Discomfort is a part of growth


We’ve all experienced growing pains as children. As adults, our muscles ache when we build and strengthen our bodies, our cuts and bruises itch when healing, and we can feel pleasantly tired and sore after a big day of being active and living life.

When we attempt to do new things and challenge ourselves to grow, it is absolutely normal to experience the psychological equivalent of growing pains – feelings of nervousness or apprehension, bursts of stress, and feelings of disappointment if things don’t quite go to plan. It is all part and parcel of extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone in pursuit of what’s meaningful to us.

When I first began to build my business, I had to learn to be OK with the discomfort of, once again, being a beginner.

The discomfort of knowing that I won’t get things right on the first (and the second, the third, perhaps even the fourth) go.

The discomfort of knowing that no matter how many books I read, e-courses I do, or tip sheets I download, my business will take it’s time to become what I’d like it to become, and that it will take practice, patience, learning and growth to get there.

The discomfort of knowing that no matter how much I want things to be ‘done and dusted’ they will not be, as with every new step forward I take, things change, and evolve, and grow, remaining perpetually a work in progress.

The discomfort of not knowing the outcome and doing it anyway, fuelled by passion, hope, and perseverance, while learning to trust that no matter the outcome, my work and effort are never wasted, because everything I do teaches me how to do it better next time.

It wasn’t until I started to allow this discomfort to be there, to make space for it, and to let it hang about without me tying to fix it, that it began to ease.

Often, we confuse such growing pains to mean that we’re doing something wrong, that we are not good enough or don’t have what it takes to get to where we want to be. Sometimes we buy into the discomfort and take it as a sign that we shouldn’t try again, or that this dream that we so deeply desire to pursue isn’t meant for us. So we pause, we hesitate, and we get stuck.

The thing is, anytime we dare to pursue what’s meaningful to us and start doing something new, something out of our ordinary routine, or outside of our comfort zone, we open ourselves up to uncertainty – Will I be able to do it? Will it work out? Will it be worth it? What if it doesn’t work?

And as humans, we’re hard-wired to dislike uncertainty, so when faced with it, our natural defence mechanisms kicks in.

The key is learning to distinguish between growing pains and a repeated stress injury. It is about recognising when doubt morphs into the crippling perfectionism and fear of failure, when disappointment turns into self-criticism and deprecation, when focused determination turns into social withdrawal and isolation, and when perseverance turns into burnout. And then act accordingly.

We can learn to recognise and attend to the early warning signs of pushing ourselves too hard, while leaning into and embracing the discomfort that comes with boldly forging ahead towards our goals.

And overtime, just like the growing pains of our childhood dissipate and become a distant memory, the discomfort of growth gives way to the joy of being the kind of person we want to be, and living the life consistent with what we truly value.

What discomfort can you lean into on your way to pursuing your dreams?