When I was young, my parents and I regularly discussed the latest thing I’d hidden about school.
One time I had an in-school suspension for a few days. I tried to keep it under wraps but the school called them.
And once they did the school’s punishment seemed like a breeze. So instead of warning them of a spark I had to put out a fire. But that’s how I was as a kid.
I wouldn’t deal with things head on.
I’d avoid the problem, run away as long as I could and try to wish it away. Sometimes I could avoid it, but more often I’d have to deal with the fire’s destruction.
Though, as is said in the medical world: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
How can you prevent these fires?
In one of Tim Ferriss’ best posts, he suggests:
“Write down the 3-5 things … that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually = most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.”
That concept recently inspired me to Tweet this:
Why’s it so important we embrace discomfort?
For one, we get it out of the way.
Instead of wasting energy worrying you use it to deal with the problem. It saves you time, energy and stress and you can more quickly move on to newer things you prefer.
But that’s only short term. If we think further ahead there are even more substantial results.
You’ll gradually become the type of person that confronts problems head on. It’ll become a new normal that people will recognize and respect.
The training of constant challenge will make it easier and easier. As Archilochus observed, that’s really important, since…
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations,
we fall to the level of our training.”
I’ve experienced the changes myself; I’m definitely more confident and capable. I can depend on myself to push through even the highest stake situations. And, to be honest, living a life of pure comfort was more stressful.
It’s easiest to picture that stress as a beautiful river flowing through a town.
In this picture, the town represents the people of your life and the river your mind. With each problem you hide, you drop a stone to the river bed’s bottom.
Each stone by itself may not seem consequential- after all, they’re merely small rocks.
But after years of dropping stones the river will dam, flooding the river banks of your mind and damaging the town full of your other relationships.
By addressing those uncomfortable situations we carefully remove each stone until the water of our thoughts can flow freely.
Doesn’t a free-flowing river sound much more peaceful than a flooded village?
With that aim, I now reflexively handle issues as they arise. The stress of the background mental chatter I was weighed down with has quieted and I can focus on the present.
A peaceful mind and life, much healthier relationships and a stronger character- who doesn’twant those things?
That’s nice, but how does any of this apply to social interaction?
If we have difficult interactions we’re putting off, we’re likely straining our relationships with those people.
Instead of building that relationship (or business) and focusing on the other person, your negative perceptions about them trap you in your own head.
Be honest with yourself:
“Which interactions am I always hesitant to have?”
“Do I need to bring up something with my significant other? A business partner? My boss? A colleague?”
“How is anxiety and regret about those conversations affecting my relationships?”
“How is it affecting my own mental state?”
Imagine how HUGE a load off it will be to have reached an understanding and move on with life and those relationships.
How might the benefits play out?
In an office it’s easy to feel the need to tiptoe around your workmates. Maybe you’re unsure how other people feel about you and you think you may have crossed some lines.
That’s quite a stressful state of mind if you ask me. And it’s a state of mind that will make you less productive, which means less opportunity- or at least unnecessary difficulty- to move your career forward.
Decreasing the stress of work politics greases the wheels of your career and translates to faster progress to a higher level.
What if you’re starting a business?
Having the right conversations and maintaining those relationships connects you to people that may lower barriers for you. It’ll help prospects find you more easily. And hell, it’ll make you a more likable person- the one your dog thinks you are.
What if you’ve already got your business off the ground?
Focusing on these difficult discussions will encourage a workforce that goes beyond the call of duty. Since your partners will be more willing to hear you out, it’ll be far easier to work with them towards your shared goal of success.
Think of how far reaching the implications of just those two things are- yet there are more!
The benefits aren’t limited to work… this has a very significant impact on your personal relationships.
It’ll cut down on disagreements with your partner or in the least their significance. You’ll also have better, stronger, deeper friendships and your social life will be more fun.
But that’s only if you’re willing to have the hard, uncomfortable conversations.
So here’s a disclaimer: those conversations may not get you what feels like a positive result.
Of course it’s vital to treat people in a way that’s best not only for yourself, but for the other person. Still, you may very well lose some opportunities or even unreasonable friends.
Sure, that’s a tough spot to be in and comfort does have it’s benefits.
Being warm and cozy underneath the sheets.
Running away from confrontation.
Keeping to yourself.
It all feels good in the moment…
But where do you get in a year?
Think about five years.
Twenty five years?
If you avoid these conversations your whole life you’re not going to progress.
As much as losing that friend or opportunity may hurt, those circumstances will turn to your advantage.
What’s worse: losing the opportunity or a sour friend? Finally moving on to something new?
Or would you prefer being held back? Feeling the slow burn of stress and fatigue from that constant weight on your shoulders?
The biggest benefit to comfort is the immediate feeling of safety- a comfort that weakens you.
On the other hand, embracing discomfort strengthens you by decluttering your mind and life.
And the more lasting, significant benefit is the stronger relationships and character you’ll gain. You’ll be used to encountering and dealing with these situations as they arise.
So have that hard conversation.
Don’t put it off.
Don’t run from the sparks.
Don’t do the thing that’s easy now.
Difficult conversations deepen your personal relationships.
Challenging discussions grease the wheels of your career.
Tough chats introduce entrepreneurs to people that reach their hands down the ladder to bring them up- and they make stronger business partnerships and happier employees.
I’ve had little problem firmly objecting in business meetings, knowing it prevents much bigger problems later on.
It doesn’t feel so bad to tell someone whether they are about to or have put me in a bad spot. If I’ve made a mistake, I have little problem talking through it with them.
It’s not always easy nor comfortable- but because dealing with problems early prevents them from getting too big it’s always worth it.
For example, once a friend asked me to give his friend a place to stay when he first moved to my city. This friend and I hadn’t even met before the first tough chat! You see, as much as I wanted to help him I had a full schedule and couldn’t change it on short notice.
I was upfront and after just a few days we decided it wasn’t ideal, so he moved out.
A while after he actually ended up joining my start up. Especially when he first joined we had disagreements about whether either of us was serious about the business.
On one occasion I prioritized a rest day despite a deadline. He quipped that I wasn’t serious about building a company.
Instead of biting back I empathetically explained I needed to avoid burnout- and he understood. If we weren’t so ready and willing to tackle those interactions it could’ve turned into a disaster.
But we were, so…
While he was part of my company we meshed better than the other partners did with each other- and that was largely because of how open we were to discussion.
Eventually he ended up deciding that for the sake of his professional goals he’d leave the start up. But through the entirety of his stay and his transition back to his home country we’ve maintained our relationship.
The amazing thing is that the benefits of embracing tough interactions go even further than strengthening relationships in that way.
Humans need challenge- not only to grow, but to enjoy life.
Too simple a game is not fun, right? While you play you need to increase the difficulty as you gain experience.
How much more so in life!
So stop residing in the shadow of comfort.
Take an honest look at where you are and the state of your relationships.
Is there a conversation you’ve been putting off? Think about (don’t overthink) which is the most meaningful challenge for you to have.
Consider what you have to say and make plans to meet.
Remove that first stone from that river, clear that dam and start saving your relationships- don’t wait!