You may not realise it, but the sweet embrace of your comfort zone is actually stopping you from achieving your goals and stunting your ability to transform into your best self. As creatures of habit, challenge and change inherently breed discomfort, however welcoming these heretofore ‘undesirable’ states is actually in your best interest.
If you want to overcome or ascend, your prescription involved a healthy dose of growth. Growth requires change and effort, both of which tend to require a layer of discomfort. Let’s set the scene by using a surmountable physical challenge as our example, and two possible scenarios to illustrate why discomfort is aa state you should seek out more often.
The Seeker Vs The Avoider
In our first scenario, there is a mountain to be climbed, and our adventurer (you) seeks to scale the peak in order to enjoy an amazing view they’ve been told is remarkable beyond words. However, there is a problem – the itinerary didn’t call for a mountain climbing session. The easy route is to listen to that little voice inside that is advising you to just stick to the original schedule. Sure, they have a safety gear and a guided tour to help you up the mountain, but then you’d be missing out on seeing that funny statue, or the house with the largest cactus!
And are you should you speak enough of the native language to even organise a tour guide? What about parking? What if it rains frogs? There are always a million reasons to play it safe – after all, that voice of reason is the personification of your lizard brain, the ancient survival mechanism which protects us, but also stops us from seeking anything that might upset the apple cart. Think of the world’s strictest librarian, and climbing this mountain represents a giggle.
Right now you are probably wondering how this translates to your everyday life? Well, consider any time you’ve been invited out to a random event by friends, or choosing between an unknown roster of actors or a sequel that feels more comfortable to spend your time on. If you always pick the known, then you are limiting your range of life experiences by narrowing your palette. At what point did you stop sampling new flavours? What if the world’s best ‘thing’ is just a mountain top away, but by choosing comfort you missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity?
The person who seeks change invites growth into their life, whilst the avoider will live a comfortable yet muted existence.
Growth Is Uncomfortable
The person who seeks change invites growth into their life, whilst the avoider will live a comfortable yet muted existence. Change involves novel thought, unique behaviours and dynamic actions. Each of those require us to engage subprocesses which by their very nature foster growth. In our example, The Seeker is faced with a reward locked behind some barriers. But if they don’t make an effort, they will be guaranteed to never reach their reward. If however, they engage and embrace the uncomfortable nature of their challenges, they will also unlock second-order rewards. Through taking the change to approach the guide and asking others for help with translation, they are proving their own resourcefulness and building self-confidence – a dividend that will continue to pay off long after the sun has set on mountain peak that day.
If the process of climbing that mountain was easy, would the reward feel as good? Would it feel earned? Would you have gained any new skills or insights into your own abilities, beyond following a checklist? Rising to a challenge can feel uncomfortable, and it is far too easy to avoid it altogether. But therein lies the challenge – the process of embracing discomfort invites a plethora of growth opportunities.
So next time there is a mountain in front of you, don’t automatically default to avoiding it – that’s too easy and you are selling yourself short in doing so. Instead, meditate on how you will feel when you get to the top, what you can learn from climbing it, and how you can better yourself in the process.
Because you’ll never get to the top through wishful thinking.