Think you have big goals? Think again. Over the summer, long-distance runner Dean Karnazes ran the Silk Road Ultramarathon. He covered 326 miles through the deserts and mountains of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan in just eleven days.
Before that, Karnazes reproduced the world’s first marathon, a 153-mile run from Athens to Sparta. He details that adventure in a new book out this fall, The Road to Sparta. I can’t wait to read it. But these are only the most recent in a long string of accomplishments.
- 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 finished the Badwater Ultramarathon ten 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’s run across multiple deserts and even run a marathon at the South Pole.
I first read about Karnazes several years ago in an article in Wired.
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’ve run several since, though it’s never easy.
But that’s good. In an interview with Outside, Karnazes 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.
- Comfort is overrated. It doesn’t lead to happiness. It makes us lazy—and forgetful. It often leads to self-absorption, boredom, and discontent.
- Discomfort is a catalyst for growth. It makes us yearn for something more. It forces us to change, stretch, and adapt.
- 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, but it will be worth it.
I’ve been working with a personal trainer for a while now. The other day my team and I were shooting video for a new project. Earlier that morning my trainer put me through a rigorous leg workout. It shredded me. And I was really feeling it as I was standing there in front of the camera.
But, honestly, I felt great. The discomfort tells me I’m making progress and becoming stronger. Instead of shrinking from discomfort, I let it guide me toward accomplishment.
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?