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Treasure Discomfort – Comfort Kills Growth and Productivity

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: January 10, 2023
Jump out of your comfort zone and you will grow in leaps and bounds. (Image: Matheus Bertelli via pexels)

While comfort zones provide a sense of familiarity and ease, they can reduce your opportunities for growth and development. For this reason, we should really treasure discomfort.

Discomfort is an essential part to personal and professional growth. When we step outside of our comfort zone and confront new challenges that take us out of our realm of familiarity, we are forced to adapt, communicate, and learn new skills. 

Though this process can — at first — feel unsettling and uncomfortable, it ultimately leads to the discovery of new opportunities, sharpens our ability to communicate, and inspires us to learn about different ways of life, traditions, and vibrant cultures that exist all around us, and across the world. 

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

Gina Milicia

It is natural to feel uncomfortable when faced with unfamiliar situations or when we’re thrust into situations that we don’t know how to navigate. However, stepping out of a comfort zone and learning to treasure discomfort can be a valuable and rewarding experience, as it allows us to develop new skills, cultivate empathy, and acquire new perspectives. 

Discomfort promotes adaptability 

One reason why feeling uncomfortable is conducive to growth is because it helps us overcome our fears and biases. Many of us may hold onto limiting beliefs that hold us back and prevent us from reaching our full potential; by facing our fears and confronting situations that make us uncomfortable, we can begin to challenge and dismantle these notions. 

This can lead to greater self-awareness and a more open and flexible mindset — resulting in a more adaptable and well-rounded approach that we can apply to every aspect of our lives.

Discomfort keeps us humble 

Discomfort can also help us develop resilience and grit. When we face difficult or unfamiliar situations, we are forced to persevere and find ways to overcome those obstacles. This can build character and determination — helping us become more resilient and resolute in the face of future challenges and difficulties. 

In ancient times, crawling between someone’s legs was considered a terrible humiliation, but humility is also a character strength of great leaders. (Image: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

In ancient China, an acclaimed military general named Han Xin was known for his ability to endure hardships that most people would not have tolerated. It is believed that one day Han Xin was stopped by a thug on the street, and told that he would have to crawl between the thug’s legs in order to pass. Though this act was meant to demoralize and embarrass Han Xin — especially as he was a warrior — he chose to put his pride aside and do as the thug asked, rather than cause a ruckus. 

In the end, Han Xin achieved great military feats and helped Liu Bang attain power and usher in the Han dynasty — which lasted for 400 years and is widely regarded as one of the most prosperous and longest lasting dynasties in China. 

Your own discomfort makes you appreciate others’ suffering

When we feel uncomfortable, it can often be because we are faced with a situation or experience that challenges the beliefs, values, or understanding of the world that we were taught growing up. While rewiring our brains to see the world in new ways can be difficult, it can help us become more compassionate and empathetic of others who grew up differently. 

In Buddhist teachings, it is believed that enduring hardship and suffering are actually good things — helping one turn negative karma into good karma, and elevating one’s moral level. Therefore, the more one suffers, the higher the cultivation state one can attain. 

By facing and dealing with uncomfortable situations, we are forced to confront our own biases and prejudices, and to try and see things from other people’s perspectives. This can help us to become more understanding towards everyone around us — enabling us to recognize the common humanity and challenges that we all share. 

Less comfortable means more versatile 

Another reason why feeling uncomfortable is beneficial is that it allows us to expand our horizons and try new things. When we are stuck in our comfort zone, we tend to repeat the same patterns and behaviors — leading to stagnation, restlessness, and a lack of progress. 

By stepping outside of our comfort zone, we are exposed to new experiences and ideas that can inspire and motivate us to become more productive and resourceful. 

Stress of discomfort can boost productivitiy

Feeling uncomfortable can actually be a helpful way to manage stress. When we feel uncomfortable, our bodies naturally respond by releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can help us feel more alert and focused — which can be helpful in situations where we need to be functioning at our best — such as during a presentation, while working on a project, or going through a difficult conversation. 

Additionally, experiencing discomfort can help us build resilience and cope with stress more effectively in the future. By learning how to tolerate and even embrace discomfort, we can become more resilient, humble, and better equipped to handle the stresses and challenges that life throws our way.

Discomfort warns us of danger

Feeling uncomfortable can be a useful warning sign that can help keep you safe from potentially perilous situations. Our bodies and minds are equipped with a range of warning signs and fight or flight responses that can help us to identify and avoid danger. One of these signs is the uncomfortable gut feeling that something isn’t right. When we feel uncomfortable, it can be because we are faced with a situation that feels unfamiliar, threatening, or dangerous, and your instincts are telling you to remove yourself from that situation.  

By paying attention to our feelings of discomfort and acting on them, we can avoid putting ourselves in danger and reduce the risk of being injured or harmed in some way. 

Success is rarely smooth sailing, but persistence pays off. Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz with the Prince of Wales Trophy won in double overtime in 2017. (Image: Michael Miller via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Discomfort can lead to greatness

It’s no secret that some of the most successful and influential people in the world — from tech founders and politicians to entertainers and athletes — have had to deal with their fair share of rejection after being pushed out of their comfort zones. 

This discomfort could be considered an important factor in helping one succeed professionally, as it teaches steadfast persistence in the pursuit of one’s goals. When we take chances, mistakes will inevitably be made — resulting in opportunities for growth. 

Life-coach Amy Sue McCune says, “Creativity and innovation are a mindset where mistakes are viewed as educational challenges. This shift in mindset can provide positive energy for discovering something new and better.”

By embracing challenges and pushing through our discomfort, we can learn new skills, gain new experiences, develop compassion, gain clarity, and build confidence and determination. 

This can be especially valuable in the professional world — where change and adaptation are constant — and being able to handle new and unfamiliar challenges and situations are often keys to long-term success. 


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