For most of our lives, we've been conditioned to avoid emotional discomfort.
Stressed about an upcoming test --> You go find a snack as a distraction.
Upcoming deadline or due date --> You procrastinate until it's almost too late
The in-laws (who you don't get along with) come for a visit --> You drink too much wine as an escape
You fail when trying something new --> You avoid taking risks
Emotional discomfort exists to keep us inside our comfort zone. It is the primal brain's way of keeping you playing small so it can keep track of you. (The primal brain is the part of our brain responsible for instinct, feelings, and survival.) If you try to stretch outside your comfort zone, your primal brain sends up lots and lots of discomfort to get you to back off and get back to what's safe and comfortable.
My Discomfort Transformation
I've been going through quite a bit of personal and professional transformation lately. Because I'm spending more time outside my comfort zone, I feel a lot of discomfort.
Not much time passes in my day when I don't feel a nagging, a distraction, a rationalization, a whining, a redirection, an unsettledness, or a doubt.
Up to this point in my life, I believed that discomfort was something to be avoided.
I thought that when I felt discomfort, it was a sign that I was doing something wrong.
When I was doing something and the feeling of discomfort arose, I tried to un-feel the discomfort as quickly as I could by snacking, internet scrolling, shopping, making excuses, procrastinating, or just plain stopping whatever I was doing.
I did all of it.
What did it get me?
Ultimately, more discomfort as I had to deal with the debt, the weight gain, the unmet goals, the negative self-talk, and the hours of wasted time that I will never get back.
I realized that if I wanted my results to change, I had to change my thoughts about and relationship with discomfort.
What if discomfort could actually be a good thing?
If fearing and avoiding discomfort brought me results I did not like, what would happen if I used discomfort as a compass on my journey to achieving my goals?
Now, I'm training my brain to see discomfort as a sign that I'm growing instead of as a sign that I should stop what I'm doing and go take a nap.
Discomfort is the price I pay for taking responsibility for getting the results I want.
I show up MUCH DIFFERENTLY to my day now that I think "Discomfort is a sign that I am growing" instead of "Discomfort is a feeling to be avoided."
Let me show you.
When I think "Discomfort is a feeling to be avoided," I feel anxious.
When I feel anxious,
I make excuses.
I look for distractions.
I go through my day very mindlessly and don't really engage with what I'm doing.
I watch the clock.
I avoid any kind of accountability with my coach and other stakeholders in my life
The result I get from the thought "I have no control over what happens" is that I do not meet any of my goals and am left with much disappointment.
Now, when I think the thought "Discomfort is a sign I am growing," I feel less stressed when I notice the discomfort.
Feeling less stressed, I:
Allow the discomfort to exist beside me as I do the work
Stay on-task much easier
Avoid behaviors such as snacking, social media scrolling, and procrastinating that provide some emotional relief from the stress of thinking the discomfort is a bad thing
Make more progress