*This article was also published in my weekly column in the Trinidad and Tobago Business Newsday Jan 16 2014
Robert D. Smith, author of 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Life Right Now, says that every day we face a battle against two thoughts:
- Will this ever work?
- Am I good enough?
He calls this battle ‘The Agony of Creation’.
Whatever actions we choose to take in the physical world, stem from an idea we first had in our mind. We are creating daily but only when we’re actually DOING something. In our heads, we’re planning and scheming. Once we decide to DO something, we begin to CREATE.
At the intersection of every thought and creation is a place called DISCOMFORT. We hate discomfort. Who likes to be uncomfortable? And we interpret our discomfort as a message from our bodies telling us that we need to be afraid of some impending danger.
Consider the observation of John J. Ratey, MD, in his book A User’s Guide to the Brain: “The physical and mental responses to fear were so important to the survival of primitive man that they remain very powerful and long-lasting to this day. Unfortunately, this adaptive response is not always appropriate in today’s world. Our civilization has evolved away from the need to over-respond, but we still do.”
In his book Be Bold and Win, author Jeff Shore says “Discomforts, even sales discomforts, fall into this “response to fear” category. Our brains are wired to understand fear as a threat and act accordingly, with little effort on our part. While our higher reasoning skills allow us to discern the difference between the threat of a saber-toothed tiger and the comparatively mild discomfort of dealing with a non responsive customer, the primitive part of our brain registers both situations as threats, thus triggering what psychologists call the “flight instinct.” This instinct is one of the voices that compel us to flee from a threat…any threat! When we place discomfort in the category of “fear” we are naturally tempted to avoid it at all cost.”
Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher, author and lecturer tells us that an untrained mind can accomplish nothing. We need to TRAIN our brain to embrace discomfort. Every single time we encounter discomfort we are going to need to make a decision: either to CHOOSE COMFORT or STEP OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE. Of course choosing comfort over discomfort in the beginning has little or no consequence on our lives.
But check this out: Entrepreneur and weight lifter James Clear explains “In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices (“I’ll take a burger and fries”) don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.
The people who make slightly BETTER decisions may still be afraid but they forge ahead, and embrace discomfort, despite the fear.
Jeff Shore suggests that we memorize the following statement. Burn it into our brains. Tattoo it on the inside of our eyelids so that we can read it even while we are sleeping:
Where there is no challenge, there is no change.
Without discomfort there is no change. Yet this tendency toward cognitive ease is expressed by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman as the “law of least effort” in his book Thinking: Fast and Slow. “The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action.” The implication is not laziness, but rather self-preservation. Finding ourselves unsure of the depth of a given threat, we revert to the instinct of energy preservation. This subconscious tendency actually helps us to feel better about ourselves when we yield to discomfort. There is a built-in justification for doing so.
Jeff tells us that “the penalty for taking the path of least resistance can be severe, coming in the form of limited potential and confining self-beliefs. Every time we give in to discomfort, we cement ourselves more fully into the familiar yet confining world of mediocrity. Emmet Fox, New Thought Spiritual Leader of the early 20th Century says “Mankind is continually seeking to discover a shortcut but as usual the lazy man takes the most pains in the long run, and having wasted his time in wandering up bypaths, he is ultimately driven by failure and suffering to the realization of the grand truth: that there is no substitute for embracing discomfort and moving forward.
I’ve taken up Jeff on this challenge and I hope you will too! And that is to become intensely aware of your moments of discomfort, and of the decisions that immediately follow. Until you train your brain otherwise, those decisions will be made by default. But you have the power within you to rewrite that mental code. Through awareness and repetition you can choose your response. You can overcome your addiction to comfort and claim victory over your life!
Images from http://bit.ly/1hw0TIC & http://bit.ly/1atCDVL