When you’re in your comfort zone, you’re in stasis. Your muscles lose their mass and atrophy. You don’t leave space for yourself to grow. You don’t leave space for hope or anticipation or excitement: each of which are in certain ways types of discomfort.
Physical discomfort #
You know that feeling after you’ve worked out and your muscles ache? You did some push ups, did some jogging, took a spin on a bike, or exercised with some kettle bells. If you didn’t overdo it, you’ll feel a slight pain–a slight discomfort. That’s you growing.
This is the type of growth and discomfort most people are probably familiar with, as it’s a real visceral feeling of growth they experience in their bodies. Working with your physical health is such an accessible way for you to learn to experience self-growth.
If you’re not doing anything now, it can be as easy as taking 5 minutes a day. Need help on how to get started? I like to do some simple stretches every morning with these exercises:
- Toe touches
- Shoulder rolls
- Chest stretch
- Standing quad stretch
Emotional discomfort #
If you’re like most people, you likely have feelings of doubt, fear, and anxiety. These emotions are especially strong in times of distress such as breaking up with a partner or when you’re feeling lost in life. In these especially difficult situations, it’s hard to be able to practice self-growth, as you’re in such an emotionally trying place that attempts to grow can actually be harmful for you: it’s like you’re poking on a gaping wound that’s already bleeding–it’s not going to help.
Instead, it’s better to wait for a time when you’re in a safe space for yourself where you can be receptive to learning how to navigate new emotional states for yourself.
Let’s say you’re feeling anxious about talking to someone at a party. Give yourself the opportunity to believe in yourself and have faith that you can have a worthwhile conversation with someone new. Maybe you’re not used to having that confidence, but it’s a great practice to help in your emotional self-growth.
Another example might be if you’re feeling lonely you could let yourself feel that loneliness just a little more rather than trying to patch it up by being with other people. It can make you feel a bit vulnerable, despite experience just within yourself, but the small amount of discomfort can help you build both understanding and resilience: both of which are great to have more of in your journey of personal growth.
Intellectual discomfort #
Self-growth isn’t just about saying you’ll do things and doing them. Growth only really makes sense in the context of where you are today, where you were before, and the goals you have for yourself in the future.
You have to do the work to define what your growth means, and this includes:
- Defining your goals
- Being mindful of the experiences you’re having
- Learning from those experiences
- Reflection on the journey and the accomplishment of your goals
When you’ve been able to measure your growth, you know you’ve grown. It’s your job to do this yourself, and it’s work. You could try to outsource it to others, but that’s not really self-growth (do we call that other-growth?).
Defining your goals will give you clarity and keep you focused, and it may not necessarily be fun, but that’s part of the discomfort.
Other forms of intellectual discomfort for self-growth include:
- Learning a new skill
- Reading a book
- Writing your thoughts out
Existential discomfort #
We don’t often see ourselves in different ways. You may want to be a better person tomorrow, but who is that better person you’ll see in the mirror?
After watching the Billie Eilish documentary and hearing interviews with her, it was inspiring to hear her speak about how she gave the director full creative control, especially given all the footage they had of her before her stardom. I’m sure there was plenty of cringe-worthy material that gave her goosebumps when she saw it. But it’s real and it’s raw, just like we are all are, and the way we saw ourselves in the past can become something else in the present and the future.
This type of self examination can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, and most of us don’t much time examining and questioning our own egos. It’s not uncommon for someone who starts practicing meditation to come upon a wall inside themselves that was built by their own egos to defend themselves. The ego doesn’t like to be challenge, and yet, it’s a through this self-built wall where we have room to grow.
Every challenge is an opportunity to improve #
There’s a light at the end of those dark tunnels even if we haven’t learned to open our eyes yet to see where that light is. It can sometimes be easier than others, but it almost always takes work, and that’s what makes it worthwhile: overcoming the challenges is what makes the experience of self-growth so satisfying.
That’s not to say you should be in a constant state of turmoil. I recommend that you still make time to celebrate your wins and give yourself to just exist and soak in the blue sky above you and to enjoy every sandwich.
I hope your journey of growth continues with moments of anticipation, illumination, and small bits of discomfort.