Growing pains, so aptly named, are not just for children. It’s physical and uncontrollable for the kids, whereas the adults have to deal with the mental version of it.
Unfortunately for us, we can opt out. We can choose not to take risks. To stay firmly rooted in our comfort zones. To take only what comes easy. To go with the flow.
The problem though is that growth is inherently tied to discomfort. “No pain, no gain,” we’ve heard it said, and rightfully so.
Physical fitness comes with sore muscles. Good grades come with countless hours of study. Meaningful relationships come with lots of responsibility and sacrifice. Entrepreneurial success comes with years of marketing and business strategy. In short, all the good things in life exist on the other side of comfort.
It is essential, therefore, for us to learn how to embrace and work through discomfort. Not try to avoid it or eliminate it altogether, but to accept its existence and necessity, and be willing to pay that price on our journey to success and fulfillment.
The trick to staying with discomfort is to find ways to soothe ourselves at the moment, to train ourselves to turn off our natural fight or flight instinct, so that we can focus on the situation at hand long enough to learn from it or solve it and subsequently move on to the next challenge.
There’s no one way to deal with discomfort. However, we each have to figure out what works for us personally. Maybe deep breaths will do the trick. Or talking to your loved ones. Or physical exercise, meditation, adequate preparation, a “lucky” object… it doesn’t really matter how you do it; the important thing is to find your solution and make sure it’s easily accessible, healthy and sustainable.
Once you figure out a way to ground yourself long enough to face your fears, you’ll soon discover the wealth of benefits that come with embracing discomfort because ironically, only the things that we really care about have the ability to scare us. The more afraid you are to go after it, the more fulfilling it will be for you to achieve.
Another added advantage is that since a lot of people are afraid to push themselves too far outside of their comfort zones, the competition becomes a lot less fierce for those risky, hard-to-attain goals.
“It’s lonely at the top. 99% of the world is convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre middle-ground. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming.” Tim Ferriss.
Of course, not all discomfort is beneficial to your growth. Starving yourself, for example, will only lead to detrimental effects on your health, and as they say, you can have too much of a good thing.
You’ll have to be mindful about how, when, and why to choose discomfort, and when it’s more beneficial to stop and find alternative means.