Did you make a new year’s resolution at the start of this year?
Or have you ever made one in the past?
Like most of us, you probably started off with a lot of enthusiasm and lofty goals.
But how many times have you actually succeeded in sticking to the resolution? How many times have you reached your final goal?
And if you failed, have you ever wondered what exactly has gotten in the way?
There is no shame in admitting it. You are in good company.
Even with the best intentions and motivations, we all have a tendency to lose sight of our goals and falter at making the changes that we desire.
Why is that?
An Unsound Relationship with Discomfort
One of the biggest obstacles to making lasting change is having to repeatedly face discomfort. Often, we try to white-knuckle our way through it, only to find that will power and muscle are not enough.
The real problem is that our relationship with being uncomfortable is unsound. We have grown up with the notion that discomfort is something negative—a bad thing—and therefore, something that we have to avoid or get rid of as fast as possible.
The reality is that any change you make in your life, even a positive one—moving into a new house, starting a new relationship or job, or traveling abroad—comes with inherent discomfort.
But if discomfort is something that must be avoided, what do you give up as a result? Make discomfort the enemy long enough and you may even lose sight of what really matters to you in life.
Learning to See Discomfort in a Different Light
Many years back, I realized that much of my life centered around being comfortable. I had a good job and friends, but I lacked passion and meaning. It was as if I was living on autopilot.
It was then when I realized in order to have the life I wanted, I needed to adopt a new motto – “get comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
I started to see discomfort as just an inherent part of change and growth—as something welcomed, neither good nor bad. From then on, when I felt discomfort, I stopped looking for ways to get rid of it. Instead, I reminded myself that it was simply a part of the process.
The lesson for you?
When you learn to see discomfort differently and start to actually invite it into your life, you can better connect with the things that are meaningful to you.
If you no longer have to avoid discomfort, what might you spend your energy doing?
Creating a Different Relationship with Discomfort
What steps can you take to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable?
As odd as it may sound, in order to try creating a different relationship with discomfort, you actually have to actively pursue the things that you know will make you uncomfortable.
Ask yourself: “Are there things I always wanted to do but did not do because I felt too awkward or embarrassed to do them?”
For some, it may be taking a dance class, singing karaoke, or doing improv. Remember, the important thing is that whatever you decide, it is something that matters to you.
The next step is to pursue these activities while noticing how it feels to be uncomfortable. You will likely hear some of the same old discouraging thoughts: “I can’t”, “I look silly.”
But what happens if you continue anyway and invite discomfort and all its friends to the party? Could you learn to engage differently with discomfort, embrace it, and in turn, grow and enrich your life? The only way to know is to try it!
Therapy is a great way of exploring your relationship with discomfort, how you responded to pain and discomfort in the past, and how you can get more in touch with the things that are meaningful in your life now. I would love to help you find the right balance and perspective.
Author: Kyong Yi, LCSW
Kyong Yi is a licensed clinical social worker and the Director of Clinical Operations at Portland Psychotherapy Clinic. Her specialties include trauma and PTSD, relationships, depression, anxiety, anger management and personal growth and values.