Rules for Intrepid Living: Rule #11

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Rule #11. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.


The father of one of my closest friends was a Navy Seal. He was a tough man, but a good one. We became close over the years as my buddy and I grew up together. Sadly, he passed away barely three months after my own father’s passing in 2000. I learned a lot from that man, about a lot of things; it was from him that I first heard the phrase, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” I don’t recall the context in which he said it to me, but I remember the words clearly.

I’m given to understand that this is a common saying among Navy Seals, and though my brain and body still tries to rail against this idea to this day, learning to accept discomfort (or even to embrace it a little), has made a difference in my life.

I want to take a moment to express that in no way shape or form do I think that my threshold for pain and discomfort is anywhere remotely close to the soldiers under which I have studied. Have I experienced pain and discomfort? Yes, at times what I felt was a great deal of it. However, education from a Navy Seal, and tutelage under an Army Ranger taught me that what I think of as pain and discomfort really only scratch the surface. This post isn’t about trying to compare myself to these elite performers; it’s about trying to learn from them.

How can we can harness the idea of getting comfortable being uncomfortable? First, understand that we’re not punishing ourselves, we’re developing mental toughness and resiliency. Why? Because the more resilient we become, the more we can overcome. Want to climb a mountain, ride a motorcycle across the country, or backpack the AT? You’ll need to be resilient, because a lot of obstacles are going to pop up. That’s okay, remember that obstacles are a good sign, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t need to fortify yourself against them. Sometimes achieving a goal will be a battle; there will be losses, and if you’re not resilient you may be tempted to give up.

Further, if you wait until you’re completely 100% comfortable before tackling a challenge, you’ll likely never get started. No one likes pain, embarrassment, or feeling stupid, but fighting through those sensations to mastery feels amazing. To do that, you’re going to have to accept the discomfort, to walk directly into it. I’m not suggesting that this is easy. In fact, I’m well aware that it isn’t. That’s why I have whined about this cast on my hand more than once, though I’m trying to embrace the discomfort now as opposed to complaining.

If we can look at our discomfort a little differently, however, we see that we can either retreat from it or use it.

I say we should use it.

If we get comfortable being uncomfortable, we will be better prepared to handle whatever life throws at us, while staying focused on what we need to do to accomplish our goals, no matter how we may feel at that moment.

So let’s use our discomfort to drive past our obstacles. Let’s use our discomfort to recognize our growth. Let’s push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, to climb towards our goals, and plant our flag at the peak of our accomplishments. We may be battered and bruised when we get there, but we will also taste success.

For most of us, success won’t come without discomfort. That’s life. But if we get comfortable being uncomfortable, then discomfort and pain won’t stop us. They’ll only make us more intrepid.

“Rules for Intrepid Living” is an ongoing weekly article that gives potential guidelines for how we can all live a bit more of an intrepid life.

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