.

Let the testing begin.

What uncomfortable experiences have led to major (or minor) breakthroughs for you? Join me in the comfort challenge and share your experience in the comments below.

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Other Resources to Help You Along the Way:

The Most Dangerous Word In the World

How to Find Life-Changing Opportunity in the Worst Situation

Photo 1 Courtesy of: saranv
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