What does studying for exams, learning a new language, training for a marathon, and waking up early have in common? They all make us uncomfortable.
Most people don’t like getting up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning. Most people would say that they struggled to learn a new language, especially if they tried to learn it after adolescence. For the most part, we can all agree that doing these things makes us uncomfortable, and that’s why so few people succeed at them. It’s difficult to build a habit out of doing something you hate, especially when no one else around you is doing it.
You can attribute success to a lot of different things – hard work, loads of willpower, and many others. But I think the best way to set yourself up for success it to get used to being uncomfortable. You need to get out of your comfort zone.
Growth does not happen when we are comfortable. Or, I should say, we do not reach our potential to grow when we are comfortable.
The wonderful society that many of us are fortunate enough to live in was not build by a bunch of lazy people. People like Einstein and Newton didn’t make groundbreaking discoveries by sitting around all day feeling sorry for themselves. We think that learning calculus is hard, but image how hard it was to discover and formally create it! There was nothing special about people like them. They weren’t born with some sort of gift, and even if they were, they accomplished their life’s work through hard work, not through genetic luck. It probably wasn’t very comfortable either.
This is why I think that the most important skill that can be acquired is the ability to embrace comfort. When we go to the gym, we need to see sweat, pain, and exhaustion as signs of growth. When we fail a math test, we need to study our mistakes and grow from them. When we fall for the hundredth time trying to learn how to snowboard, we need to embrace that pain. None of these failures are signs of weakness. These are signs of growth!
But everybody knows that, right? “No pain no gain” is nothing new. The problem is that most people don’t act on this knowledge. They live in their comfort zone, rather than just outside of it. Lots of able-bodied people would rather sit on their couch eating potato chips all day and blame others for their health problems when deep down they know it’s their own fault.
Procrastination is another great example of this, and I, like many others, have a lot of experience with this. It’s so easy to put off daunting tasks, but all that does it make us feel worse about ourselves. We don’t build willpower by taking shortcuts and scrambling to do everything at the last minute. Embracing the discomfort of starting something we dread doing is always worth it in the end. If we train our brain to embrace discomfort, procrastination will be a problem of the past.
Of course, the discomfort I’m talking about here is psychological and healthy, nothing medical. No one should live with depression or a broken arm, because that’s no way to grow. Likewise, no one should constantly deprive themselves of things that make them happy just to attain maximum growth – acquiring the body of your dreams as fast as possible isn’t worth being miserable because of it. Everything in moderation.
We’ll always be rewarded for our hard work. Even if we don’t turn our failing grade around right away or develop the body of our dreams in a few weeks, we can feel good about the fact that we’re undoubtedly making concrete progress towards our goals. We can also feel good about the fact that we endured through the pain. That’s something most people aren’t willing to do, and that’s why unless they can learn to embrace discomfort, they will never reach their full potential.
The ultimate takeaway from this is that one of the fundamental keys to living our best life is to embrace struggling and discomfort. Whether it’s in the form of an intense study session or an exhausting workout, we need to train our brains to embrace this pain instead of avoid it. We’ll be rewarded in the sense that we’re training our brains to embrace discomfort (in the form of willpower), which will in turn make it easier to embrace discomfort in the future. It’s like the snowball effect that leads to maximum success!
Best of all, it’s never too late to start.