Over the weekend I had the unique opportunity to endure two periods of physical discomfort by choice. The first opportunity was the GORUCK Trailblazer event at Piedmont Park. Over a period of four hours, a group of 27 of us (including my wife) endured the physical discomfort of carrying weighted backpacks, sandbags, and each other up and down the hills of Piedmont Park. We even paid for the privilege of doing that. The very next morning, my wife Mary Catherine, daughter Alex, and I ran the Publix Atlanta Half-marathon (13.1 miles) around east Atlanta. Needless to say, I am physically tired as I write this article.
Why would I or anyone else do such things? We each have our own reasons to either embrace discomfort or avoid it. In this article, I intend to explore the reasons why I think getting comfortable with being uncomfortable will make you strong and resilient. For those of you who already know what I’m talking about, perhaps this article will validate your feelings on the matter. For those of you who avoid discomfort, I’m hoping you’ll reconsider your position and see how discomfort can become your superpower for future growth and resiliency. In a previous article, I wrote about how to bounce back from a setback. This article expounds upon the fourth point I made in that article.
Disclaimer – I am not a doctor of anything. If your discomfort is severe, then seek professional help: a psychologist, medical doctor, therapist, etc. What we’re exploring in this article are minor discomforts that can be handled yourself.
Here are a few of the many types of discomfort one may find in life:
Emotional discomfort – is a non-physical, psychological pain that can occur as the result of grief, loss, regret, or other negative experiences. It can manifest itself physically and may be one of the most common forms of discomfort in modern-day living.
Mental discomfort – if you’re taking a test or trying to solve a problem, you may experience this type of “my brain hurts” discomfort. As we continue to offload problem-solving to computers, many of us are getting very “soft” in our ability to do even the most basic types of problem-solving.
Social discomfort – some people enjoy being with others, but many people don’t. Even if you are extroverted, some social settings can be uncomfortable such as family gatherings, business meetings, social events, and so forth. The ability to be with other people who are different than us can add to the discomfort.
Physical discomfort – almost all of us are familiar with the aches and pains of living in a human body. Some discomfort might just be a “friction point” that gently reminds you of your humanity. Other types of discomfort may require an adjustment to your lifestyle. The human body was designed to be active, yet modern living doesn’t encourage that.
Most discomfort is temporary and the ability to endure it is a big part of improving your creativity, physical strength, flexibility, and endurance. Many religious traditions promote long-suffering, which is the ability to endure troubles with patience. Society has gotten soft. People struggle carrying bags of groceries, walking around town, or holding intelligent conversations with people having different life perspectives.
Here are some reasons why I believe getting comfortable with being uncomfortable will make you strong and resilient:
- Expands your comfort zone – Practicing voluntary hardship expands your comfort zone so that you can better handle involuntary difficulties.
- Makes you physically stronger – The key training principle behind physical fitness is the ability of our bodies to adapt to progressive resistance in order to develop strength.
- Promotes your ability to recover – As you bounce back from discomfort, your body (mental, physical, emotional) develops new ways of coping.
- Increases your knowledge – Trying and learning new things increases your awareness of the world around you. This can increase your knowledge and frame of reference for handling unanticipated new situations.
- Helps you realize your true potential – I love this quote by David Goggins (Navy SEAL and author of You Can’t Hurt Me, “You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft, that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.”
- Increases your odds of survival – Whether you’re starting a new business or dealing with a tough life situation, the ability to handle the small bumps in life will better prepare you for the real challenges of life.
Here are some ways you can deliberately get comfortable with the uncomfortable in everyday living:
- Pick up heavy things – don’t hurt yourself, but realize that your body was made to move and carry things.
- Walk/hike/run – Park your car away from a building entrance and walk! There’s nothing more pitiful than a “reserved” parking spot for business leaders that are close to a building. Unless you’re a first responder with a need to quickly enter/exit a building, then save those up-close parking spots for people who need them.
- Take the stairs – given the choice between an elevator or stairs, take the stairs.
- Solve puzzles – this will help build brain power using puzzles like logic problems, crossword puzzles, sudoku, or even jigsaw puzzles.
- Read – yes, good old-fashioned long-form books and articles. Don’t let your only reading material be internet memes. Purposely read books that have a point-of-view different than your own.
- Pray/Meditate/Contemplate – be quiet and clear your mind. You’ll be surprised at how uncomfortable you might be sitting in silence. Learn how to endure the chatter of your mind to better focus on one thing or nothing at all!
- Go on adventures – Whether it’s a vacation or a day trip, go to places you’ve never been before and try new things. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable in new places.
- Get out of bed – I know the power of a good nap and enjoy an occasional sleep-in, but resist the temptation to stay under the sheets and miss out on all that life has to offer.
- Clean up your yard – Instead of hiring someone to take care of your yard, try doing as much as you can yourself.
- Make amends to another person – Be the peacemaker and fix a broken relationship.
- Break out of the routine – There are many benefits to following a routine, but it can also dull your ability to handle the unpredictable. Be spontaneous and do something different that’s not part of a routine.
As a society, we’ve gotten soft. We’ve lost the ability to walk upstairs, solve problems, carry things, make tough decisions, and deal with people. Become stronger and more resilient by deliberately seeking opportunities for temporary discomfort. What are some ways you can add a little bit of voluntary discomfort in your life in order to become a better person?
[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25 years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year. Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran. He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. ]