Many of us heard the directive, “lean into discomfort.” I first heard it while working at a former employer as the company was going through a transformation. Some think this is just ‘corporate hype,’ but it is not. In fact, I tell myself this every day when I don’t feel comfortable doing something and consequently I keep putting it off, knowing deep down that I am sabotaging myself by not doing whatever it is. So this “lean into discomfort” is a concept for daily life as well. One cannot grow throughout life, if they keep stagnating in daily habits; and operating in 100% comfort zone. Yes, indulging in activities that you are comfortable with can be reassuring, no uncertainty, but it also limits your ability to grow as a human and this growth is critical to achieve and feel stimulated in life. But many of us just do what we know and some find themselves 20 years later not having grown much at all. Yet they are intelligent beings with a very small radius of knowledge and experiences. Some say, “I’ll expand my horizons when I am retired, I’m too busy working and raising my family,” That is actually the worst. We don’t know how long we are alive, we don’t know what life will deal us. Plus, your kids can grow from this too…beats biking up and down the street pointlessly. They will thank you later.
Personal growth throughout your life is similar to compound interest on a monetary investment. Just like you build monetary returns on the interest you earn, you build on the leanings and growths throughout your life. Einstein said:
“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”Albert Einstein
If you don’t apply this financially, you waste money, but if you don’t apply this to yourself, you lose aspects of yourself – huge loss. So growing, going outside of your comfort zone, is just like compound interest. The personal growth and leanings compound over time. The earlier you activate this compound interest concept in yourself, the better. But like the concept of Know Your Worth….It’s Not Too Late in my recent blog entry, it’s not too late to start and build who you are. It almost becomes more urgent, in fact, later in life. Wasting 2 years of life with maybe 10 left, is 20% wasted. Wasting 2 years of your life with 50 left is only 4% wasted. Of course, even in your youth….don’t waste time…or you will find you wasted too many years. So this mindset of leaning into discomfort is as applicable at 20 as it is at 75. But either way, I think it’s urgent. It goes back to the question I asked in the Know Your Worth….It’s Not Too Late, what advise would you give your teen version of yourself? I would add this one, lean into discomfort, and grow. Does that mean you will love everything, of course not, but there will be a learning and growth from it.
So what are examples of this leaning into discomfort? Go skydiving? Not necessarily, I’m not necessarily referring to physical, although our society does like to emphasize such thrill seeking behavior. It may include some physical activities, for example, I went parasailing a few years ago. While it was a great experience visually and physically, for me it, it was not not a major growth opportunity at all. Fun experience to share, yes, but not a huge growth. But then again, it made me more open to doing activities that I initially am opposed to and finding out they are actually fun.
I read or heard a few years ago, that every week you should try something different; do something different. For example, even a small change. I have heard of couples, that every weekend in Wisconsin they go hit the same fish fry. They have been married for 30+ years and they keep going to the same place. While it’s very charming, I think they are limiting themselves, what if they find out they love some other type of food on a Friday night? While this every Friday same place is cute, I think it’s also limiting. And before you know it, they will die, not having tried much else except this fish fry. Fortunately my restless nature prevents me for falling into habits too long. But even I am tempted sometimes to go the path of least resistance (not fish fry though), I try to fight myself and say , no, don’t fall into patterns, it’s not good.
The type of discomfort that I lean into these days are activities that I have fought are more around my psyche. My deep notions that developed since childhood into adulthood. The biggest discomfort I’m leaning into, and have been leaning into (and not quite there yet) is going out alone and traveling alone.
Since I have been married, or in serious relationships most of my life, I didn’t really go out alone or travel alone. Always had a boyfriend, husband, or kids to travel with. But if that is not an option at times, I would typically just pass on the activity. I felt uncomfortable. If it was business travel, during the business travel it was OK. But if I couldn’t travel with husband/boyfriend/child to a conference, I would return home the minute the conference was over, passing on seeing some great sights and experiences.
Part of this is gender based, I know many men who go to music concerts alone, festivals alone, bars/restaurants alone and it’s no big deal. I have had some women friends who tell me, I have no problem going alone, and I actually enjoy it. So this has been permeating in my head for years. Quite conflicted, because I always thought (and probably still do), that if you are in a good relationship you should not have to do things alone. This is based on my parents’ model of marriage. They did everything together, they didn’t have separate lives. That is deep down my ideal, but I’m leaning into discomfort and working on it – EVERY DAY.
So the point here, even deeply held notions, we sometimes have to fight over and over and lean into that discomfort. If we don’t, we will miss out on life and personal growth. No compound interest in ourselves…..
A recent example of me massively leaning into discomfort was traveling to San Francisco alone. Even as I type this, I”m in partial disbelief, I did it. But I enjoyed it and for me, it was a huge personal growth experience.
It was a trip to San Francisco for a conference. Nothing new, I have been to conferences, but I always took family or husband/boyfriend with or returned the day the conference was over. This time nobody was available to go with. My options were return Friday morning or extend the stay and be alone and return on Monday. I really leaned into discomfort and chose the latter. Why? I decided to not forego a major experience just because I couldn’t find anyone to go with. The result? I enjoyed the trip, got to experience a beautiful city; I do need to blog more about the experience. Was I a minority, a woman alone, during the weekend? Yes. Did I see romantic couples during the weekend? Yes and no…more on that in another blog. Did I stay in my room and eat by myself? NO, I was not going to deny myself fine experiences, fine food and the full experience because I ended up being by myself.
So yes, I leaned into MAJOR discomfort and learned and experience what I would not have if I didn’t It was a huge personal growth opportunity for me. And like compound interest, I will build on this growth as I evolve over time.
Don’t be scared to lean into discomfort, you will grow in ways you never thought you would…..just like compound interest.