Growth & Discomfort: Five Reasons Why You Should Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Boundaries and limits are synonyms and yet there are slight differences in their definitions. While a boundary represents a dividing line between two things, a limit represents a bound or restriction which one can’t go beyond. In the context of personal growth, the pairing of these definitions can help create a landscape that shows us potential differences in what we’re willing to do versus what we’re actually capable of.

Ideally, the boundary that separates willingness to try from unwillingness to try would perpetually exceed the limits of our current capabilities. This would create an environment for unlimited growth potential through literally pushing our individual limits beyond where they currently exist to attempt to meet the threshold of our willingness to try. Realistically, this is not always the case. In fact, there may be times that what we’re willing to do actually falls short of our individual limits. This dynamic creates a space most of us know as the “comfort zone”, and just about any entrepreneur, innovator, or leader will let you know that’s the space where dreams and aspirations go to die.

Let’s be real for a moment though. Comfort zones are indeed comfortable! They’re safe, relatively low risk, and easy to get into. Also is there such a thing as “comfort pains”? Conversely, growth is painful, slow, risky, and hard to accomplish in significant strides. With that being said, here are five reasons why you should embrace the discomfort that comes with personal growth, and continually strive to push your limits.

1. Bottom Line, The Discomfort From Growth is Unavoidable

The concept of “growing pains” is so common a part of life that it’s arguable to say the experience of discomfort in the process of growth is inescapable. A natural example of this relationship is muscle growth. Get a good workout in recently? In most instances, the next day “soreness” you feel after an intense workout can actually be your body repairing micro-tears your muscles suffered during your workout. In very basic terms, muscle growth occurs as a result of your body repairing and rebuilding the micro-tears to the muscle. Your body will eventually adapt to repeated micro-tearing and rebuilding of your muscle fibers causing a plateau in growth. Eventually, you’ll be forced to directly confront various aspects of your workout such as amount of resistance, amount of repetitions, or length of rest in order to continued sustained growth over time.

We can even see examples of the relationship between growth and discomfort relationally. As personal relationships grow, there will inevitably be points where one or all parties involved will face times of accountability and discipline in order to maintain or increase the integrity of what has been built. These times never seem pleasant in the moment, especially when we’re facing them after having fallen short of meeting a set standard or expectation. The silver lining from these experiences is that they give us the opportunity to learn from, and improve on our beliefs, methods, ideas, etc. to meet the increasing demand of maintaining those relationships. As a result, we’re forced out of necessity to get better if we wish to continue relationship building.

In short, meaningful growth will undoubtedly lead to varying degrees of discomfort, but as we learn and grow from one stage to the next, our new growth makes things that were previously difficult to deal with all the easier to manage. This process and the enjoyment of the resulting benefits is the very essence of HWELness.

2. Because Significant Growth Requires You to Push Past Your Limits

There will come a point that forces you to extend your abilities or knowledge further in order to reach new heights. While there is growth to be made in re-exploring your current abilities repeatedly (I.E. mastering a skill), in most cases, you’ll need to add something new, or do something differently in order to unlock true growth potential. This comes by repeatedly and consistently asking and learning the answers to two questions:

  • What do I do?
  • How do I do it?

If your initial answer to these questions is “I don’t know”, you may find significant growth potential while also being able to avoid future setbacks simply by obtaining in depth answers to both of these questions. Furthermore, expert answers to these questions can save time, remove barriers, increase efficiency and productivity, as well as ultimately help generate income since many people pay for these answers in specific scenarios. As you continue to progress, remember this important caveat: for each step you take forward, it will be all the harder to take the next step forward. At the most elite levels, significant growth becomes a game of inches requiring a lifetime’s worth of work to accomplish. In between those inches however, we find a generation’s worth of inspiration and motivation.

As fun facts for perspective, Wikipedia indicates that in the 100 plus years that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has been recording world records for the 100 meter dash, the record time has progressed by a total of 1.1 seconds. Usain Bolt, the current 100m record holder, broke the previous records held by Asafa Powell and himself by .02 seconds, .03 seconds, and .11 seconds respectively.

3. Because The Alternative to Growth Pains Are The Pains of Stagnancy or Recession

While growth has its inconveniences, so does the refusal or inability to grow. Minimum requirements to qualify or participate can be found everywhere, and the inconvenience of not growing to meet those requirements will be marked by the increasing number of opportunities you forfeit by failing to meet those requirements. As a real world example, think of the workplace setting. Lack of growth could translate into being passed over for promotion, which in turn limits earning opportunity, influence among your peers, and potential career options available. The resulting dynamic we see established is a domino effect. While breaking through barriers in one area will open doors in others, stagnancy will conversely keep them closed.

Another important concept to consider is the idea that if you don’t use it, you lose it. In fact, the word atrophy is literally defined as a gradual decline, or decrease in something due to lack of use. To put this into perspective, here is a small list of important things that can decline over time due to lack of use:

  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Time
  • Strength and Flexibility
  • Relationships
  • Motivation and Drive
  • Faith

A common pitfall that stunts or even regresses continued growth is focusing on and doing what’s required in order to reach a certain standard, but neglecting the things required to maintain the standard. Personally speaking, I’ve lost 20 pounds more times in the past five years than I care to count, and the reason for this is simple. During those periods of weight loss, my diet and exercise regimen are second to none. After the 20th pound comes off the scale, I ease up on the workouts and everything that’s sweet, fried, and can be served with extra ranch dressing on the side immediately returns to my plate. The end result is having to work multiple times over only to reach the same destination. This dynamic of progress and decline resulting from periods of intense discipline and commitment followed by intentional neglect translates across arenas. As a result, we should always stay vigilant on finding answers to these three questions:

  • How do I move one step forward?
  • How do I prevent myself from being pushed one step back?
  • Once I take a step forward, how do I take the next step forward?

Barring the involvement of absolute circumstances that would prevent further growth such as reaching a maximum threshold, our growth over time would ideally look like a diagonal line if placed on a chart.

4. Because If You’re Comfortable in Uncomfortable Settings, You’ll Be Comfortable in Every Other Setting

As a kid, I played a lot of sports growing up, specifically basketball. I can recall several practice drills where a handicap was enforced so as to highly limit the normal options players have available. In some instances, we had to score without dribbling, in other instances we were subjected 5 on 4 scrimmages, and yet there were other times the basket was completely obstructed making it impossible to score. The purpose of imposing each of these limitations was to develop particular skills in players by forcing them to operate at a high level even under the most unfavorable of circumstances. Of course, the end logic behind such exercises is to force players to improve their skills in environments where circumstances work against them, with the expectation of seeing a dramatic increase in overall performance once the restrictions are removed.

The intended logic behind those exercises can be applied elsewhere and restated very simply: If you become accustomed to operating successfully in the most difficult, or even hostile of environments, how much easier will it be to achieve success when the elements work in your favor? Therefore, as we have the opportunity, run towards new challenges and embrace obstacles when they present themselves. Each of them could constitute a new growth opportunity.

5. Because Short Term Present Discomfort Can Equate Into Long Term Future Comfort

As I mentioned earlier, the discomfort created by discipline isn’t the most fun while you’re going through it, but if you stay the course, you’ll eventually produce and benefit from positive results. The idea of delayed gratification paints this picture almost perfectly. Oftentimes, we sacrifice long term rewards to receive a small reward immediately. One thing that is forgotten or even ignored is the fact that long term benefits can be compounded over time. This means that potential setbacks related to sacrificing long term benefits can also be compounded over time, and have lasting consequences. Areas such as finance and health help confirm this idea where prioritizing short term preferences over long term visions can lead to loss of greater benefits such as compound interest which significantly boosts income over time and a longer life span through consistent diet and exercise.

So what does all of this mean? Well first off, what it does not mean is that we aren’t able to enjoy ourselves and satisfy our immediate desires and preferences. What it does mean though is that a noticeable portion of our efforts should be dedicated toward the grand scheme of things. For most of us, part of that grand scheme lies significantly further in the future, and will require us to adopt practices, or make sacrifices we’re not necessarily comfortable making in order to achieve them. Resisting the temptation of trading the long term for short term will also require a great deal of discipline and patience to accomplish. In most circumstances, we’ll have to sacrifice multiple short term rewards for either a single, or limited number of long term rewards. As you strive to accomplish your long term objectives, keep in mind two general rules of thumb:

  1. The amount of short term sacrifices made exponentially increases the further into the future the end goal lies.
  2. The amount of available benefits from long term goals increase the further into the future they lie.

In simple and ideal terms, once you’ve endured the discomfort once, doing it a second time, third time, fourth time and so on should be easier since you become more familiar with each interaction. Ideally, after repeated exposure, you would grow into a place where you become strong enough to effectively manage the discomfort, or better yet, withstand it altogether. If you’ve reached this place, congratulations! You’ve grown in either patience, strength, discipline or all of the above!

It’s very easy to get caught up with staying in our comfort zones since doing so essentially requires nothing of us. This does not mean that there isn’t a cost to us by staying there though. There is an entire world beyond our own horizons, and if we’re willing to explore that world, we’ll bound to discover amazing new things along our journey. Keep striving and keep fighting!



Author: DC_EASY

From Rochester, NY to California. Living for today, planning for tomorrow, and appreciating my past from the rearview.

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