Why Discomfort Is Good for You

Think you have big goals? Think again. Several years ago, I read an article in Wired magazine about a long-distance runner named Dean Karnazes.

A Man Running in the Desert - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/skodonnell, Image #7572215

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/skodonnell

Get this:

  • He ran fifty marathons in fifty states on fifty consecutive days.
  • He once ran 350 miles in three days—without stopping and with no sleep.

  • He’s run the Badwater Ultramarathon seven times. It starts in Death Valley, 250 feet below sea level and concludes, 135 miles later, halfway up Mt. Whitney, at 8,360 feet. He won the race in 2004 on his fifth attempt.
  • He runs 100 to 170 miles a week.
  • He couldn’t find time to run 4–6 hours a day, so he began sleeping less. He currently only sleeps four hours a night.
  • His resting heart rate is 39 beats per minute!

I was so inspired by the article, I bought his book, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner and devoured it. I then made a commitment to run my first ever half marathon. I have run one per year ever since.

In another interview in Outside magazine, Dean makes an important point that many of us have forgotten:

Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.

This rings true for me. I think there are three reasons why you and I should embrace discomfort, whether we deliberately choose it, or it simply happens to us.

  1. Comfort is overrated. It doesn’t lead to happiness. It makes us lazy—and forgetful. It often leads to self-absorption, boredom, and discontent.
  2. Discomfort is a catalyst for growth. It makes us yearn for something more. It forces us to change, stretch, and adapt.
  3. Discomfort is a sign we’re making progress. You’ve heard the expression, “no pain, no gain.” It’s true! When you push yourself to grow, you will experience discomfort.

A few weeks ago, I started participating in a Pilates class with Gail. It sounded easy enough. Boy, was I wrong. It has proven to be incredibly challenging. I hurt when I am doing it, and I am sore afterwards.

But that’s the very reason I love it. I feel like I am making progress and becoming stronger with each class.

The bottom line is this: you can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch yourself—become uncomfortable—and grow. You may think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t. Happiness comes from growth and feeling like you are making progress.

Question: Where are you uncomfortable in your life right now? In what way could this be a sign you are growing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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