Each day, I wake up around 6 AM. Priority number one is coffee. Won’t make it too far without that caffeine running through my veins. Pop open my computer and dive into work for the day. Midmorning often finds me cleaning out my inbox and then a return to any deadlines for the day. This process runs roughly the same path on weekdays. I don’t mind that there is a certain cadence to my days. In fact, I find it comforting—I know what to expect. Even so, I make active efforts to throw this sense of comfort out the window every opportunity I get.
Recently, I was gifted one of my favorite pieces of clothing. The ironically comfortable t-shirt fits loose and sports the simple phrase “Seek Discomfort.” For many, this runs contrary to the motivation that drives their actions. Think about all of the efforts you make each day in the pursuit of comfort—a warm home full of amenities, a pleasantly heated or air-conditioned commute in a spacious car, whatever gives you the warm and fuzzies.
The main problem, of course, is that excessive comfort makes us lazy. It’s difficult to put on layers of warm clothing and run a few miles when you can sit inside with a glass of wine lounging in front of a roaring fire. Or take on a new project at work which requires you to do things that are outside of your comfort zone when you can continue chugging along on tasks that are easy and that make you feel successful. But the truth is that, unless you are willing to step outside of those boundaries and seek discomfort, you will never fully grasp your own potential.
Think of someone who inspires you. Did that person climb a mountain? Win an Olympic Gold Medal? Maybe your hero is just someone who embodies that traits of the ideal father. In any case, think about what that person had to do to get where they are. I mean, really think about it.
Climbing a mountain requires intense training and endurance, along with the willingness to prepare for and weather dangerous conditions. Winning a gold medal means spending years honing a talent and never veering from the path that improves your skills. Being a good father involves a constant presence and a selfless attitude. These things are not easy and they don’t happen in the span of a day.
When you hear inspirational stories, there is an underlying fact that we often don’t want to face. Real life-changing experiences are uncomfortable. They are difficult and they require sacrifice.
Here’s a personal example. One of the most enjoyable and life-changing experiences I have ever had was immediately after college. I went backpacking through Europe with four friends for seventeen days. We trekked from London to Rome, Florence, Venice, Barcelona, and Nice, traversing four countries in the process.
If you ask me about this experience, I will describe all the people I met and how this gave me a whole new perspective of the world. I will tell you about the beautiful sights I saw and how I gained an independence I had never before known—how I’ll never forget the way the sun hits the bridges of Venice or the feel of the smooth rocks on the beaches of Nice.
What I probably won’t discuss is the overwhelming weight of my backpack and how I climbed from one packed train to another, sometimes falling asleep from exhaustion as soon as I found a corner to huddle in. Or how one of the hostels I stayed in had roaches in the shower. Or how I almost cried in France because I didn’t understand the language and had no idea how to get to my next destination. These are things I won’t tell you because, in hindsight, they don’t matter. But, I was uncomfortable—sometimes to the point that I would have given anything to go home.
But, I didn’t. And I am so glad that I didn’t. I never would have forgiven myself if I had given up. Now, I only look back on those experiences with fondness and thank my lucky stars that I was able to take part in such a phenomenal trip. I believe that most life-changing experiences aren't possible without some type of discomfort.
A few years later, I tried out for roller derby and if you don’t think that seems “uncomfortable,” then I’m not sure how you define discomfort. I ended up playing for five years and that experience has helped define who I am.
Even though each of my days isn’t fraught with a huge amount of discomfort, I still take every opportunity I can to step outside the box. Often, I am surprised at what I am capable of.
So if I can offer one piece of advice, it’s this: Seek discomfort. And you may well find out just how awesome you are.
Ashley works in the mystical world of digital marketing. A true lover of the written word, she whiles away her time writing, editing, reading, and helping small businesses with their marketing needs. Believing herself to be a seeker of discomfort, she is always on the lookout for her next adventure. Check her out at contenthusiast.com.