Why we must embrace discomfort on the journey to change

Why we must embrace discomfort on the journey to change

blog-eagle-armsTake a second and stand up. Seriously (besides, no one is looking). 

While standing, raise your arms to the side, forming a letter “T”.

Slowly cross your arms in front of your body, placing your right arm over your left. Bend your elbows. Clasp your palms.

That’s a pose called eagle arms.

As the instructor guided us through the sequence, she calmly remarked that if our palms could not touch, it was okay to touch the back of the palms together.

I wish I had a picture to show you.

Writhing in discomfort, I wasn’t even able to get the backs of my hands closer than a solid inch.

That was an experience I had in the first month of practicing yoga. The pose wasn’t easy. Six months later, and with an intensive, focused practice for nearly 40 consecutive days, eagle arms still alludes me.

And while my body is adapting and changing, eagle arms still makes me squish up my face — with, er, intense concentration — and brings discomfort as my shoulders and back slowly work to release their grip on anything they connect to.

Making the distinction between pain and discomfort

Through years of sports, martial arts, and other physical activities, the concept of practice, pain, and growth is a popular topic.

“Pain is only temporary, pride is forever” is a slogan painted in gyms, weight rooms, and locker rooms as a way to motivate people through the pain.

While that is often true, I recognize a distinction between discomfort and pain. Pain is valuable, since it tells us when to stop, back-off, and possibly when to heal (or seek healing).

We grow through the discomfort

As the sweat pours off my face and my muscles start to quiver, a confident voice asks, rhetorically, “what if you stay for just two more breaths?”

In the height of the discomfort, growth.

Embracing discomfort to learn to influence behavior change

Learning to change behaviors by making security make sense is like that, too.

It’s a journey.

It requires a commitment to take on the responsibility to translate complexity into understanding. To master the ability to effectively communicate value. To craft experiences that lead understanding to action.

It starts with the courage to change ourselves (see: the conundrum of changing behaviors). Our individual experiences with change fuel our insights, increase our authenticity to lead others.

For many, learning the art and science of effective communication is challenging. It requires practice, patience and the willingness to be uncomfortable, if only in emotion.

Changing the way we communicate to influence a change in behavior requires a shift in thinking and a change in action. We have to see and experience things again, in a different way.

Searching for the shortcut

Some say they want to build the skills to help change behaviors – but what they actually want is a simple solution, a short cut. A quick fix. They search for the secret to save them the journey.

Here’s the secret: put in the time and do the work. Embrace the discomfort to grow.

The decision to make the investment in the journey requires an honest evaluation:

  • Does the desire to improve the ability to communicate and influence a change in behavior outweigh the comfort of the status quo?
  • Are the current results, missed opportunities and frustrations acceptable?
  • Are you ready to change?

If these and other questions suggest the need for a change, then question what you are willing to invest. This isn’t a sacrifice. The journey requires an investment of time for learning and practice, possibly money, and a willingness to embrace the discomfort, at least for a while.

Through the course of the journey, some days we’ll nail it. Others, we’re the nail and the hammer hits us square on the head. Except with less physical pain.

Proper, persistent practice produces profound change

But when we look back to measure our progress of regular practice over a period of weeks, months and years… the change is profound.

By embracing our discomfort through purposeful, guided practice, we grow. Just two more breathes. One more try.

Then one day we discover what was once uncomfortable is our new normal.

The communicator in me honors the communicator in you. Together, we are on a journey of practice and improvement. And while change is not always comfortable, we’re in this together.

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