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Ah, the comfort zone.
I don’t know about yours, but mine is full of furry blankets, carby snacks, and enough feel-good rom-coms to last me until eternity.
And yet…when I stay in this cave of comfort…I recognize that I’m not growing.
The Drawback of the Comfort Cave
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that every single human on the planet has experienced some degree of discomfort in their lives.
It might be a small discomfort, like trying a food we don’t think we’ll like.
Or it might be a large discomfort, like going through a soul-sucking divorce.
Or something in the middle.
Whenever discomfort arises, our natural instinct is to cower in our caves of comfort until the nastiness passes. But when we allow ourselves to hide from the discomfort, we do ourselves a disservice. We stay stagnant and don’t make room for new energy and experiences. We become trapped in patterns that, if not broken, will continue to (ironically) cause discomfort for us in the future.
Why Discomfort is Good for Us
I’ll give you a personal example of how discomfort is ultimately the best thing for us.
Seven years ago, I got divorced. It was not amicable. It was not easy. Or short. And yet, from the moment I stepped into the discomfort of being alone, of having my marriage pulled out like a rug from beneath me, I knew I had to make something positive from the pain.
I reread Eat, Pray, Love and Wild. I took comfort in the fact that these best-selling authors had in fact turned their pain into meaning. I sought to do the same.
I went on a pilgrimage in the Dolomiti mountains, hoping to come out on the other side enlightened.
I did not.
I came out with sore feet and sculpted leg muscles, but the discomfort remained.
I read more spiritual development books.
I did yoga.
I drank wine (lots).
And when I’d finally stopped checking to see if I was better…I was. And improved for having gone through the experience. The discomfort showed me that I was stronger than I thought I was, and that something as little as the crumbling of a marriage would not destroy me.
So there it was. Proof that I could survive discomfort.
When You Outgrow That Cave
We don’t always have giant epiphanies when we’re in that state of discomfort. And usually, it takes a lot longer to get out of it than we expect. But the truly interesting thing, after making it through bouts of extreme discomfort, is that our comfort zones don’t fit quite as cozily as they once did.
We may no longer be satisfied to stay in our cave of comfort because now we know there’s a whole world out there to explore! Certainly, it’s not a world without risks, but we’ve learned that risks don’t necessarily mean annihilation, and that we will fall sometimes, and that’s okay.
The cave will always be there. And some days, you’ll need it. But once you step foot outside, you realize that you are more than capable of handling a little discomfort, especially if it helps you grow.
I invite you to consider the areas where you hide in your cave. Maybe you dream of starting a business but feel it’s safer to keep working for The Man and get a steady paycheck.
Or maybe you’re in a relationship that doesn’t feel good anymore. But you don’t want to be alone, so you stay.
Whatever the thing that’s keeping you in your cave, consider what tiny step you could take to nudge a toe outside of that cave. Maybe you could take a course on entrepreneurship. Or talk to your partner. Once you take that step, take another. And another.
Because life is too short to spend in a cave that limits your ability to expand.