The Fringe Benefits of Discomfort
There is no growth without uneasiness, without the muscles stretching and causing us pain and discomfort. When a little child starts developing a tooth, the child experiences pain; it has fevers. Yes, growth isn’t easy, and growth only happens outside our comfort zone.
One of the clear symptoms that our growth is stunted is the perpetual sense of comfort and the fear of suffering. You hear people talk a lot, and they are so quick to justify why they are stuck in life. “I am not used to this,” “I really can’t go back to school,” “Selling stuff isn’t my thing” are things you hear people say every day. You hear some say: “If you love me, you’ll take me as I am.” It’s like saying, I refuse to grow. Take me this way or go to hell. Your growth is something that benefits you first and no one but you can walk that path.
If you feel too comfortable, it means you’re in trouble. It means you’re not growing. It means you refuse to grow. You can’t expect to mature in your personal, professional, and social life if you don’t step beyond your sense of comfort and security. You have to step beyond yourself to build good relationships, to embrace others, and to pursue a dream.
Experts on happiness and personal growth talk a lot about stepping out of our comfort zone. They say that your success grows in the same proportion that you expand your comfort zone. Today, you get the impression that people want to stay the way they are, but the very people who are not willing to feel the least discomfort, to make the least sacrifice, complain about their situation.
Two weeks ago, a colleague who needed my help called me. She needed to undergo a medical procedure and was running out of money. I told her: “I am with my family. I can help you. I have some cash on me. Why not take a cab and come over.” She replied, “I am sorry. It’s really very hot out there now and I really can’t make it to your place.” She wanted me to go to the bank to deposit the money in her account. I said no. Yes, she didn’t want to go through the discomfort of wading through the late afternoon traffic and the sweltering heat. She wanted me to do it for her.
No one will feel your pain. No one will enter into the space where you have to experience growth. Only you can!
Most of us are like this friend of mine. Our culture has reversed values. We have created many gadgets for comfort and recreation and we have quickly embraced the idea that comfort could equal happiness. We step into an elevator and drop off in front of our office. We have adjustable chairs and beds. We buy luxurious cars and feel like they could make us comfortable. The illness of our age is the exaggerated need for comfort. It’s the belief that we can be happy doing nothing. That we could be paid for resting. Mediocrity has a name, and that name is luxury. That name is comfort. And our world is dying of it.
You’ll need to step out of your comfort zone to find happiness, because it is then that you create the life you want. Discomfort brings a lot of benefits to the human person and below are some of the top two.
- Discomfort Breaks Our Illusion of Happiness
Many of us have this tendency to equate happiness with comfort. You have a nice home. You sleep on a comfortable bed. You get food cooked for you easily. And you think you’re a happy man or a happy woman. No, happiness is not the absence of suffering. Happiness doesn’t mean we have no more struggles to face. Happiness happens when we realize that our life is a seed that must always be growing. We understand that it hurts to prune the tree of our life, that when a new tooth grows it hurts. We understand that there is a price we have to pay. Living meaningfully allows us the opportunity to embrace change, to create, to inspire others, and to give to our community. When we are connected to our sense of growth, we become happy. We stagnate when we become comfortable.
- Discomfort Reminds Us that We are Growing
One wintry morning in the long ago, seventeenth year of my life, I happened to ride on a bus with a writer from my home town. He used a stick to walk. I saw how hard it was for him to adjust. Everyone complained about the sluggishness of the service we were using, but the writer was calm and serene like my three-year-old daughter sleeping as though the world was rid of storms and spiders – things she fears very much. I watched him, fascinated by his calm demeanor.
Then before we parted ways, I mustered the courage to ask him the one question that troubled me: “How do you feel? How can you be so calm when everyone feels anxious and uneasy? How can you bear this when you should be the first to complain?” and answering, he said: “A time comes that you understand that every pain opens a portal in your soul. When that time comes, you’ll shift your focus from the pain and think about where it leads you. You’ll think about what is growing within you.” When I was about to step down from the bus, he held my arm gently and said: “We stop looking for answers because we suddenly realize that we are the answer. We stop blaming others for our unhappiness because we finally understand that we are creators of our own feelings and happiness.”
Yes, the pain in our flesh makes us mature in our spirit. Don’t settle down. Move on. Keep growing. It’s in your growth that you find happiness. It’s in growing that you find meaning. Keep on connecting with your dream and don’t be afraid to allow it to carry you beyond yourself.