As people, we have the tendency of avoiding discomfort and structuring our lives in a where we can consistently avoid discomfort. But there are a great many things that cause discomfort that are actually good for us. Awareness is not comfortable, because it entails accepting things we would rather deny. But it is good for us to be aware. Exercise is uncomfortable, but it is good for us. Growth is uncomfortable, but it is good for us. And perhaps most of all, change is uncomfortable, but it is good for us.
In this effort to avoid discomfort, we tend to trap ourselves in situations that are comfortably unsatisfying. For example, we often get stuck in routines, we stay in unhealthy relationships, we stay in a job we hate, we use coping mechanisms that make us feel better in the short term but ruin our lives in the long run. We do not make changes that are necessary to make in order to really live the lives we dream of. The best analogy we can use is that in order to avoid the discomfort of really high heat that would cause us to make changes to get off of the flames, we build our lives on top of embers that burn us eventually, but slowly enough that we don’t realize it until we’re fully burnt.
There is a technique that we can use to turn up the heat in advance, so we can have the motivation and awareness necessary to choose the discomfort that is actually good for us instead of staying in the coals so to speak.
I want you to do an exercise. Set aside some time and go through the following process: Close your eyes. I want you to look at your life right now from where you are right now. Look at how life feels right now, what you’re thinking right now, look at what you do everyday. Look at the people that are in your life. Look at what causes you the most distress today and joy today. Imagine that nothing changes at all; you’re still doing the same things and are still in the exact same place in one month. What does your life look and feel like if you are in the exact same circumstances in one year. Has anything gotten worse? Now imagine that you are in the same place doing the same things in one year. Spend a few minutes experiencing this. And when you have done that, spend a few minutes imagining that you are in the same place doing the same things in 5 years. Then do the same thing for ten years. Then imagine 20 years. Then imagine 40 years. Them imagine you on your deathbed. Having played out your life, having made no changes to yourself and what you are choosing and doing every day, what did you realize? This is the fate you are headed towards if you make no changes and live your life accepting mild dissatisfaction to avoid discomfort.
The benefit of you doing this process is that I do not have to tell you anything else in this article. Having done this exercise, you already know what needs to change. Now, all that is left is to do is to ‘get out of the coals’.
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