Discomfort Is the Price to Pay for a Meaningful Life

photo by Lee Goss

Comfort has its place, for sure.

Routines can make our lives work well. Brushing teeth everyday, eating meals, getting to the office on time — all good. However, when we become rigid and cling to comfort – particularly emotional comfort – we seriously limit our experience of life’s rich purpose and meaning.

There’s a popular idea in the transformational coaching world:

We need to become comfortable with discomfort.

Do we? Really?

First, I’m not sure it’s even possible to become “comfortable with discomfort”. I mean, would it even be called “discomfort” if we were comfortable?

Second, just as comfort has its place, so does discomfort. You’ve surely seen that over-used chalkboard image illustrating the relationship between your comfort zone and magic. In case you haven’t:

overused but true

So, here’s an idea: How about we welcome discomfort? In fact, let’s EMBRACE it! …… No?

I don’t know about you, but my reaction to the first sign of discomfort is NOT to welcome or embrace it. Nope. My first reaction is more like: This Shouldn’t Be Happening! Immediately followed by any number of well-honed fix-it strategies.

Here’s an example of how it often goes:

  1. Let’s say someone gives me feedback (unsolicited, of course).
  2. It triggers my sensitivity to perfectionism or approval.
  3. I retreat and double down into my comfort zone of defenses.
  4. I’ll be honest, at this point I’m not one bit interested in the “magic” that supposedly resides outside of my barricaded comfort zone.

Then, I usually reach for one or more of the following to secure my position. I might:

  • change my self-talk and use “positivity” as a clever hiding place, or
  • get defensive and justify, or
  • come up with an action plan (which is really a reaction plan), or
  • vow to never, ever be vulnerable again, or
  • gossip about how wrong the feedback giver is and how, they aren’t so perfect either now are they?!, or
  • secretly plot my revenge

These are just examples but you get the point. They’re a far cry from the noble idea to “welcome” or “embrace” discomfort. These are all strategies to guard the perimeter of a comfort zone. Not exactly a recipe for “living my best life.”

New Plan: Accept Discomfort as an Invitation to Grow

It’s doubtful that I’ll ever like discomfort. I can, however, accept it and appreciate what it gives me after I step beyond comfort’s heavily fortressed threshold. The ambiguous and magical territory of transformation awaits. With enough practice and experience, acceptance of discomfort summons my willingness to step out and face whatever is uncomfortable. Not to conquer it or fix it or even to make it comfortable. Just to face it. Undefended.

That moment of being undefended in the face of discomfort is when magic stands a chance of happening. The higher truth is, discomfort has always led me to a larger experience of life. One that is richer with mystery, passion, gratitude, and adventure. It’s a life I’m far more interested in living.

It takes courage, for sure. Jungian analyst and author, James Hollis, sums it up this way:

It is far easier to walk in shoes too small for us than to step into the largeness that the Soul expects and demands.

The Soul doesn’t care about our comfort. It cares about our growth. It cares about us becoming who we are really meant to be, and then stretching beyond that to become more. When we remember this, it is an exhilarating, sacred journey and SO worth the price!

The Heart of The Matter

Finding Fuel for Your Vision

This is the third in the series of posts about mindset hacks for creating a successful, enjoyable business. Check out the first post here, and the second one here.

If you’ve been following this series and doing the exercises, you have enough material for the next step.

STEP 3: Understand that Form follows Function

No alt text provided for this image

You have a clear (or clear enough) vision that is also sensory and palpable. (If not, go back to the beginning and give yourself more time on the process.) Now we’re going to mine for the gems that are at the heart of your vision. The timeless essence. This is the most potent aspect of your vision and and essential step.

The function or essence of any vision is the fuel you need to make it a reality. That essence is what ultimately takes shape or form — the end result. That essence is always emotional. And, emotion is far more powerful than logic, reason, or rational thought. (That’s why advertising works so well. At the center of every ad is an emotion-based threat or promise.)

Think of anything that you want…anything at all. Now think about why you want it. If you answer the question “Why do you want this?” or “What will that give you?” enough times, you will get to at least one emotional essence. 

Example (exchange between me and a client):

Client: I want to lose weight.

Me: Why do you want to lose weight?

Client: Duh…because I’m overweight!

Me: No, seriously, why do you want to lose weight?

Client: Because I’ll look and feel better.

Me: Why do you want to look and feel better?

Client: Doesn’t everyone?

Me: Hmmm…I’ll try another question: What will it give you to look/feel better?

Client: I would stop feeling ashamed.

Me: Yes. Excellent. That’s what you would not feel. What would you feel instead?

Client: Happy. Excited to be alive. Engaged. Proud. Grateful.

Me: That’s it! That’s the emotional essence.

In the example above, we identified the emotional essence — a.k.a., “function”…as in “form follows function”. It could be a singular emotional state or, more likely a blend of those emotions: Happy, Excited to be alive, Engaged, Proud, and Grateful. This is the fuel that will be used to create the vision. (More on how to do that in a future article.)

Dig Deeper

Now, back to you and your vision. Reconnect to the what you want. Imagine stepping into that future scene of not only having it but fully living that vision — engaging all of your senses again. From here, name the emotional essence of your vision. One way to do this is to ask yourself what you are feeling when you are connected to this vision? What are the primary emotions? 

If you get stuck, journal a bit of dialogue answering the questions “Why do you want it?” or “What will that give you?” several times until you find the emotional gems.

No alt text provided for this image
  •  What is at the heart of your vision? 

  • What is the essence of it? (You’re looking for the substance of the vision that can be boiled down to a few key words that are timeless, formless states of being and/or emotions. For example, Happiness, Fun, Peace of Mind, etc.)

Next Post’s Topic: Pitfalls & Derailers

Keep Minding Your Business!

photo by Lee Goss

Here’s the second in the series of posts with step-by-step processes, hot tips, new tools, and ideas to create a business (& life) you love. Read the first post here.Read the first post here.

If you did the 7-Day Challenge, you have enough practice at creating an Upward Spiral and you have a few lists to use as fuel for your creating your vision.

We’re still in Step 1: Create a Vibrant Vision. So far, I asked you to answer the question: What would make your heart sing?, and to brainstorm lots of possibilities. It’s time to narrow your focus and choose. Here’s how.

Review Your Possibilities 

First of all,  Don’t let your “Inner Critic” convince you that you don’t have time for this.  You do.  It’s a choice.

Go back through your brainstormed writings. Highlight themes or anything that evokes a strong “YES!” from you. Building on that, now imagine a grand, whole, meaningful future.  Imagine, the best that can happen for you, does in fact happen for you.  You’ve actually created the business or work of your dreams.  You’re experiencing success in every way that you wish.  As you contemplate this future, answer the following questions, and take as much time as you need or want:

  1. What is the heart-singing vision for your business?
  2. If it were to be even better than the above, what would be included?
  3. If you were to stop here, what would be missing?  Add that to your vision now.

Step 2: Experience Your Vision

This step is all about engaging the power of your mind to create a sensory experience of your vision. Great athletes do this all of the time. They have a mental/sensory rehearsal of their sport. You’ve probably seen pause before taking action. They are envisioning and feeling a triumphant completion. You can use this same technique.

Read the next few instructions, then close your eyes and follow them.

sensory imagination
  1. Imagine stepping into the future you are envisioning….breathe it in…….make it yours…….notice what you feel……  What are the dominant emotions here?  Spend as much time in this scene as you like, allowing it to shift and change.
  2. Engage all of your senses taking in the aromas, temperature, sounds sights, and  textures.  Allow it to become more and more real. If there are other people in your vision, see them there, hear them speaking, etc.
  3. Imagine the goodness of this vision expanding in ways you hadn’t predicted….if it were EVEN better, what’s it like?  There is a magical point at which the vision begins to vision itself, on your behalf. Let yourself resonate with this vision. If you cannot resonate with it, it’s ok to change it so that you can. It does not need to be “reasonable” but it does need to be believable enough – to you, and you alone.
  4. Choose a touchstone or symbol for this vision — it might be a particular item, image, sound, or color that will serve as an easy access into this visionary experience.

The7-DayChallenge

  1. Start each day with a 5-minute (or longer) experience of your vision. Step into it like stepping into a scene in a movie.
  2. Create a visual representation of your vision and put it where you’ll see it every day. It could be that touchstone, a screensaver, anything that reminds you of the power of your heart’s desire. 
  3. Answer the following questions:
    • How does this vision change you? How does your image of yourself change/expand?
    • When you are connected to this vision, what do you believe is true about you?
    • What does achieving this vision give you? What state of mind or state of being does it produce in you?
    • What is one habit you will need to change (that is, start or stop) in order to create the success you desire?

Mind Your Business!

Mindset hacks for creating a successful, enjoyable business (and life!)

I created this mini-series of posts to support those of you who are ready for a business you love. It’s for those of you who are ready to set down the old “tools” of struggling and suffering because you now know they no longer work. This series is designed to help you reclaim the intensity of your true heart’s desire, and to engage the vast power of your mind to make that desire a reality. I’ll share my step-by-step processes, hot tips, new tools, and ideas for moving beyond the most common derailers: excuses, pipe dreams, self-pity, control, and resignation. 

Note: My approach is not just about positive thinking. While positivity is essential, it must be genuine. Simply thinking “happy thoughts” won’t be enough to sustain you through the natural rough patches of resistance you’ll surely encounter as you move towards your dreams. You’ll need something of greater substance such as your character, compassion, commitment and sense of humor

Ready? Let’s start with a first step

Step 1: Create a Vibrant Vision

Visioning is a fundamental human skill. We use it all the time in profound and mundane ways.  Seriously, everything from thinking about what you’ll have for dinner to planning an adventure vacation to imagining the life of your dreams — all examples of visioning. It’s such an important skill that mental health professionals know that a patient who cannot envision a positive future will not heal. It doesn’t matter how much therapy or medication is administered, without the ability to vision, there is little hope for true mental/emotional wellness.

To create a compelling vision and a vibrant fulfilling business, dreaming is essential. 

Pause right here…..  Consider what you truly want. 

What would make your heart sing? 

The Upward Spiral

Most of us are highly skilled at creating a downward spiral of imaginary worst-case scenarios. You can probably recognize how easy it is to think of what could go wrong.  “What if this bad thing happens, and then what if that horrible thing happens?”  And on and on, down and down, it goes.  It’s no wonder so many of us escape through mindless distractions and addictions. 

Good News:  with practice you can become masterful at creating the opposite; that is, an Upward Spiral.  You generate a wide array of positive dreams and possibilities.Try this brainstorming exercise called “Wouldn’t it be great if….?”  The directions are outlined below.

Two Cautions:

  1. For now, don’t worry about  being “reasonable or “realistic” just yet.  Those have a place in the process but going there too soon will strangle your creativity and blind you from seeing opportunities. 
  1.   Don’t worry about how you will make any dreams come true, yet.  The plan of action comes later.  Remember:  a premature “how” will kill a great  “what”.

Exercise: “Wouldn’t it be great if…..?” 

At your keyboard or with pen and paper, ask the question: “Wouldn’t it be great if….?”, and then fill in the blank.  Ask it many, many times.  Sometimes your answers will build on each other, sometimes they won’t. Lofty or simple, all are welcome and important.

Examples:

imagining the possibilities
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I were wildly in love with my work?
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I were wildly in love?
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I came up with a million-dollar idea?
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I went to the beach in the spring?
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I went to the beach next week?
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I found the perfect assistant?
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I had an awesome support team?
  • Wouldn’t it be great if my business was featured in the news?
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I was interviewed on the nightly news?
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I became more fit as I aged?

You’re starting with a random download of ideas and possibilities. Some will be non sequiturs; that’s fine. Pay attention to how you are feeling as you write your own list of great possibilities. To kick-start the process, take a few minutes now and do a round of this exercise.

Wouldn’t it be great if….

This exercise can be done anytime.  It could become a practice each morning with your journal.  Or, it could be what you think about as you drift off to sleep at night.  Be light with it. There is no “getting it right”. There is no requirement to do anything about the ideas that come to mind. The only “rule” is this: don’t judge your ideas. If you do judge, let the judgment go and bring yourself back to the activity.

The 7-Day Challenge

Answer the question: What would make your heart sing?  Your answer may stay the same or it may shift each day. Let it be. Then, create an upward spiral by completing the sentence, “Wouldn’t it be great if….” , every day for seven days. Come up with at least 10 possibilities. Write them down. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after this exercise each day. 

How to Have Non-Sleazy Sales Conversations

Listen to the conversation I have with Carol Greenaway as we discuss:

  • The critical difference between marketing and selling
  • Why many service providers are sooooo uncomfortable selling (and what to do about it)
  • How to have sales conversations that are natural – and that work for you & your prospects.

Simply click on the orange “play” arrow below and enjoy! (If you prefer to download the mp3, click on the SoundCloud icon.)

How to Harness Failure

Inner Critics copy

Making mistakes.  Screwing up. Failing. Missing the mark. Whatever you want to call it, most of us aren’t very good at dealing with it. While we fear rejection or punishment from the outside world, its the internal critics that are the harshest.

I’m taking a class based based on the book Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential.  Last week author and program creator, Shirzad Chamine, offered us a powerful way of working with failure.  Here’s how it goes:

At the beginning of each day, you set your intention or choose a focus for the day.  At the end of the day, do two things:

1.  Celebrate the ways in which you honored your intention or focus. Spend time reviewing the positive impact you had. Feel the feelings associated with succeeding in this way. Enjoy the flood of positivity.

2. Identify one small way you could have honored it more…  [TIME OUT…… it is at this point that we usually engage the inner critic to evaluate how poorly we’ve done and how miserable we really are at whatever we intended to do.  The criticisms run on and on, usually resulting in disappointment, shame and general unhappiness. So, don’t do that.  Instead try THIS…]  …and visualize having actually honored your intention in that small way.  Engage all of your senses and imagine the scene as clearly as you can, allowing yourself to feel the emotional impact of the positive vision. Enjoy the flood of positivity.

Shirzad points to studies that show the brain’s inability to distinguish between real events and imagined events. There are many implications here:

  • You are actively creating new neural pathways — hey, it’s science! 😀
  • You are strengthening your ability to imagine — a key to engaging your creativity
  • You are generating feelings of wellbeing, happiness, joy — states of positivity that influence your health (mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical)
  • You turn failure into an ally and bypass your inner critic — hallelujah for that!

More good news: this takes only 10 seconds! However, I like to spend at least 30 seconds on it so don’t feel like you must limit yourself here.

It works with anything — not just your intention or focus for the day.  For example, let’s say you have a petty argument with a loved one. You’re about to have a “shame hangover” …but you stop. Pivot. Harness the failure by visualizing a different, positive experience with that person.  In this vision, you are being the person you really want to be.

Try it right now. Bring to mind one recent action or failing. Something you didn’t do as well as you had hoped or planned. It can be something small. Now, imagine having handled it in the best way possible. See and feel your success.  Make it more realistic by engaging all of your senses…feel the temperature of the air, smell the aromas, hear the sounds, etc.

Pretty sweet, yes?

Of course, there might be actions you want to take to mitigate any damage from your mistake. As long as it is not an emergency situation, take any additional action after trying this technique.

Enjoy!