Sit with the discomfort

Coincidentally this post will drop on the eve of my 45th birthday.  I love my birthday.  It provides me a perfect opportunity to run my Year in Review.  I don’t only do this on my birthday.  I do it periodically during the year just to keep myself on track.  But I didn’t used to do it at all.  Once upon a time I thought I didn’t need much self-improvement.

While I am now a huge proponent of committing oneself to constant improvement, I have [unfortunately] witnessed all too many folks shun the notion that they have anything to improve upon.  I find that I feel a certain sense of sorrow when this happens.  Mainly I wonder why one would refuse a chance to grow.

Growth.  The word itself denotes action – expansion beyond the boundaries; which means, of course, you have to move.  Do something.

It doesn’t have to be a BIG something.  In fact, it is truly a series of small, manageable aspirations that allow for the BIG growth experiences.

Several years ago I gained some experience. (  You’ll note I said “gained some experience” when I could just have easily used a phrase with a more negative connotation such as “went through hell.”

But I’ve learned how to choose my words carefully because words have power.  They have the power to hurt, and they have the power to heal.

I have found that the first step in maximizing personal growth is to edit.  Have you ever uttered the phrase, “What was I thinking?”  Of course you have.  We say it as an expression of frustration or to lament a bad decision, but how often do we stop to truly understand, “What AM I thinking?”  Not often enough.

Committing oneself to constant improvement is not easy.  It won’t feel comfortable sometimes.  Especially when you start to realize how often you use defeating self-talk, or how often you invite negativity to live within you when you don’t speak your truth.  And this is where a lot of us will choose to get off the bus.

I implore you to stay on the bus.  It will be bumpy and there will definitely be some treacherous hairpin curves. The trick is learning how to navigate through those moments of discomfort.  As humans we have been conditioned to avoid discomfort.  Oh the lengths we will go to avoid a difficult conversation or delve deep into honest introspection.  We think we behave in this manner as a means to success, when in fact, the fear of discomfort is the underlying reason for most of our failure.

Discomfort makes us squirm.  It feels hot and itchy and claustrophobic.  We sweat, we fidget and we look for the closest exit.  Trust me, I know.  I used to be a Runner.  I’ve run from my share of uncomfortable situations.  Marriage, jobs, friendships – and where did I go in all of my psychological running?  Exactly nowhere.  When I stopped running all my “stuff” was still with me.  It wasn’t until I got some great advice to just sit with my discomfort that I finally learned how to feel it, without reacting to it.

We are a society of instant gratification for the do-it-if-it-feels-good stuff.  We are taught that happiness is our goal, but no one ever shows us the way.  I submit that the way there is through:  through our own painful experiences, through our own bad behavior, through the litter we toss out the window of the bus hoping to leave it far in our rear-view mirror as we cheerfully drive on down the highway.

It doesn’t work like that folks.  You know this.  I didn’t have to tell you.  So take a moment to ask yourself what you are thinking.  Do you find that it’s harsh, negative, self-defeating or of poor quality?  Edit.  Edit.  Edit, and start today.

No longer obsessed with finding misplaced items or dreaming up worst-case scenarios has opened up a lot of time for me to do the things I love - writing (one of my first loves) and appreciating all the joy I find in loving people deeply. Mental illness of any kind can be difficult to navigate. Today I am better through the magic of chemistry and the many lovely friends I've found along the way. Be good to one another.

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