To Grow, Stay Uncomfortable



“Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re hiding out in the comfortable zone.” — Seth Godin

One of the keys to your personal greatness, is personal growth.  But growth feels awkward.

As one of my mentors put it, “That’s what growth feels like.”

To grow, you have to embrace the discomfort.  It feels awkward.  It’s uncomfortable.  You’re out of your comfort zone.  But if you stay in your comfort zone, that’s not where your growth is.

Your growth is where discomfort is.  You grow your greatness by exploring and expanding your capabilities.  You have to leave the nest to spread your wings.  To unleash your potential, and expand what you’re capable of, you have to embrace change and discomfort as a part of the path.

In Squirrels, Boats, and Thoroughbreds, Jamie Gerdsen explains how we have to embrace discomfort, if we want to grow.

Embrace the Discomfort

To grow, you have to embrace the discomfort.  The transition will be uncomfortable and scary, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Gerdsen writes:

“To learn, to experience something new, you have to leave your comfort zone.  That transition between what was comfortable and what will be comfortable is scary.  Everything you thought you knew starts to look wrong.  Your head trash really starts doing a number on you.  Those who are a tad weak in the knees will fold faster than a cheap card table chair.  To grow, you have to embrace the discomfort and work at it until all the shades of gray change back to black and white.”

The More You Embrace Discomfort, the Easier it Gets

To keep growing, you have to stay uncomfortable.

Gerdsen writes:

“Seeing things in black and white again usually means you’ve reached a new comfort zone.  Luxuriate in it for just a moment before you jump back into discomfort.  Because continuing to grow means you have to stay uncomfortable.  The good news is the more you do it, the more natural it becomes.”

Stretch yourself.  You might just like what’s possible.

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Image by lululemon athletica.


  1. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it:

    “Always do what you are afraid to do”

    Your post today has given me the extra push to pursue what would probably be painful and uncomfortable for a while, but(hopefully) will bring greater personal satisfaction in the long run. Thanks!

    • Emerson always has a way with words.

      Best wishes on your pursuit.

      When I have a tough path before me, I remind myself that whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger, but more importantly, the following quote rings true:

      “It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.”

  2. @ActiveOutlook: Ha!
    @Viv: I’m excited for you! JD has this way with people, eh?
    @JD: I’m going through exactly this right now. I’m in the home stretch of a two-month marathon, getting some certifications under my belt that I’d like to have. It’s a lot of work. Much of the material is new, requiring hours of dedicated study in the mornings, evenings, & weekends. I sometimes ask myself, “Is this *really* the way I want to invest my time?” The answer is, “Yes!” Sure it’s uncomfortable, but if I didn’t try, I’d be unhappy with myself for not doing so; conversely, I’ll be thrilled when I look back & say, “I did it!” The ability to make & follow-through with hard choices is a differentiator, a key component of success. And yes, it does get easier.

    • I’ve been lucky to watch your transformation, and it’s given me another real example of what’s possible when somebody puts their mind to it. You’ve done great things, and you’ve clearly taken your game to the next level.

      I overheard somebody in the halls say, “I’m so proud of that time in my life.”

      You’ll look back at this time and smile always, no matter how tough the journey is now.

  3. Sorry Seth, discomfort can bring withdrawl and clumsiness. Discomfort can mean that you are doing something silly that others sensibly avoid.

    Growth can happen just fine without our interfering with it. If we follow our interests we may have a life of curiosity, exploration and pleasure. Some discomfort perhaps but it’s not the defining feature of growth.

    • Maybe the quote is a distraction, though it’s certainly related.

      The point of the post is about the discomfort from personal change, not doing something silly.

      I see enough people struggle with the discomfort they feel when learning something new that it’s worth elaborating here.

      So here goes …

      If change were easy, and if we didn’t grow from our challenges, then discomfort would be a non-issue.

      The precise point is to recognize that discomfort is often part of the change process, when we learn something new (before our mind, body, and emotions have absorbed it fully.)

      And, the insight is that just because something doesn’t feel natural, or you feel awkward during the process, or you don’t start out that great, don’t give up. Give yourself a chance to grow your competence.

      When we’re learning something new, it’s perfectly natural to go through stages of unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence.

      It’s also perfectly natural when we’re mastering something to go from getting it intellectually, to getting it emotionally, to finally getting it physically (burning it into our basal ganglia and muscle memory.)

      When we’re building a new habit, again, it’s likely to be uncomfortable while our mind, body, and emotions learn a new pattern, especially if it goes against our grain.

      A recurring pattern I see is when somebody embraces their discomfort, they are more open to exploring and trying new things, and they get over the hump of learning things that may not come easy.

      Edward de Bono does an excellent job explaining the process of growth, forming new patterns, and changing patterns, and why it’s uncomfortable in Mechanism of Mind.

    • I think we’re better at dealing with resistance, discomfort, etc. when we expect it, or, at least, aren’t surprised by it.

  4. I just found this quote on Noah Kagan’s website. He says that if it’s uncomfortable, then you’re growing. I wanted to know if this was some quote by a famous author and googled it. That’s how I got here.

    Thanks for the great article JD

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