Do you remember a time when you did something that felt really uncomfortable? Maybe you did it because you had to or maybe you pushed yourself to do it. Either way, I bet you felt good after you had done it. Maybe you even felt a sense of achievement and confidence that you hadn’t felt before?
Doing things that are uncomfortable feels good after the event but rarely before or during. The reason it feels good is that it gives us a sense of growth, which, according to Tony Robbins is one of our six human needs. If you think about it, without discomfort there can’t be any real growth. Growth comes from stepping outside our comfort zone and facing new challenges. So if it’s so great, why don’t we do it more often?
The reason is actually more biological than you might think. There is a part of our brain called the limbic system which is designed to keep us safe. It’s responsible for a lot of our core functions relating to emotion and safety. Specifically, there is a part of the limbic system called the Amygdala which relates to our fight and flight response. Because this part of our brain is primitive, it doesn’t know the difference between a perceived threat and a real one. That’s why you experience physical sensations when you watch a scary film. When we build a scenario or challenge up in our head, it becomes uncomfortable and then our brain wants to resist it. We then have a battle between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex that knows logically this thing won’t do you any harm.
If you want to see a real-life example of this, watch this YouTube video from the New York Timers of people on a ten-meter diving board (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QMlIjSnt_E) (Don’t get distracted by cat videos though!).
The limbic system usually wins this battle and it takes real strength and courage to be able to fight it. Our brain has good intentions but it’s often stopping us from moving towards our goals. The thing it’s trying to keep us safe from is actually the thing that will get us to where we want to be.
So what do we do about it?
There are two main things we have to do; the first is to reframe and the second is to practice.
Reframing is the process of changing the meaning we give to an event. I learned a powerful concept from Tony Robbins a few years ago, which was that all emotion is created by meaning. We feel a certain way because of the meaning we give to an event. What one person finds uncomfortable doesn’t bother someone else. So why is that? They are the same events but trigger different emotions. Therefore logically, it can’t be the event that is causing the emotion. It must be the meaning that a person is giving to the event.
Take public speaking as an example. I heard a fact that it’s most people’s number one fear above death! I find that crazy because I actually enjoy public speaking. The reason I enjoy it is because I give it a different meaning than most people. When I talk to someone who hates public speaking, I notice that the things they are describing are all about them. They are worried about what people will think and if they are saying the right things. When I get up in front of people to speak, all of my focus is on the people I am speaking to. The meaning I am giving to the event is that It’s a great opportunity to help someone overcome a challenge or change their belief about something that is holding them back.
To someone that doesn’t do a lot of public speaking, that might sound like a subtle distinction and maybe even a bit of hyperbole. Until we actually experience the power of reframing a situation and changing the meaning, it’s hard to really understand the power of it. My invitation to you is to experience the power of reframing for yourself and practice daily by stepping out of your comfort zone.
The 30-day discomfort challenge is designed to help you do two things; get used to stepping outside of your comfort zone and practice reframing. Just because you reframe something, doesn’t mean the discomfort goes away completely, but after a while, it gets much easier.
What will you get if you really lean into this challenge?
1: You will learn how to reframe situations which will allow you to achieve things you previously thought were out of your reach
2: You will be able to develop meaningful relationships with new people easily
3: You will have a new sense of confidence
4: You will become more aligned with your authentic self
5: If you complete the 30 days, you will have a sense of achievement and growth.
How do you get involved?
The challenge will be taking part on Instagram starting from 1st March 2019 BUT if you are reading this after then, don’t worry you can still get involved!
Step 1: Follow me on Instagram here: @matt_essam
Step 2: Comment on this post saying “I’m In”
Step 3: Start the challenge below and post some form of evidence to your story (Don’t forget to tag me in)
The rules of the challenge are as follows
1: Don’t come up with reasons why you can’t do the challenges, find alternatives and make sure you push through.
2: No alcohol is to be consumed before a challenge.
3: Have fun, don’t take it too seriously.
Get a friend to do the challenge with you, it makes it easier. Below are the days challenges. If there is anything you really can’t do, then come up with your own and replace it. Momentum is key. The challenges start off easy and gradually get harder.
The Discomfort challenge
Day One: Go into a bar or coffee shop on your own and have a drink. You cannot have anything to entertain you (including your phone).
Day Two: Ask for something for free. It could be a coffee, lunch or even an item of clothing.
Day Three: Give a stranger a genuine compliment
Day Four: Invite someone out to lunch that you don’t know that well
Day Five: Whenever someone asks you how you are today you have to respond with “I feel incredible today”
Day Six: Take a selfie with a stranger
Day Seven: Walk through a crowded public area with your guilty pleasure song playing loudly from your phone
Day Eight: Pick up the phone to someone you have never met before and pitch an idea or ask them for a favor
Day Nine: Go 24 hours without touching your phone
Day Ten: Ring up a previous client or an ex-colleague and ask them how they think you could improve at your job/service
Day Eleven: Call someone you haven’t spoken to in at least a year and tell them you miss talking to them.
Day Twelve: Ask a current client or colleague for a testimonial
Day Thirteen: Go and buy something you would never wear that feels stupid, wear it for 24 hours and then take it back.
Day Fourteen: Put some headphones on and dance in public for at least 30 seconds
Day Fifteen: Tell a client or someone you work with how much you appreciate them.
Day Sixteen: Lay down on the floor in a public place where people can see you for at least 60 seconds.
Day Seventeen: Wear a ridiculous outfit for the day – This could be a fancy dress costume or your best outfit. Something that you usually wouldn’t wear.
Day Eighteen: Take a class you’ve never done before on your own.
Day Nineteen: Send an Instagram video to someone who you have been following for a while that you admire and tell them
Day Twenty: Today you have to be 100% honest with everyone you meet (apart from young children). This means saying what is in your head and not filtering because you are worried about offending them.
Day Twenty One: Ask a stranger for an opinion on an item of clothing you are wearing.
Day Twenty-Two: Buy a stranger a drink
Day Twenty Three: Donate three items of good clothing that you still wear to charity
Day Twenty Four: Have a difficult conversation with someone that you have been putting off
Day Twenty-Five: Say No to everything people ask you to do today (you can tell them you can do it tomorrow or suggest an alternative but you have to say no)
Day Twenty-Six: Withdraw as much money as you can from a cash machine and carry it around with you in your wallet for at least a week.
Day Twenty-Seven: Have a cold shower for at least 30 seconds
Day Twenty-Eight: Sing your favorite song in public
Day Twenty Nine: Change your hairstyle (If you are bald, grow a beard if you have a beard shave it off)
Day Thirty: Share the challenge you have found the most difficult on your Instagram story. Then challenge a friend.
Now you have practiced stepping outside of your comfort zone and reframing situations, you should be able to take on bigger challenges and apply the same principles. If you really want to improve the quality of your life, keep doing one of these things every day for as long as you can.