Is it in our nature to avoid discomfort? Or has it simply evolved that way. Discomfort, is really a matter of perspective. When I got hurt as a boy, I would be sobbing and my Dad would always say the same thing to me "At least it doesn't hurt as much as getting shot." I'm not sure if that ever helped the pain to go away, but what he was trying to do was give me some perspective.
Discomfort was given to us, as most things I believe, to help us grow. There has to be discomfort for growth. Can you think of anything that is good for you, that helps you grow stronger either physically, mentally or spiritually that is not a little uncomfortable?
What about starting a business? A roofing business for example. Does that require discomfort? Starting anything from scratch requires a tremendous amount of risk. Risk is very uncomfortable. It takes a tremendous amount of late evenings, early mornings and sleepless nights to lift a small business off the ground. Owning a roofing company is very uncomfortable. It would be much easier or comfortable to get a regular job, to not be an entrepreneur. Every morning when you wake up, you have to earn your paycheck, not metaphorically but literally earn the right to provide for your family. Everyday. That's uncomfortable.
What about something a little more relatable to everyone. What about your physical appearance? Going to the gym, very uncomfortable. Running, biking, sit-ups, pushups. These are all the opposite of comfort, it is discomfort. God blessed us with discomfort. The universe may be many things that I do not understand, but I do know this, the universe is balanced. You must have input to get output, an object will not change its motion unless a force acts on it, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Discomfort equals growth.
What about small discomforts. I'm 6'3. Sitting in an airplane for an extended period is very uncomfortable for me. I'm also claustrophobic. Does this discomfort equal growth? I believe it does. Discomforts like this grow our minds, our discipline, it is our ability to withstand discomfort which leads to growth. Discomfort grows our perspective, which ultimately grows our happiness and wellbeing.
As I write this, I'm sitting in a hotel room. I traveled ten hours to get here by truck, alone without my family and without the comforts of home. All of which are very uncomfortable. I'm traveling for business and I will be flying back home. The plane ride is a short two hour trip. Having just spent 4 days alone in a hotel, and having recently driven 10 hours, what do you imagine that 2 hour plane trip is going to be like? What normally would have been miserable will be delightful. Two hours is nothing compared to a ten hour car ride. Perspective. Every discomfort is an opportunity for perspective.
My typical morning routine consists of waking up at 4:30. I read, work, pray and then I like to sit in my hot tub and I refuse to move for 20 minutes. When I say I don't move, I mean not even an inch, perfect stillness. At 104 degrees, the hot tub is a delight for about ten minutes. After ten minutes I start getting very hot. Sweat starts trickling down my face causing me to want to wipe it away, tickling and itching my skin, but I refuse to move. It takes a great amount of effort and discipline to merely remain still for that long. Seriously, try it. I then take a cold shower. Why? Why would I start my day off every morning with such tortures. Wouldn't it be so much more pleasant to sleep in until 7, relax in the hot tub, then take a nice hot shower? Pleasant yes, but good, no. Discomfort begets growth and I like to begin my day by forcing myself to do uncomfortable things. It's a wonderful reminder that discomfort is temporary.
Discomfort IS temporary. Nothing lasts forever. By forcing yourself into uncomfortable situations, you will build discipline, self control, and best of all you will build perspective. And happiness is all about perspective. This is, I believe, why so many wealthy people are miserable. Studies show after a certain income level ($105k), the more money we make the less satisfied we are. There are many, many reasons for this. You can read one of the studies here if you'd like, but the main reason, I believe, is behind the phenomenon is a lack of discomforts.
Without daily discomforts we lack daily perspective. The more we have, the less we think we need to rely on God or anyone else for that matter. More money equals more comforts. Pretty soon we don't need to clean our own house, cook our own food. We buy the bodies we want rather than work for them. We write a check to the rescue mission rather than hand out meals to the homeless. We eliminate the uncomfortable things in life, one by one, and it makes us utterly miserable.
We were made to work. "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." -Genesis 2:15. God gave Adam "paradise" and paradise included work. It is engrained into our very being. We were made to sweat, to labor. We are rewarded with dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin when we exercise. We get cortisol when we put our body under stress. It is hardwired into our very DNA to experience discomfort. To build a muscle, you literally tear the old ones apart. This is why we get sore. That muscle has been broken down and it is rebuilding stronger. I believe it works the same way with our brains.
Most of us have experienced a tragedy of one kind or another in our life. Something that left us utterly broken. Did you come back stronger? I suppose it depends on the tragedy and the person. As for myself, with enough time and enough healing, that part of me that broke during a severe trial will eventually grow back stronger. You become more resilient, adaptable, flexible. Something that may have broken you in the past barely phases you today. Difficult times build mind callouses, much like physical labor gives our hands callouses. It hardens us like steel. Steel is 1000 times stronger than iron, but to make it, the iron must go through a tremendous amount of discomfort, it has to be broken down with incredible amounts of heat. When it is reformed, it comes back as one of the strongest metals known to man. I believe our minds behave in a similar manner.
The key is discomfort. Nothing gets stronger without it. So stop avoiding it, and start embracing it. Remind yourself that this too shall pass. It will, and you will come out of it stronger.
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