There are many ways we seek comfort in life. We can find it in a warm bubble bath, vegging out on the couch with no obligations, or cuddling with a dog.
A new study however, shows that our desire for comfort could be holding us back when it comes to personal growth. If we want to improve ourselves and achieve our goals, we may want to start actively seeking out discomfort.
The researchers Woolley and Ayelet write in their study: “Growing is often uncomfortable; we found that embracing discomfort can be motivating”. “People should seek the discomfort inherent in growth as a sign of progress instead of avoiding it.”
Seeing discomfort as a sign of progress can be motivating, the researchers believe, because we often see it as the opposite: a sign that there’s a problem.
When we’re trying something outside our comfort zone—whether learning a language, going to therapy or confronting our saboteurs—feeling awkward can make us believe we don’t have the knack for it. As a result of this we try as much as possible to minimize our discomfort by hanging back and letting others take the lead, or keeping our minds closed to annoying new information. Worst case scenario: we might just quit.
Embracing discomfort, on the other hand, turns a negative experience into a positive one—a sign that we’re on the right track and that what we’re feeling is perfectly normal. This may open us up to take more risks and really delve in.
All research conducted, suggests we can reframe the way we think about negative experiences: When we reframe our anxiety as excitement, we present more effectively in front of strangers; when we see stress as a gift helping us perform better, we’re better at managing it and staying open to constructive feedback.
This research boils down to: We might be judging too severely normal human experiences like discomfort, stress, and nervousness. While our inclination might be to avoid them, they seem to be an essential part of becoming better humans and living a rich life.
Leaning into those vulnerable, uncomfortable feelings could help us stay motivated and make progress toward our goals.