I’ve been learning a lot this past 12 months – about myself, my habits, my patterns, and what lights me up inside. What it means to live my best Illuminating Life.
But I’ve also been learning about the things that hold me back, and stop me from living the life I want to live. Some things are simple and easy to identify, and therefore simple and easy to shift. But other behaviours or habits are deeper, more insidious and harder to spot.
During a personal development training call recently, I recognised one of my deeper, more insidious behaviours, and how it shows up in my life.
We were talking about habits, and identifying habits that didn’t serve us. Everything in our lives is a result of our habits, both things we are in the habit of doing or having, AND things we are in the habit of NOT doing or having.
So as part of this exercise, I wrote out the behaviours/habits I have that don’t serve me, and habits I have struggled to build.
One of the coaches in this group pointed out that when we do things habitually that don’t serve us (e.g. choosing to eat too many sweets… one of my habits!) we are choosing to do something that is not good for us, and hence not being fully loving to ourselves.
WOW. That hit me like a brick between the eyes.
WHY?! I instantly asked myself. Why would I be choosing to NOT fully love myself? What could prompt such a behaviour?
Then – almost as though she was reading my mind – the coach went further: When we consciously choose to do something that doesn’t serve us, we are often numbing emotions that we don’t want to feel.
Ouch. (Another brick in between the eyes.)
I continued exploring, and began listing emotions that I might be numbing because I didn’t want to face them. Fear. Uncertainty. Discomfort.
I reviewed the list of habits I wrote above, and noticed something striking. Almost all of them were rooted in avoiding discomfort.
- Eating too many sweets / too much at mealtimes … Numbing/avoiding discomfort.
- Avoiding difficult tasks at work … Avoiding discomfort.
- Struggling with creating an exercise habit … Avoiding discomfort.
Wow. The impact of this was profound. To be honest it kinda rattled me. Avoiding discomfort! Such a BORING pursuit, yet one we are all programmed at some level to seek.
If we weren’t so predisposed to want comfort, then there wouldn’t be such a prevalent market for TV remote controls, electric windows, power steering, air conditioning and many more “innovations” for comfort. The expression “comfort zone” exists for a reason.
So does this mean we must eschew all creature comforts, live in caves, and be uncomfortable ALL the time?!
But what I am taking away from this new awareness is that this is an opportunity to recognise what is happening in the moment when my habits kick in. When I am choosing non-serving habit behaviours (e.g. reaching for chocolate at various points in my work day!) I can use it as a red-flag that I am facing some discomfort, and my brain is trying to soothe and comfort me through the habit.
This new awareness also means I will now be more successful at building better habits, like my daily exercise habit. (And yes, I did my exercise today… I power-walked down my local beach for 15 mins each way, with a great 45min surf in the middle.)
Another bonus is that I committed to making it a game! I have committed to doing something EVERY DAY that makes me uncomfortable. Primarily in business and in connections with other people.
There is power in discomfort, as it helps me expand, grow, and experience new things.
Because something I deeply know to be true is that all the good stuff in life starts once we get outside our comfort zone.
Here’s to getting uncomfortable!
With love and gratitude,
This article first appeared in The Illuminators – my weekly email essay to my tight-knit community of folks who want to illuminate their own lives, and be their best, brightest self. Want in? Join here.