By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on November 19th 2015 on huffingtonpost.com
As babies, we enter the world brave, vivacious, adventurous and courageous. We frolic naked, make messes, throw our food, shamelessly demand what we want, fearlessly express love, and never deny the urge to cry.
Within a few years, we find ourselves in school with a developing ego. This means we start to understand the concept of approval and begin to seek it out. Discomfort becomes our compass: if something is uncomfortable, we retreat. We feel most safe when we're validated by our parents, teachers, friends and other members of society. It's at this point when we begin to prioritize the comfort of those around us over our own.
The older we get, the less we venture outside the familiar. Where once we enjoyed an occasional meal with friends in a nearby city, we now prefer to stay in town, where we frequent the same places over and over again. As time passes, our bubble of comfort shrinks even further. Eventually, we rarely leave our block, then our home, and finally, we spend our days sunk comfortably into our couch in front of the TV.
It appears that the older we get, the less we stretch. The less we stretch, the faster we stop growing. The less we grow, the more we deteriorate mentally, emotionally and physically.
Which, my friends, brings us to a powerful method for serving your greatness (and it also happens to be my favorite anti-aging remedy):
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable will stretch you in ways you didn't know were possible. It will keep your mind -- and often body! -- supple. It will train you to succeed where once you did not.
If your purpose is to be your best, you must take full responsibility for your comfort zone. We often run from situations that cause pressure or anxiety due to fear-based resistance, when really, we should be facing the situations with gusto.
It is, in fact, the moments when we find comfort within the discomfort that our essential self (that one in us who is in charge of our purpose, desire, and highest good) can bring us face-to-face with an opportunity for deeper growth. It is when we are most likely to be offered a stepping-stone to success.
By choosing only what's comfortable, however, we insure that we never seize an opportunity to surpass expectations, succeed at our dreams, and assume our power.
To be clear: I don't find this easy.
I have certainly had my own experience with facing discomfort, and I know that the feeling of being judged or disapproved of by another is not an easy one to overcome.
But if we want to live the big, beautiful lives we crave... overcome it, we must. Here are 6 steps for finding comfort when facing the uncomfortable:
1. Take a breath.
Facing your fears can invoke the fight or flight response, which is your body's way of dealing with "danger" or, for our purposes, stress. During the fight or flight response, your breath will become shallow and rapid, which increases levels of anxiety and affects your ability to think clearly. Bring yourself back to a focused and stress-free state by taking a few long, deep, slow breaths. This simple act will begin to shift you from your sympathetic nervous system into your parasympathetic nervous system. Once there, you will actually feel the stress dissipate and can recover a sense of calm.
2. Recognize how safe you are.
Take a moment to remind yourself of how safe you truly are. Most likely, you have everything you need in this moment. Recognize that you are prepared. Whatever has come your way has done so because you're ready for it.
3. Separate yourself from the situation.
Who you are, and what your purpose is, will always be bigger than the situation you're facing. Whatever your circumstance, it does not have the power to cripple you (unless you say it does). Rather, see the scary appearance as a sign that you are on the road to achieving your dreams. Facing fear will help you grow until eventually you realize there was nothing to fear in the first place. In other words, that which you fear is actually an aspect of your highest good honing you for successs.
4. Get to the root of your fear.
With some space from the situation, you are more easily able to speak to the part of you that is afraid.
Ask yourself: Why am I experiencing resistance?
Oftentimes, resistance comes from the fear of being judged negatively, or rejected. If this were to present itself during a session with me, I'd speak to that part of you, directly.
I'd ask you why you were valuing the opinion of others more than your own.
Why are you living life based off of another's approval? Why do you choose to meet expectations set by another, versus expectations you set for yourself? Why are you giving someone else control of who you are and who you might become?
How disappointed would you be if, one day, you find yourself sunk into your couch with the realization that you never prioritized your calling? That you didn't push yourself as far as you could go? That you didn't live a life recognizing who you are and how you can serve the world? What will happen (or not happen!) if this couch becomes a literal representation of your comfort zone?
How will you feel if you reach the end of your life and know in your heart of hearts that you never met your greatness?
5. Choose your path, not an outcome.
If you stay focused on a result -- which no one can predict -- you will face self-inflicted fear of failure. As a result, you will give your power to an outcome that doesn't exist, instead of keeping it for yourself.
Instead, be loyal to your path: what you're after, how you're feeling, who you are, and how you're showing up. These are the only things that are ever in our control.
By focusing on your path alone, you'll create consistency of quality within your work, and always create opportunities for success.
Here's a mantra to help with this: "High engagement, low attachment.”
6. Go for it.
There is always something to feel, to do, and to be. If you've followed these steps, you have honored your feelings, done something to access your truth, and now you must honor who you are and who you want to be.
The discomfort we call fear will always show up. It's up to you how you face it.
In the name of your greatness (and staying younger, longer!), I challenge you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable on a consistent basis. I hope you seek to stretch your comfort zone daily, honor your path, and never find yourself on your couch asking, "what if?”
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." - Neale Donald Walsh