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The Pleasure of Discomfort

Life starts where our comfort zones end.

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Ever heard the saying that the life of your dreams is outside your comfort zone? I’m paraphrasing, but it is something along the lines of your goals being outside your comfort zone.

I always preach about how discomfort makes us avoid so many opportunities, simply because we don’t even consciously see them. The person who is scared of attending parties due to having social fears will equal parties with discomfort and therefore not even contemplate attending. But how much of life are they missing out on?

If you shift your perspective, everything shifts. If the idea of meeting people go from being a scary thing to an intriguing opportunity to connect with other souls, then your entire life shifts. In addition to that, if you view yourself in the light of someone who is deserving of respect, then the people who don’t provide it, become silly nuisances who you don’t have time for. They are no longer scary monsters who can make you feel bad.

I once came up with the story of two identical twins to explain this. Both of them spill wine on a shirt before a party. One shows up hiding in the corners, embarrassed about the shirt, the other shows up using it as an excuse to talk to people because he has a funny story to tell — the ruined shirt is the perfect conversation starter.

We all live our lives like that — through a lens of what we believe. One of these guys believed a ruined shirt was embarrassing, the other believed it was a great way to start a conversation.

Similarly, our fears tend to control us. Often by us not even realizing it — we simply just act in ways so as not to have to face them. If we’re scared of our boss, we won’t ask for a raise. If we’re scared of planes, we won’t travel. If we fear being ridiculed if asking someone out, we won’t ask them out. Half of the time it won’t even occur to us consciously what we are doing — it won’t even occur to us that we could ask for a raise, for example. The idea is rejected before it’s even properly formed. We are stuck in our own programming; choosing the path of least resistance.

Have you ever been in a position where you didn’t do something out of fear? Such as, let’s say, not told someone you are dating that you don’t accept a certain behavior, because you fear that if you do, you’ll lose that person?

You’re too scared asking for what you want because you fear you’ll lose the good with the bad, if you do.

I just had one of those situations — I needed to stand up to my landlords about some repairs that haven’t happened for months. I like my landlords, so I’ve been patient. I’ve also not wanted to cause a conflict, because that makes me uncomfortable. On top of it, I love the place and don’t want to lose it. So I’ve acted from a place of fear. Today I realized I can’t be scared. I can’t be ruled by the situation. I need to take charge.

For me, this was incredibly unpleasant, but it made me realize just how much fear dictates me at times.

What’s more, I acted form a place of fearing things would go wrong — I feared conflict, I feared losing the place and I feared not finding anything better. This, as opposed to assuming things would go right. Either the repairs will be done, or I’ll find a better place.

I’ve been in similar situations when I wanted to work with some hot shot so badly I put up with nonsense just to please them. I was scared of losing them. Scared I couldn’t run a business without them.

I’ve also dated men I was praying would one day give me what I wanted. In the meantime, I put up with what I could get.

Another classic is when we raise our children and don’t enforce discipline because we fear the child will get angry, or not love us. Almost all human relationships contain a level of that fear, because it’s only when we don’t care about someone that we don’t fear losing them. The trick is to accept we have this fear, but still do what we know is right. For many of us, even the fear of what complete strangers will think matter to us. It’s probably part of our genetic make-up as we are tribal by nature and thus need others for survival purposes. And we have to act in the face of that fear if we want to achieve the relationships we dream of.

The thing is, if you don’t ask for what you want, you’ll never receive it. Unless we are willing to lose what we have to get something better, we will never get something better.

Hedging around things won’t help — we have to put our foot down and ask for what we want. That doesn’t mean being bossy, or cruel, or even demanding in the way people tend to use that word. It’s simply an internal knowledge that if what you want is not given, you will not accept the situation, but rather move on to someone, or something, that gives it to you. This can be done with utmost kindness, tact, grace, etc.

We all have different Achille’s heels. Things that stir up fear in us. I can name a number of different situations where I step into fear based thinking. Becoming aware of that fear and learning to act in spite of it, rather than act instinctively without thinking, is a necessity if we want to change our lives.

We need to assume we can get what we want and act from that space.

When we act, we also need to remember to come from a space of love. Many people who let their fears rule them hit a point when they have had enough — when different things have added up and they flip. That will likely only reenforce their fears though, as acting in that manner will bring out the worst in others around them. As a result they often end up with what they feared the most.

It’s like showing anger instead of hurt — people react very differently to the two. People often think you have to get angry to put your foot down, or to show you won’t accept anything less than what you asked for. You don’t. In fact, anger only shows you think you aren’t in control of the situation. You can be extremely firm without an ounce of anger. Likewise, you can be just as firm when showing you’re hurting. You don’t make yourself vulnerable because you show your hurt. You only make yourself vulnerable if you let others dictate your reactions and actions.

Next time you do something, ask yourself if you’re going into the situation thinking you will get what you want, or move onto something else that’s better? Or are you fearing what will happen if things go wrong?

If you don’t have fear, the world becomes your oyster. You probably have to be prepared for some discomfort if you want to get to the stage where you’re fearless though. I remember reading Time Ferriss’ The Four-Hour Work Week many years ago and in it he explains how he’d walk up to strangers in supermarkets and chat to them, ask out women, etc. simply to overcome his fear. He’d keep going until he was no longer afraid. Suddenly he felt free to speak to anyone.

If you had no fear what would you do?  

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