I know it’s been a few weeks since I lasted posted but I’m committed to finishing this 6 part series on creating meaningful, lasting change. Today’s topic is the idea that in order for us to create change in our lives we are going to have to feel some level of discomfort. Not only must we experience discomfort, we must also have awareness of this discomfort.
Without awareness, if you are uncomfortable, you would probably remain so. Without discomfort, you would have no reason to change anything. To make changes, we need to be both uncomfortable and aware of our discomfort. Seems like a simple enough concept however, I find this can be quite difficult for many of us. Most of us have conditioned ourselves to avoid discomfort at any cost. We use denial to pretend as though we don’t have any problems, we rationalize that everything is fine, or we medicate in various ways to cover up the discomfort.
When we use these avoidance tactics to hide our discomfort or pain, we miss the awareness necessary to create change. Additionally, we need to experience discomfort profound enough that we become willing to do whatever it takes to change. Many of us, through the process of numbing, self-medicating, or comfort with familiarity become so used to our discomfort that we hardly notice it; this provides us little motivation for change.
When I first meet with a new client I let them know that part of my job is to make them uncomfortable, and if I don’t, they should probably fire me! This sometimes comes as a shock for a lot of people who think that I’m only there to give them comfort and to make them feel better. Yes, my ultimate goal is to ultimately get my clients to a place of feeling better but in order to do that we’re going to have to do some difficult, uncomfortable work. Sometimes that looks like having conversations that we may not want to have, acknowledging feelings that we wish were not there, or taking contrary action in daily behaviors. In order to find a newer, healthier level of comfort, you will first need to increase your level of discomfort.
Does this mean that we need to push ourselves to unbearable acts of discomfort in order to change? Definitely not! In fact, too much discomfort can become overwhelming and threatening, which will trigger your mind to drive it out of it’s awareness, thus shutting you down to the process necessary for creating change. As with everything in life, it is about finding that balance, where you are judicious and compassionate about how much discomfort you can take but honestly experiencing sufficient enough discomfort to propel you towards change.
The only way to tell if you are allowing yourself to experience an adequate amount of discomfort (along with your awareness of it) is whether your behavior actually changes.