4.13. Dealing with Discomfort

It’s not a stretch to say that just about everything we do in our lives is aimed at minimizing as many of our discomforts as we can.

Nobody likes discomfort.

When we’re hungry or thirsty, too hot or too cold, agitated or annoyed or anxious or getting any kind of signal that something isn’t right…it can really throw us off.

It’s not a stretch to say that just about everything we do in our lives is aimed at minimizing as many of our discomforts as we can.

So we’d better have a healthy way of dealing with them!

Discomfort is our body’s early warning detection system.

It’s supposed to be unpleasant. It’s supposed to motivate you to get rid of it. If it steers you away from injury, illness, or any other kind of harmful situation…then it’s doing its job.

Unfortunately, most people deal with discomfort in one of two ways…and neither of them are healthy.

Most people don’t question their discomforts. They just react to them, regardless of whether or not they’re pointing to any real danger.

When that happens, your desire to avoid discomforts will end up controlling you.

You’ll never feel content. You’ll constantly overreact to things. Even if you’re affluent and comfortable and well-fed and well-cared for…you’ll still feel like a hot mess.

You might even fool yourself into cruelly believing that purging your life of your few remaining discomforts is more important than addressing the far greater hardships afflicting billions of people around the world.

If uncritically reacting to our discomforts is the most common way people react to them…the second most common way is by uncritically ignoring, repressing, or rejecting them.

This is the tough guy approach to dealing with discomfort.

It can feel liberating to embrace this method—because suddenly you don’t feel so jerked around and weighed down by your discomforts anymore.

It can even make you feel superior to other people—because while they’re busy freaking out over their discomforts, you’re stoically pushing through yours.

But the reality is: those benefits come at a great cost.

Deactivating your brain’s early warning detection system means you won’t overreact to false alarms…but it means you’ll underreact to real concerns that genuinely deserve your attention.

Sooner or later, you’re going to end up hurting yourself or someone else, because you failed to pay attention to something you should’ve—because something you should’ve seen coming a mile away managed to sneak up on you.

What’s the healthiest way to deal with discomforts? On a case-by-case basis.

Discomfort is a fact of life. It’s our sometimes helpful, sometimes misleading early warning system.

You need to figure out when it’s really alerting you to potential harm…and when it isn’t.

Don’t let your desire to avoid discomforts dominate your life. Get in the habit, when you catch yourself feeling uncomfortable, of just taking a moment to listen to what it’s trying to tell you.

If it’s pointing to a legitimate concern…deal with it.

If it’s a false alarm…let it go.

It’s not so hard, once you get the hang of it. And then you’ll get the best of both worlds.

You’ll be sensitive and considerate when the situation calls for it…resilient and free from worry at all other times…and you’ll probably also start to feel a new appreciation for how good you really have it.


This is the 73rd in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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