Comfort in Discomfort

Every once in awhile, something surprisingly simple smacks me right in the face and wakes me up. Gives me an “ah-ha” moment. 

Last night it was The Rock. 

Yes, Dwayne Johnson, The Rock. 

Can I take a tangent very quickly and tell you how AWESOME I think Dwayne Johnson is? I love that this big, huge, strong guy lets his daughters do his makeup and posts it for the world to see. Despite being a celebrity, a successful business mogul, social media star (the list could go on) his authenticity seems real, and the love for his family shines through in all he does.

He recently posted a video that I have watched probably 10 times. He quoted his friend Tyson Fury as saying, “Pain that you go through is temporary – but the greatness on the other side is forever.” 

The Rock expanded on that by imploring us to, “just get past the pain threshold,” because,  “on the other side is the good stuff. It’s your greatness.”

Sit with that that for a moment. 

Really think about how many times we stop ourselves when something gets uncomfortable. When something starts to hurt. When something becomes hard. 

How many times have we prevented ourselves from achieving our own greatness? 

I can speak for myself by saying, I stop all the time when it gets hard. Sometimes even before it gets hard because I know what is coming. 

I suppose it’s natural to avoid discomfort. It’s human to try to prevent suffering. It takes self-discipline and strength and courage to confront pain – in any form, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. 

But sometimes it is through the pain, that we get the reward. In fact, we cannot accomplish greatness without suffering. There is always sacrifice. There is always a tradeoff. There is always a breakdown in order to rebuild. 

When my kids complain about being sore after a workout, I enthusiastically tell them that’s awesome! They should yearn for that feeling. That pain, that suffering, is the indication that their muscles are getting stronger. The pain is a good thing. You cannot grow stronger without it.  

When I am pushing myself to run farther, it hurts. It’s uncomfortable. It isn’t easy. But I have to take those difficult steps in order to get where I want to go. And the further I go, the easier the past distance becomes. Those 8 miles that were torture, suddenly feel invigorating. Then it becomes 13 miles that is difficult. But if I keep going and increasing my pain threshold, pushing through the exhaustion and soreness, soon those 13 will feel rote. 

I ask the question again, how much and how often do we limit ourselves from achieving our own personal greatness because we choose to avoid discomfort?

And I don’t mean just with fitness. 

I’m asking that about many tough decisions, choices and obstacles in our lives. 

How often have we chosen the path of least resistance, to avoid looming discomfort, only to regret that choice later. We procrastinate, we linger, we prolong. 

How many times have we avoided that meeting, pushed the snooze button, delayed the difficult conversation, stayed too long in a toxic relationship or toiled for years in a dead-end job because we don’t want to go through the pain of change? How many times have we not taken the leap to sign up for a race, ask for a promotion, ask someone out on a date, because of the fear of the unknown? Because we try to avoid experiencing the devastating moments of rejection and uncertainty, the toil of hard work, or momentary displeasure? 

And truly, they are merely moments. The suffering is not forever. It is temporary. It is finite. There is always an end. 

Paradoxically, the avoidance of temporary pain, inevitably leads to the experience of future suffering. While embracing and leaning into short-term discomfort, eventually leads to self-satisfaction and accomplishment. 

With this in mind, how many times have we given up on ourselves before really giving ourselves the chance? 

I heard an analogy once about grapes and wine. Apparently, some of the best vintages are produced when grapes have suffered drought conditions. Why? The roots of the plant have to dig so deep to find water, that the fight and the struggle for the plant to stay alive, creates a robustness and complexity in the fruit that is highly desirable. 

The grapes have to get through the pain to get to the good stuff, to get to the greatness. 

The struggle is the opportunity.  

Countless books have been written about this. One of the best I’ve read is “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. 

He writes, “The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of understanding. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of growth. The obstacle is the advantage, not the adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.” 

We have to be willing to embrace the obstacle. We have to be willing to fight the fight. We have to be willing to face the unknown with the knowing that the only way around is through. 

It is through the pain, that we find the greatness. 

Next time I’m on a run, and I’m tired and want to slow down and walk or stop, it’s actually my signal to keep going. When it’s hard, is when I absolutely can’t quit. Because that is when the magic happens. That’s when the growth occurs. With every additional step I’m increasing my pain-threshold and running towards achieving my own greatness.

It’s time to find the comfort in the discomfort. The peace of knowing that “pain is temporary, but greatness is forever.” 

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