The benefits of doing something uncomfortable
By Anne Bachrach
The Accountability Coach
Are you happy in your current state, or do you ever dream of doing something else — something more?
Why would you want to do something uncomfortable? Don’t we go out of our way to get away from stress and doing things that make us uncomfortable? Yes, but there is clearly a difference between the discomfort of unfamiliarity and the recurrence of distressful feelings.
For example, at one time, you were afraid to go swimming. Now you enjoy it. You may not have liked eating spinach when you were young and now you enjoy eating it. You were once afraid of applying for that first big job, but now that you have a career you enjoy, you wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
Good things in life come to those who take risks. If you avoid any new experiences, then you are missing out on the best that life has to offer. The longer you wait, procrastinate, or cower in fear, the more comfortable you are getting with the status quo — and that’s not a very fun place to be.
Before you go any further, ask yourself if you are happy. Are you happy in your current state, or do you ever dream of doing something else — something more? Do you think reaching out to other people, trying a new hobby, eating healthier, pursuing a new job, or doing anything you view as uncomfortable could be a rewarding experience? If the answer is yes, then you have already decided that this is what you want to do. Now it’s just a matter of making up your mind to overcome your fears.
Once people get settled into a routine, it can be difficult to break out. People may run on a sort of autopilot that takes them from point A to point B with little to no thought. The first step in changing your life for the better is to get away from this thoughtless comfort zone.
That’s right, it’s time to break the routine. Once you are out of this comfort zone, you will be more willing to take risks. After all, you start to think again, no longer content with the automatic processes to which your brain has become accustomed. It all starts by deciding to take action. Decide that it’s time to do something new that you may have been afraid to do in the past, or something that will make you take a risk and be uncomfortable, to take up a new hobby, to learn something new, to go visit a new place — all of these things are a break in the routine.
"But I’m scared!”
Of course, the problem here is that many people are afraid to take that first step and take action. The idea of making a major change may even lead to feelings of deep anxiety and self-doubt.
The first step to overcoming this fear of the unknown is to learn a little bit more about the human mind. Realize that human beings are highly adaptive creatures, just as all animals are. Our bodies and minds are able to adapt to many difficult situations. Historically, human beings have lived amidst violence, poverty and other undesirable conditions for many years — sometimes for their entire life. How did they do it? They simply lived. Their bodies and minds adjusted to the surroundings and these people continued to function as best they could. Sometimes adrenaline is responsible for a person’s survival and sometimes it’s craftiness. The point is that once the human mind panics, the body will do whatever it has to do in order to pull through a difficult situation.
You must plan on some failure in life, although it’s rather dramatic to think of some common scenarios as a failure. Psychology teaches that the best way to cure someone of a phobia is to confront that object gradually. So, if you fear the act of failing, then you have to allow yourself to fail. You have to take a risk and be willing to lose — not that you always will. This starts the process of ridding your mind of the fear of failure and thus, the fear of trying anything new.
Try to understand that everyone has failed at something at some point. Even the most successful people in the world once failed and looked silly in front of all their friends. Everyone has embarrassed themselves and everyone has fallen flat on their face, figuratively and probably literally. Don’t assume that when you try something new for the first time, you are going to fail. Assume you will achieve what you set out to and if for some reason, you don’t have a positive outcome, it will be OK and life won’t end.
You might stumble a little at first, just as any beginner would. As you continue this learning process, over time, you will start to improve and learn to enjoy trying things that are uncomfortable or that may scare you.
Some helpful advice
Two things that will help you get started are a list of goals (including those that might make you uncomfortable or scare you) and a reliable buddy system. First, write the list of goals that you want to accomplish. They should be short-term goals that have a long-term perspective in mind. Next, enlist the aid of a friend to help you accomplish those goals. Naturally, it’s easy to give up when you are the only one trying. A friend can provide that emotional support that you need.
If you want to conquer your fears once and for all and start living the life you dreamed of as a carefree youngster, then take decisive action. Make up your mind that you can do anything you set your mind to and that you will be successful at whatever you decide to do. What’s the worst that can happen? Typically, it won’t be as bad as you may initially think it will be.
Doing things that may initially be uncomfortable or scary will eventually inspire you and get easier to attempt. You may even wonder why you were so afraid in the first place. Realize your true potential by stretching yourself. Enjoy the results.