5 Tips to Embrace Constructive Discomfort

I enjoy social media feeds from Dumb Little Man – Tips for Life. An assortment of contributors offer well written motivational pieces on this web site. If you are one of my regular readers, you know these types of posts are right up my alley. Last week, Luigi Potenza shared 8 Principles to live by for an Epic Life.

I found parts of his eight principles to be discomforting. His choices seemed to be right on target, but the approach seemed unrealistic and unobtainable. I have read and thought about that list numerous times this week. I now see that my discomfort comes from my preconceived limitations and expectations.

Principle 2: Embrace Constructive Discomfort has given me quite a bit to think about. This principle started with the question, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” It is about challenging your comfort zone and always looking to do something new. There is no question that life is better when that zone gets larger and life becomes more diverse.

“…Familiarity makes us more likely to enjoy something, even if it turned us off at first…” Luigi Potenza

Luigi challenges us to reach far beyond our boundaries to achieve our goals. Here are five tips I think about when challenging myself to embrace constructive discomfort.

  1. Keep your eye on what’s far outside your comfort zone. I liked the reference to crazy stupid ideas in the original article. Too often I have thought, “You would never find me doing that!” It is exactly those crazy things that add excitement and challenge to break out of a comfort zone. The more often you embrace crazy; the more often it becomes less crazy and just plain fun.
  2. Discomfort likes company. It is hard to take the first step outside of your zone. I remember the first time I cycled 150 miles for Bike MS and ran my first 5K. It was intimidating to be surrounded by people I saw as must more experienced and athletic. My discomfort was lessened in both cases by having friends join me. Friendly faces made insecurity melt away.
  1. The discomfort of failure is good. If you want to do extraordinary things, the chance of failure is greater. It is easy to see that success breeds comfort. Likewise, discomfort seems to be close by to failure. Overcoming preconceived notions about success and failure is a necessity. Putting yourself out there and failing is a sign you are headed for some epic accomplishments. Learn to use failure constructively to push yourself forward and achieve success.
  2. Take comfort in the unexpected. There are times when you find yourself wandering into the discomfort zone. I have found myself cycling with a group of people who just wanted to go 10 more miles which ultimately turned into 20, miles, 30 miles… I chose the uncertainty of staying. I went farther and faster than I imagined I could. When you are at a crossroads, it is easy to turn back. Be comforted in knowing that not turning back will yield invaluable rewards.
  3. Know when discomfort becomes comfort. The thing about embracing constructive discomfort is that the boundary between comfort and discomfort is always moving. A few months from today things that gave you discomfort today may be within your comfort zone. Both small and major victories can propel you forward. It’s best not to rest in one place but always keep your eyes on what is outside of your comfort zone.

Tom Bilcze

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