Flex your discomfort muscle


What am I doing right now to challenge myself?

I usually like to have some kind of challenge for myself in my life, some kind of project to embark on or task to accomplish, so periodically when I feel a little too complacent, I try to drum up an idea that will help me.

While talking about the benefits to venturing out alone, it brought to mind how discomfort is something that you practice. It is something that you actively do. It sucks at the beginning, perhaps a lot, but the more you experience it, the more you practice, the better you get at it.

The analogy to working out comes to mind here.

Working it (physically)

I like to work out. Or rather, I hate to work out, but I like what working out does for me.

When you first start going to the gym, it’s generally horrible. You ache all over, you feel unhappy about the shape you are in, and it tends to be something unpleasant. But when you push on, and keep up going to the gym week after week (or running outside, whatever’s your thing) you find that you eventually get the endorphin rush that is what keeps people coming back to the gym.

And more importantly, working out allows you to be able to do more challenging physical feats. For example, I didn’t just hop on my bike and ride the 200 miles from Seattle to Portland. (I suspect that if I had, I’d probably be only able to start walking again by about now.) Instead, I would ride my bike down the Springwater Corridor trail, first 10 miles, then 20, then 30, then up to 60 miles at a time. (Barely enough, but no one said I was an expert in these things.)

Working it (mentally)

Mental discomfort is very similar to physical discomfort.  Performing smaller discomforts will make it easier to perform larger discomforts. Here are some ideas:

  • Talking to strangers will make it easier to approach the girl/guy. Conversation is an art as well as a science, and starting conversations with people that you by definition have no common ground with (aside from literally the common ground) is, to put it mildly, a challenge. But it’s hard enough to do that without the added stress of being wildly attracted to someone. So if you get better at the conversation part, you’ll be better positioned to be able to handle the hormones, allowing you to make the approach.
  • Talking to small groups will make it easier to talk to large groups. Whether or not public speaking ranks higher than death on people fear list or not, it’s still a huge fear for most people. Practicing in small groups (I’ve been to a Toastmasters meeting and can recommend it) will get you used to being up on stage. Once you’ve become more familiar with the mechanics of speaking, you’ll be better positioed to handle the size of the group.
  • Practicing doing things by yourself will help with your fear of not being in a relationship. I want everyone to find their bliss wherever it leads. But I also don’t want people to stay in a situation that isn’t working, just because the fear of losing it can causes paralysis. By building a life outside of any relationships, even small things, you practice what it would be like to be single. And then you realize that it’s not the worst thing in the world, should it happen to you.
  • Letting someone in in small ways will help with your fear of intimacy. The reverse holds true as well. We don’t open our hearts easily or quickly, and that’s a good thing. But never opening our hearts, even when the right opportunity presents itself isn’t a great plan either.
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The fear of something is almost always worse than the actual something. But that does us no good to know that intellectually. So to conquer big fears, we need to conquer small ones first.

And as for me, I’ve got plenty of discomforts to work on, but at the moment, the ones that come most to mind are both physical and business in nature. I’ve got a lot of work to do. Time to work those muscles.

But enough about me. What discomforts have you practiced?

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