Discomfort is the price of growth. That will always be true. But discomfort is also the final resting place for stuckness, denial and refusal. And sometimes we pretend we don’t understand or sense the difference. We always do.
Over the weekend, I did a little adventure for my birthday. I originally was supposed to be at a 24-hour race to celebrate. But that event has been canceled for weeks and once I returned home from a race in early March I had trouble getting back to any form of serious training. I didn’t have the drive. I was having a little pity party deep down inside.
I tried to play it off, like I wasn’t unmotivated. I justified it to myself and others by saying I was still running. And I was but it wasn’t the same. I knew it. And they probably did, too.
Then a few weeks ago I started to ponder that maybe I needed a challenge. I needed something to make me uncomfortable but with some purpose. Sitting in the muck, just because I am too damn lazy and resigned to work through it, is not the same as being uncomfortable while you work toward something.
And it has dawned on me that discomfort is the fuel for transformation but if we don’t do anything with it, it simply becomes an endless fire without a phoenix. It becomes the “proof” that we never should have tried in the first place. It becomes the evidence that life isn’t fair.
It’s akin to taking a performance-enhancing drug and continuing to sit on the sofa wondering why you are not getting fitter, faster or better. Being uncomfortable will give you the nudge, the push but you have to do something with it.
I think that’s where many of us, myself included, have found ourselves languishing in the most recent weeks. We got the time we all claimed we needed. We got the proverbial reset we always secretly thought was the key. The one thing we didn’t count on or consider was just how painful the process can be. So we hid. We ate too much, drank too much, watched too much TV claiming it was about staying informed, and all the while we were really just trying to get away from taking a good, hard look in the mirror.
I have everything I’ve always said I needed to make a fresh start and all I have done so far is avoid it.
As the saying goes, if you are not changing it, you are choosing it.
This is an uncomfortable truth. We believe the magic of the moment of change should absolve us of the pain. It won’t. In fact, it probably shouldn’t. It is the way we know we are moving forward. If you are getting up each day, doing a new thing, expecting the discomfort that comes with doing anything novel, and keep going — you are making progress.
If you get up each morning, think about all the things you would like to do, should do, need to do and let that mountainous list push you deeper into denial, you are going to stay in that place. Forever.
The moment has arrived but it cannot make us choose it. We always have freewill. It’s the beautiful tragedy of being human. We are so powerful and capable but we believe we can’t bear the discomfort of growth. We somewhere learned that if it’s uncomfortable it’s a sign to stop instead of a sign that you are blazing a new trail. Yes, there are some experiences in life that are painful and are a bright, flashing neon sign that you are going the wrong way but we always know. We claim we don’t but we always know the difference between the pain of growth and the pain of settling.
One feels like suffocation and the other feels like the end of a 100-meter dash. They both burn your lungs but one gives you life and the other slowly kills you. And we know the difference. We always know.
When I committed to doing a self-created endurance event for my birthday last week, I knew I was ill-prepared. I knew I could probably do it but it was going to hurt. I was right. And many times during the later part of the day I considered stopping early. I considered the value of quitting. I mean it was my birthday after all. Who was going to care? Nobody was going to care but me. In fact, I could probably spin a tale about how I deserved to take a break.
But I was going to care and I was going to have to spend a lot of energy trying to get around the truth that I just was too scared to let it hurt. I was going to know that I quit for one reason only, it was hard. Not TOO hard, just tougher than I wanted it to be. And that’s the truth we all want to skirt around all the time. I do it myself. We make excuses to others, to ourselves. We ignore, we hide, we deny, all because we don’t want to feel anything unpleasant. But isn’t letting the grains of sand move through your hourglass while doing the same things over and over also unpleasant? It’s simply a little easier to block out the pain of disappointment than it is the pain of tight hamstrings and a sore low back.
I told Lowi on Saturday when it comes to getting serious about all the things we think we need to tackle in life it feels like such a gargantuan task that we feel overwhelmed before we begin. I think that’s why people say, just jump. Why Nike says, “Just do it.” Because it’s the pondering that will paralyze you. Simply begin. Know that the pain will come, because it will. But I promise you (and will have to remind myself) that when I came rolling into my driveway around 1 am on Saturday morning, I never felt so good while also feeling exhausted. And even in those moments I am reminded why I like to do endurance events. At the times I feel the most physically worn out, I feel the most alive. I feel the most like I have shown up to fully embody my life.
I realize I want to stop using difficulty as my litmus test for life. It’s great to feel good. We all want to feel good. But I also know that hundreds of times in my life, when I have by all normal standards felt terrible, I have also been elated and excited with no regrets.
When quarantine began I had the inner knowing that I didn’t want to waste it. I know you probably had the same. It’s never too late until it is. Don’t waste this.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G