Melissa (excitedly): “Ian, you are becoming comfortable with discomfort!

Ian: “What does that mean? Why does it excite you? And how could that be a good thing?

The lie about comfort

One of the biggest lies we have been sold is that the goal of life is to be happy. As much as possible and as often as possible. Avoiding sadness. Dodging pain. The eternal high. As if discomfort was the enemy of life. But what if comfort was the enemy of life, life to the full?

In hind sight I can see that avoiding discomfort has been one of my biggest inhibitors. Sidestepping healthy conflicts that could have saved a marriage. Similarly, not exploring what others were seeing. Like the time someone suggested I might need therapy, and me not understanding or exploring why they suggested it!

Embracing discomfort has contributed to my biggest successes. Taking on new roles that I was not ready to perform. Like the job I took as a national product manager for which I had less than half of the required skills, then achieving more than a 400% revenue growth in less than 2 years.

Comfort is a trap

Comfort zones ensnare. Because, they are the enemy of growth and fulfilment. The places where we stagnate and lose purpose. Yes, a constant pursuit of comfort and happiness lead us to a lack of fulfilment and growth!

Abandoning happiness

I have long abandoned happiness as my goal. No, I have not become a sceptic. On the contrary I find delight in so many nuances of life. Especially the quirks, imperfections, and struggles.

There are subtle differences between happiness and joy. But somehow joy attracts me more. It feels more inclusive. Like how mourning a loss leads to gratitude, and gratitude leads to joy. This has certainly been true for me.

Abandoning happiness has allowed me to go to the dark places. To embrace the truths that are found there. To follow the veins of life that lead to new experiences and growth. The seeds of a full life.

Life to the full

A full life is one that embraces it all. Psychologists tell us that when we put a lid on negative emotions we put a lid on all emotions. Sad and happy. That pressure can eventually build up and explode in some form of dysfunctional behaviour. No, it’s far better to engage with all of it. Comfort and discomfort. Joy and pain. Life and death.

I have had dreams die a thousand deaths. Hopes of an ideal marriage, dashed on my lack of self awareness and a mindset of blame. A dream of a business that helps leaders transform vision into behaviour, burned up through unresolved relationship issues – mainly with myself! It’s a long list.

These losses are what refined me

What I’m most excited about here is that every one of these failures has contributed to a deeper more solid dream. Not because the old dreams were wrong, but because I needed the discomfort to grow. These losses are what refined me. It was the only way I could or would face my monster. My wounding. My pain.

The discomfort told me I needed help. The patterns showed where the problems were, where I was the common denominator. The pain made it urgent. I took time out. Got help. Woke every morning with the extremely uncomfortable thought that today my number one job was working on me. It was terrifying. Exhilarating. The beginning of a new and fuller life

Now, become uncomfortable with comfort!

As Melissa pointed out, moving outside my comfort zone has become a way of life. An exciting development indeed. That was about two years ago. When exploring this again recently with my friend Ross, we took it a step further. Realizing that too much comfort is the warning sign. A sign that we are getting into a comfort zone. Time to consider new possibilities.

Looking for new areas to explore in mindsets, relationships, and potential. It’s all about being conscious and present. Because it’s about knowing what you have been avoiding. Brutal honesty. Exploring feedback. And, building relationships where others will speak the truth in love.

Then it’s about owning your situation – even if you didn’t cause it. Time to self-lead. Get help. Take that brewing discomfort with being comfortable and learn to get comfortable with the resulting discomfort. Draw in and build relationships where you can be authentic and vulnerable. Do not do it alone.

Why not go out on a limb, isn’t that where the fruit is found?

You don’t need to, like me, have many deep and intimate close friendships. I’m extroverted enough for no one person to be able to handle my many relational needs! However, the research is clear. Connection with others is the key to fulfilment of potential, creativity, and growth. Take courage in leaving the comfort and taking the steps towards embracing the discomfort.

“Why not go out on a limb, isn’t that where the fruit is found?”