Spoiler alert; these are stressful times.
Whether you’re ready to take the jump into entrepreneurship now or in the near future, changing jobs, starting a new relationship or ending an old one, there are truckloads of reasons to be uncomfortable right now.
A lot is going on. I say this with the awareness that only a fool states the obvious because I’m pretty sure that you can feel the speed at which events seem to be taking place around you. World politics, business trends, stock volatility, family – even friends appear to be all over the place right now.
We certainly don’t need another article reminding us of the effects of stress on our bodies, mind, and spirit; these have all been well documented and are readily available in our news feeds. Neither do we need yet another blog post reminding us of what’s wrong in the world or the challenges in our industry.
I don’t know about you but reading commentaries like that only help to increase my level of discomfort, leaving me feeling helpless to change anything or, worse yet, wondering ‘what the hell do I think I’m doing?‘ Better to hunker down in the bunker and let the storm pass, right? With so much going on that has the potential to affect us personally we are spending more time being uncomfortable than not.
I’m not going to suggest for a minute that we bury our collective heads in the sand and ignore information that may assist us in charting a path to personal and professional success. I’m also not going to advise you to give your power away to every new method, strategy or process that ends up in your inbox. Recently I have been almost paralyzed by the influx of emails that often contain conflicting information about how to market my business or earn an additional $10,000 a month; I mean who doesn’t want more money every month? If I chased down every one of those ideas to their logical conclusions not only will I have spent a staggering amount of money but I probably would have few results to show for my efforts.
So, if we can agree that some, if not most of us are anxious or agitated for any number of reasons right now, may I suggest that we start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable?
The question is: how do we be?
I’m going to propose a few things that have worked wonders for me; maybe one or two of them will assist you in getting grounded and centered, regardless of the fact that all around you events or conditions may seem unsteady.
I’m using the word ‘honor’ in the following recommendations for a very particular reason. Wikipedia defines honor as “abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or corporate body such as a family, school, regiment or nation.”
I was taught, trained or shamed into believing that, as man and a professional, I had an obligation to honor family, co-workers, bosses and clients or customers first – before all else, including me. What I have come to understand intimately is that it only when I honor and respect myself first, can I honor others at all.
Honor yourself first
Do anything that gets you into your heart, first.
No, I’m not talking about that thing. I may enjoy bourbon, but I know from bitter experience that drinking it is only a distraction from what I am feeling, it cannot facilitate what I’m feeling.
For some people getting out in nature is a sure fire way to get them in their heart, for others it may be playing with their children. I enjoy using the hot tub or, believe it or not, love a soak in the bathtub, just like Winston Churchill.
Some I’ve spoken to say that the quickest path to their heart is the physical act of making love.
For some it might be getting a mani-pedi or getting man-scaped; for others, it may be some body work such as yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, running or cycling.
While those are all activities that can promote a sense of well-being, and dump endorphins into the blood stream, I’m suggesting something a little different. Depending on what ‘type’ of person you are – feeling your best in the morning or the evening, there is a stretch of time you can carve out that is yours, and yours alone. Anthony Bourdain, while writing ‘Kitchen Confidential’ got up at 4 AM so that he could write, by himself, before his wife or children woke up for the day.
When I propose putting yourself on the top of your totem pole, I’m saying that you should, not that you must, have some time in each day that is spent for, and by yourself. Do that thing that will most fluidly and efficiently get you into your heart. Once connected thus, you get into that quiet space in which all possibilities exist, at the same time. Some athletes call it ‘being in the zone,’ while artists describe it as ‘inspiration’ and quantum mechanics have named it ‘flow.’ Whatever name you place on it is inconsequential if only because by it’s very nature flow is elusive. It can only be approached in stealth, and in silence. To get into that state, you must release any intent of achieving anything or arriving at any destination.
To reach the state of most fluidity, one must start with no-thought.
‘C’mon Adam, that’s crazy talk. I don’t have a moment to spare in my day, and if I did the hedges need to be trimmed.’ I get it; we’re all busy. What I’m offering is that if you can start, or end your day grounded you be able to achieve more, have less attachment to outcomes and enjoy your life more.
Someone I worked with advised me to start meditating to ‘heal’ my body. Anyone who knows me would say that that was laughable guidance. My brain can sometimes be a clutter of competing conversations, and the prospect of quieting my mind seemed impossible. After two back surgeries and the pain that came from trying to correct my posture constantly, I was ready to try anything.
I was encouraged to start with ten minutes at a time and do some deep breathing. Then I was to imagine light filling my back and to ‘create a space’ mentally in which healing could occur. I gave it about three months and went about the task, if not earnestly at least well intentioned. My intent, however, didn’t seem to make any difference in my level of pain nor lessen my level of discomfort. Frustrated I stopped meditating and put the whole thing behind me, resigned to the sobering fact that my back would probably never get better.
Then, by chance, I got into my heart. As I said before, something magical happens when I get into a hot tub. There I was a few weeks after abandoning my meditation practice, sitting in the tub at the local YMCA, when I suddenly realized that the reason meditation hadn’t worked was that I was trying to achieve some result, instead of just enjoying the activity itself! I felt a little like Homer Simpson, silly with the recognition that I would never make my back any better, precisely because I was trying to achieve that particular result.
A few days after my epiphany, emboldened by this new insight, I tried meditating again. This time, I found it enjoyable and even comforting that I wasn’t trying to get anywhere or make anything specific happen. I was now only focusing on enjoying the quiet time with myself, breathing deeply, releasing any tension in my body until – nothing. No words, no thoughts, no conversations; just an opportunity to be with no distractions, to do’s, have to’s or responsibilities pulling at me.
Now, every morning I spend my ‘quiet time,’ up before anyone else is up in a meditative state for no reason except that it leaves me grounded, peaceful and comfortable. I end up feeling better in my skin, more secure and more capable.
It’s only ten minutes, but it’s my ten minutes, and it’s precious to me. I know that you can find yours, no matter how you choose to spend it. The main point to remember is that it’s a discipline, something that you do to honor and respect yourself every day, so you don’t forget. I love the idea of calling it a practice because, as we all know, you can make a mistake in practice and it’s all okay because you’re practicing. Now doesn’t that feel comfortable?
- Recognize a time or situation that makes you feel uncomfortable
- Instead of trying to soldier or force your way through it, step back emotionally if not physically
- If in a discussion that stresses you out, re-negotiate another time to come back to it.
- Immediately go and do something, anything that will get you back into your heart.
- Breathe and allow grace, for you and others into your heart.
- Re-engage your life, centered and grounded.
Honor the Process
You’ve come a long way.
While this may be comforting news, this is not the time to be breaking your arm trying to pat yourself on the back. It is important to take stock of your journey so far and be gracious and thankful for all that you have accomplished, experienced, had fun with and loved.
An attitude of gratitude can be a powerful thing. I know, I know, you’ve seen enough insipid inspirational postcards and memes on the internet to understand that already. It bears asking: do you really? I know that I forget from time to time to honor the process that got me here and the one that is always unfolding before me. I need reminding that my life’s journey is a process and one, to a large part, that is happening without my conscious intervention.
The reason that practicing gratitude is so powerful is that it brings us back to where we belong, in the present. Too often, my mind is on the things to come, somehow willing them into being because I said so as if that would make the desired outcome happen faster.
I said ‘practicing gratitude’ because I, and you as well perhaps, are unpracticed at being mindful of the present. Our society doesn’t, or hasn’t, put much stock in sitting around smelling the daisies while others are getting busy getting theirs, leaving less for us. If you believe the dogma most of have swallowed, it’s dog eat dog, and there is no time like the present to suck up resources before someone else does. It’s been my experience that this kind of thinking is the quickest path to either back surgery or divorce.
My best friend was struggling. He had his eyes on the prize and wanted a better job for himself and a better life for his family. He had seen the writing on the wall in his present job and didn’t like what he was reading, so he spent every day off flying all over the country applying for other open positions. Even after several stellar tastings, he couldn’t understand why he had yet been offered a job. My friend had been used to winning and being rejected wasn’t feeling excellent to him. He was starting to descend into fear and was very, very uncomfortable.
He asked me for advice.
I remembered something I had discovered earlier in my life when things weren’t going very well, and I dreamed of a better life, “If you’re looking for a life worth loving, start by loving the life you already have.” “What the hell does that mean, you moron?”
“How much time are you wasting running around the country, looking for something you already have?” I asked. “Have you had time for your family? Have you been present to your crew at work while you’re in your office fielding interviews?” He looked down at his shoelaces for a moment considering what I had said before he replied, “I hate you.”
I recommended he lean in, right where he was and enjoy what he had. Not as a strategy for getting what he wanted but only as a method for being happier. He called his recruiter and told him to suspend the search, moved into a new house next to the national forest and seemed renewed in his purpose with his operation. He went to the lake, spent time with his kids and started to ‘romance his life.’
Just when he had completely forgotten that he had been uncomfortable, twelve weeks later, he was offered the job of his life and gladly accepted. The Universe, God whatever you want to call the universal energy that binds us all together, does not respond to prayers of desire. Intent, aspiration, and ambition are all fine and well to start the fire but what keeps the embers of possibility burning is the satisfaction and gratitude with which we honor our now. What activates the power of possibility and sets in motion that which we long for is replacing ‘want’ with gratitude, joy, and satisfaction with what is.
- Imagine where you want to be in a year, five years and in ten.
- Write down all the possibilities for your life that you can think of.
- Tuck that paper away in a drawer or filing cabinet; you can even ritualistically burn it, releasing the energy with which you created it – if you believe in that sort of thing.
- Get busy enjoying, or start looking for the things in your life that you can celebrate daily without any thought about what you want to happen next or planning it’s fruition.
- Be ready to receive; gratefully accept all that shows up for you, regardless of your expectations with the understanding that your journey is continually unfolding.
Next I’ll have a few more suggestions about Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable. For now play around with the idea of creating a morning or evening ritual, discipline or practice where you make time for only you doing something that you love. Mentally push everything and everyone away from your awareness, if only for ten minutes. See what kind of peace or clarity you experience. It may not necessarily change the circumstance around you, but you may feel much different about them. As Ken Poirot so adroitly put it, “True success is achieved by stretching oneself, learning to feel comfortable being uncomfortable.”
The only question that remains is, “are you willing to get comfortable with discomfort in order to achieve real success?”
A version of this post was previously published on