Playing to your Edge/Finding Comfort in the Discomfort

Playing to your Edge/Finding Comfort in the Discomfort

This past week I have noticed so many posts, articles, and people talking about stepping out of their comfort zones.  Even my meditation this morning on the Calm App was about having the ideal level of anxiety to help us experience new levels of growth.  Maybe this has been on my mind lately so these messages stand out for me more than ever.  It often works like this! 

Sport Psychology principles embrace the concept of testing your capabilities by pushing up to the edges of your comfort zones as a necessary practice to level up strength and skill development.  Even more importantly, frequently doing things that test the confidence in your abilities develops the mental muscles to embrace discomfort and endure the fear that comes from not completely knowing the outcome. This principle applies to all aspects of your life and once you get the hang of it, it will carry you through challenging situations so that you can overcome the obstacles that may be holding you back.

Most of the time doing things that scare us does not come easily.  We have to earn the right to trust ourselves to do difficult things! 

How do we do that?  Dr. Michael Gervais, High-Performance Psychologist, provides a great statement to help train for trust in self to take positive risks.

Testing our comfort zones can bring up old tendencies such as perfectionism. Doing the things that you are so afraid to fail at, is exactly the practice that helps to shatter the need to be perfect. We learn that we will not die or fall apart if we fall short of expectations. In fact, we display bravery and allow our talents and gifts to grow and improve with every attempt!

One of my favorite books, The Gifts of Imper­fection, written by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, states, “Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.”

Dr. Gervais states, “The real fear in modern times is not physical but emotional, being vulnerable enough to try.”

The good news is we can train for trust to take the scary steps to push through discomfort. We learn to believe in ourselves through small acts of bravery that test our discomfort and fear of putting our ego on the line. 

Here is a practice to build the bravery muscle and desensitize the discomfort that comes with taking chances and being vulnerable.

  1. Write a list of things that you have always wanted to do but have felt were too scary or daunting. For example, I sometimes think some of my goals seem silly and have fear of what other people might think. This actually informs me that these are the ones I should prioritize trying!
  2. Choose a smaller step or task associated with one or two of the things on your list that tests you and makes you feel a bit vulnerable. Maybe this is sharing your true feelings with a loved one, or sharing the first chapter of the book you are writing with someone you trust. It could be that you’ve always wanted to do a Triathalon but are not comfortable in the water, so you sign up for an adult swim class. I just spoke with a hockey player whose goal is to make a D1 College team. He knows this is a reach, but he is willing to work hard, day after day. Have your actionable steps be one or two levels beyond your comfort level.
  3. Do one of these scary things each day so you can get used to the feeling of vulnerability and release that fear of failure. You might fail, but that’s the point! Get comfortable with trying again and again. An accumulation of small advances each day lead to the biggest adventures and successes of our lives.

This is the very best way to take your abilities to the next level.   It’s not magic, it’s hard and gritty, but so worth the effort and challenge.