How to be Comfortable with Uncomfortability…
This lesson is geared to make you comfortable with uncomfortability. You might be asking yourself, why would I (Phil Svitek) ever want you to feel uncomfortable? Why can’t I just teach you ways to avoid pain and discomfort? Truth is, life doesn’t work like that and if you go about avoiding suffering, you’ll eventually be doomed because when inevitable circumstances strike, they may end up crippling you. But if you practice becoming comfortable with uncomfortability, you’ll develop proper tools and techniques to use in those instances and not be thwarted by them. And the beauty is you can apply this thinking towards your dreams. Think of what you really want. Now think of the aspects of that dream that make it seem difficult. What are they? The wonderful thing about this lesson is you’ll discover that your desire for your dreams is greater than you fear of discomfort. Your desire is dynamic and creates action, building momentum over time. That’s what the exercises I teach you are designed to do—to create that initial spark. Please, go ahead and write down what makes you feel uncomfortable in the comment section. Thank you for tuning in!
SELECTED LINKS FROM EPISODE:
-Are You Responsible Even If It’s Not Your Fault? Episode: https://philsvitek.com/are-you-responsible-if-its-not-your-fault/
-Daily Artist’s Challenge Episode: https://philsvitek.com/daily-artists-challenge/
-21st Century Creative Podcast: https://lateralaction.com/21stcenturycreative/
-Not Twice T-Shirt Campaign: http://nottwice.org
-A Very LA Birthday Short Film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9SHJaepE0c
-Adorama Affiliate Link: https://www.adorama.com/?utm_source=rflaid914115
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This lesson is geared to make you comfortable with uncomfortability. You might be asking yourself, why would I ever want you to feel uncomfortable? Why can’t I just teach you ways to avoid pain and discomfort? Truth is, life doesn’t work like that and if you go about avoiding suffering, you’ll eventually be doomed because when inevitable circumstances strike, they may end up crippling you. But if you practice becoming comfortable with uncomfortability, you’ll develop proper tools and techniques to use in those instances and not be thwarted by them. Why don’t we examine this further, shall we?
First, it stands to reason that we should define what I mean by comfortability and uncomfortability. From the perspective that we’re viewing it right now, comfort means something you already know and can perform. You’re accustomed to it and can expect a certain result without much hassle. It’s the status quo. But it’s restrictive and stagnant. You’re not growing. Uncomfortability allows us to develop. It forces us to act in a way we haven’t before and gain that skill or mindset.
I can look back at my life and point out thousands of instances where I wanted to stay in my aptly named comfort zone because it felt safe and enjoyable. I loved being able to do what I wanted when I wanted and thus I hated the idea of starting school. In time, between making new friends and learning new and interesting concepts, I warmed up to the classroom environment.
Another example from my life is back when I started playing soccer. I was a shy and introverted kid—still kind of am but we’ll talk about that more in a moment. During our first game I wasn’t saying much. I was just focused on playing. However, that didn’t lend itself to getting the result we wanted or more so the result I really wanted, which was to win. By me not communicating with my teammates, we simply weren’t as strong as we could have been. No one on the field, including myself, was a mind reader. The only way for each of us to fulfill our roles collectively was to communicate with each other verbally. And when I say verbally, I don’t mean in a regular speaking voice. The field was huge, especially for a 10 year old. You had to shout to make sure each person heard your instructions, which we things like “man on”, “take the space”, “shoot”, “guy behind you” and so on. My desire to win was greater than my need to stay shy and so I opened up and instructed my teammates. When I did, we played a hell of a lot better than before.
The momentum of that game propelled me forward in other areas, one being filmmaking. As a kid, I’d make lots of movies and in order to get my vision across, I needed to lead people. You can’t lead if you don’t speak.
So, those are just a couple examples from my life where I embraced uncomfortability. I stepped out of my comfort zone and gained something. In the first instance, I was resistant initially. In the second, I did so because I wanted to win.
Part of how you can become comfortable with uncomfortability is to acknowledge that there’s something to be gained by stepping out of your comfort zone. Don’t resist. It’s certainly been my natural inclination to do so but that only makes the experience more difficult and it takes more time to learn the lesson you’re meant to digest. Furthermore, if you have a grand dream, which I imagine you do because most, if not all, creators do, then you’ll definitely need to step into challenging situations. Greatness doesn’t happen in the status quo.
What I just listed represents the positive aspects of stepping into the unknown. But a huge reason I want to make sure you understand this lesson is because simply put life happens. I want you to really understand is that in life there are unavoidable aspects and just because you refuse to face them, doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with them. Even when something isn’t your fault you may have to bare the responsibility of it. For instance, let’s say rent is about to be due. You just completed a big freelance gig and have a fat check coming in. You are ready to deposit that and use it for rent. But then you find out the check bounced. Not your fault but it is your responsibility to deal with, is it not? Or let’s say a grandparent dies. It’s an emotionally taxing period in many people’s lives and it’s only exacerbated by having to deal with wills, funeral costs and other administrative tasks. The duality of those creates a very difficult grieving phase. Sometimes it may feel like too much to handle. Believe me, I understand, and yet deal with it we all must. For more on this notion, check out my episode called “Are You Responsible If It’s Not Your Fault?”
The point being that how you prepare yourself for these moments will determine the ease with which you can navigate those difficult times. There’s a Benjamin Franklin quote that goes, “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” That’s really what this lesson is all about. I want to teach you how to prepare. The way you prepare is by controlling the amount of uncomfortability in your life so that it expands on your own terms, greater and greater, over time. You learn the most when you don’t know something and force yourself into it. Yet, you want to be in command of how much you allow yourself to be immersed at any given point. This notion may sound like an oxymoron, but I’ll show you how to do it. When you apply the exercises I’m about to give you, you’ll be able to thrive in your career and life plus you’ll be able to handle times of crisis without panic or even distress. You won’t panic because you’ll know you have other options. So step one is to accept that shit happens in life but you can prepare for it. The more preparation you have, the less severe life will seem. And as a byproduct, you’ll accomplish the things you want in life. No amount of greatness in life happens without pain or sacrifice. Going to the gym isn’t always pleasant, but it yields results in terms of your physical and mental health.
Lastly, before I give you the practical ways to get comfortable with uncomfortability understand that this practice, like most meaningful disciplines, is a lifelong pursuit. There’s many things I’ve gotten comfortable with that used to be so uncomfortable—like speaking on camera, believe it or not. However, there’s many aspects of life that aren’t comfortable for me. One is the passing of time and its effects on friendships. Over the years I’ve been blessed to befriend incredible people. I’ve gotten close to them and they with me. But their ambitions and life in general has pulled a lot of those friends away. It’s not that we ever stopped being friends, but many of the people I used to hang out with daily have gone on to do incredible things in different parts of the world. And honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of their successes and I am happy for getting to witness their work ethic for whatever amount of time I did. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it makes me sad to see them move on. Part of me, at times at least, has felt like they were moving on from me. I know it’s not true or that it ever even crossed their mind. Heck, I’ve grown in my life and moved to different parts of the country thereby leaving people behind so it’s somewhat hypocritical of me to even think really, but you can’t help how you feel sometimes. And that’s how it’s felt. So the notion of people, especially friends, having to grow up and move on, while honoring what once was, is an aspect of life I need to be able to feel comfortable with and currently I don’t.
Don’t worry, it’s not that serious. Thanks to embracing the idea of being comfortable with uncomfortability, I’m able to process friends entering new phases of their lives better and better.
All that to say, we all have areas we need to work on. One final point before I give you methods to use, and I mean this in all seriousness. Don’t avoid doing this work. Life, greatness, human kindness, achievement or whatever you want to call it, happens in the unexpected and if you sit too long in comfort you’ll become bored and suffocate. As human beings we need to grow. We’re either growing or we’re dying as the old adage goes. Too many people can’t adapt to change which is why I feel we’re seeing suicide rates rise, mass shootings left and right, stress levels through the roof and so on. So please, do not take this lightly.
Avoid getting to that mental prison with these games. There’s many of them and I do want you to look at them as games because if you do, it’ll be more fun and less intimidating.
The first way, I already hinted at earlier, and that is to sit with discomfort. Don’t run away from it. I feel we as a society think that anything that doesn’t make us happy is terrible. It could be, but we never really process why. Rachel Brathen, aka Yoga Girl, urges us to process these emotions that way we can understand them. Too often I find we try to shove them away but the problem with that is these demons resurface later and much stronger. Musician Amanda Palmer has a great analogy about traumas. To her, suppressing traumas is like sending a monster into the basement with a gym where the monster just works out all day every day. If instead we attack these negative emotions head on, we can begin to understand them and work through them at the source.
By the way, here’s just a few ways each of us can suppress negative emotions—drinking, pills and medication, avoiding certain activities, people or places, lying, not communicating them with others and so on. So avoid doing that.
But back to ways to expand your comfortability with discomfort.
The second way to expand your comfort level is to be more honest with people. When someone asks you “how you’re doing?” don’t automatically respond with “good.” Tell them how you really feel. You don’t have to unload everything on them about what’s going on, but you can say, “You know, truthfully things have been hard but I’ll be okay. Thank you for asking though.” Or if you’re at a restaurant and the waiter asks “how’s the food?”, provide actual feedback. What did you like about the food? What didn’t you like? Be specific and point out both positives and negatives. Being able to be honest, no matter how difficult the truth may be to verbalize, is a big indicator of success. The more difficult conversations you’re willing to have in life, the more you’ll accomplish. So practice being honest in small ways so you can grow into those harder moments you’ll face.
Tangential to this exercise is one where no matter which store you shop in, you always ask for 10% off. This is a Tim Ferriss favorite. The goal is not to get that 10% off, it’s just to get you in the habit of asking for things so that later on in life when you’re negotiating for a car, a paycheck, a house or whatever else, you’ll know how to do it with ease. And, I will say, believe it or not, you’ll get 10% off more times than you’d actually think if you ask. So no matter if you’re at Starbucks, your local grocery store or wherever else, just go ahead and say, “Could I get a 10% discount on that? I’d really appreciate if I could.” See what happens.
Here’s a rapid fire list of other ways:
- Look up groups online based on your interests and join them for meetings
- Try an open mic or karaoke
- Take a class of any kind in an area you’re unfamiliar with
- Speak up at your next meeting
- Learn a new language
- Consume new genres of content
- Whenever you’re faced with an option to do something difficult, take it
- Drive a new route home from work
- Say yes more often to people’s requests
- Do something you’ve been afraid to do, like swimming
- Look up my lesson called “The Daily Artist’s Challenge” and try those out
- Have others create “mini” challenges for you
- Listen to Mark McGuinness’ podcast called “The 21st Century Creative” and try out his challenges
The list goes on and one. Make it a game! Invent some ways to challenge yourself. The beauty is you can apply this thinking towards your dreams. Think of what you really want. Now think of the aspects of that dream that make it seem difficult. What are they? How will you overcome them? The wonderful thing about this is we discover that our desire for our dreams is greater than our fear of discomfort. Our desire is dynamic and creates action, building momentum over time. That’s what these exercises are designed to do—to create that initial spark. Please, go ahead and write down what makes you feel uncomfortable in the comment section. Then think of all the incremental steps you can take to overcome that fear. If you’re afraid of swimming, can you start by going in the shallow end and practice swimming without the worry of drowning? Like I said before, make this fun and really think of all the various ways to push yourself. That’s how we grow. When we become stagnant it means we’ve lost our way. Truth is dynamic and ever expanding. That needs to be our goal. Be uncomfortable with comfortability so that you can strive to be comfortable with uncomfortability.
And thus we conclude this lesson. But please feel free to click over to any of the numerous lessons I’ve created just for you. I have so many you can check out along with other free resources. Just go to my website at philsvitek.com. Also, I’m going to be coming out with a workbook version of this series to help master mental fortitude. The book will reiterate my various lessons as well as provide exercises for you to put those lessons to practice. If you’re interested in the details, subscribe to my newsletter on my website or leave a comment below. Lastly, a huge thank you to the people that helped make this episode financially possible. If you too would like to support this show, you can either head on over to my Patreon or sport some merch from my store. Links are down below as well. Or you can just tell a friend about this show and we can build a great community of like-minded creatives. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to tune in. I’m @PhilSvitek on social media and I’ll see you next time. Bye!