The title of this month's article may lead you to think of hemorrhoids or some horrendous cramp in your rear, but that's not the discomfort I'm talking about. Whereas those discomforts offer little to you in the way of benefits, the discomfort I'll be covering this month offers up a potentially life-changing experience.
I've spoken before about comfort zones. I've gone into detail about how living in our comfort zone is, well, comfortable. But that comfort can lead us to lead a comfortable life. And no, that's not a good thing. Comfortable is sitting on the couch. Comfortable is lying in bed. Do you want to sit on a couch or stay in bed for your whole life?
A truly fulfilling life experience requests - no, requires - being uncomfortable. Many of our greatest experiences and memories in life come from times when we were uncomfortable. Getting up the nerve for the first date. Riding a roller coaster. Flying across the country or around the globe. All potentially uncomfortable events, all leading to potentially amazing experiences.
Today I'm asking that you learn to sit with discomfort. Before you go putting a thumbtack on your chair, let me explain. We seek out comfort, this much is clear, but what is seldom evident is that discomfort equals an opportunity for growth.
For example, let's say you want to lose a little weight. Lots of people want to do that, but not many do it and successfully keep it off. So sitting with discomfort here would entail being hungry. Often when we get hungry we drop everything else and find food immediately in the best interest of family, friends and any surrounding individuals in the area.
But what if we instead learn to sit with that hunger - to really understand what actual hunger feels like? Could it help us lose a little extra weight? Sure. Could it also help us learn to differentiate between being hungry to eat and being hungry from boredom? You betcha.
See, discomfort can be a good thing. Let's look at another example. Say you want to increase your stamina because you get tired of running out of breath or getting left behind the group. In this case, sitting with discomfort would mean walking, riding or running a little further past the point that your body deems reasonable.
Walking, running and riding a bike are all great forms of cardiovascular exercise and can help keep your brain sharp. But if you want to improve upon your existing levels, doing the same amount day-in and day-out will do little to nothing for you. Pushing the envelope, within reason of course, is the best way to increase your abilities.
One last example: Many of my clients hope to improve their posture, although that's not what they initially call it. It always starts out with, "My neck/back/hips/knees/ankles always hurt, and I wish I could make it stop. Can you help me?" In this case, sitting with the discomfort of constant pain would be foolish. The discomfort you'd want to accept here is getting your rear end into the gym and talking to a professional that can help improve your symptoms through improving your posture.
Why would that be uncomfortable? Because it's something different from your usual routine, and that, my friends, is the end-all-be-all in discomfort. We are all creatures of routine. We are run by rituals. We hang by our habits. When we live our lives on autopilot, we run the risk of letting life pass us by, our eyes blind to the wonder and potential awe that each day brings.
It is here more than any other area that I beg you to become comfortable with discomfort. It doesn't matter the amount of time you have left in your life, what truly matters is the amount of life you put into your time.
Learn to sit with hunger. Learn to sit with exercise. Learn to sit with eating a new, healthy food once or twice a month. Learn a new vacation getaway. Learn a new book. Learn a new language. Learn a new activity. Learn a new social group. Learn to drop a bad habit. Learn to create a good habit to replace that bad one you just dropped.
It's never too soon or too late to learn to live your life. But be forewarned, learning to sit with discomfort can be tough at first, but eventually it can be quite addictive and rewarding. You'll want to share your discomfort with others - but not in the "you'll never guess how horrible my day was" kind of way, more in the "get yer butt of the couch and come with me to the gym" way.
At the end of the day, change isn't easy. That's why so few of us actually achieve it. But being able to identify what you want to be better at, learning how to sit with the discomfort of that process and achieving it are some of the greatest gifts you can ever bestow upon yourself.
For the next month, single out one thing you'd like to change, do more or less of, or improve upon and find a way to sit with its according discomfort. Be patient. Be consistent. It'll pay off eventually. And you'll be much more comfortable once it does.
Andy Frisch, NASM CPT, CES, PES, WFS, IFT, NESTA FNC, is a successful personal trainer and nutrition coach who enjoys working with clients of all shapes, sizes and ages. He currently train clients at Sports Village Fitness in Lebanon, works with clients online at www.FreshEvolutionFitness.com and has a budding YouTube channel.