Discomfort and Growth

Comfort isn’t just physical—it’s a state of mind, and a dangerous one that makes it easy to stay put. When you’re comfortable, you’re not challenging the world around you or even engaging with it; you’re simply blending in.

A slight level of discomfort creates a completely different mindset, one in which you’re eager to move and create. You become inquisitive; you explore and invent. Your role shifts from passive observer to active participant.

Many of us have become so comfortable in our lives that we’ve forgotten exactly HOW to make ourselves uncomfortable. To help ignite your excitement about this idea, I thought I’d share a few strategies on how to do this.

1. Break a Routine

Routines are comfortable and mindless, which can often be a good thing. But when you want to break out of the comfort zone, you have to first break your routine. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be anything huge. Tiny little changes are enough to snap your brain back into focus. Remember, it’s all about engaging with the world around you. A slight shift in your routine is usually enough to re-engage the brain. Try simple things like taking a new route to work, or using a different phone greeting, or scheduling your morning tasks for the afternoon instead. Notice how these small changes make you feel more alert and present.

2. Follow a Dream

We all have secret little daydreams we like to think about but never follow through on. It’s time to bite the bullet and just go for it. Start that new hobby you’ve always thought about (skydiving anyone?). Take that big trip you’ve been “planning” since childhood. There’s no better time to confront your fear and accomplish something you’ve always dreamed of. It might be scary at first, but I promise you it won’t last long. And the feeling of pure bliss and pride that comes once you’ve done it will last the rest of your life.

3. Choose “Right” Over “Easy”

When you make this choice, you’ll never regret your actions. Do the things you know you should do but don’t want to. Sure, it’ll be hard to get started. But once you do—more often than not—you’ll realize that it’s not as bad as you thought it would be. So grab your workout gear and head over to the gym. Agree to go to that upcoming networking event. Pick up the phone and call your mother for goodness sake! This is the kind of discomfort that indicates progress. Remember that the “right” thing to do isn’t always the “easy” thing.

4. Fall in Love Again

If you want to experience the sheer joy of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you’ll take me up on this suggestion. Nothing makes you feel more alive than rediscovering something you once loved. Maybe you used to go dancing with your ex but gave it up when you split. Get back in the ballroom! What activities did you love as a kid? Perhaps you should tap into that childlike enthusiasm and pick up painting or soccer or tickling. If you used to love it, chances are you still will. It might feel awkward at first but then, you’ll fall right back into it just like riding a bike. In fact, maybe a bike ride is exactly what you need to push past your current comfort zone.

Comfortable situations don’t inspire growth; they encourage complacency. Whether you’re looking at your job, your relationship or your physical state of being, when you slip into comfortable territory, you’ll inevitably stagnate. So venture out of your comfort zone now and again, and rediscover how good discomfort can feel.

Chrissy Scivicque is a writer, nutritionist and career coach. You can find her at EatYourCareer.com, a blog dedicated to helping you create a nourishing professional life.

photo courtesy of Simon Hucko

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