Why You Need To Get Comfortable With Discomfort and Uncertainty



How much time do you spend thinking about how things will turn out?

When you’re still in the early stages of a project, do you find yourself stressing over the end result?

When you’re watching a movie, do you find yourself trying to figure out the twist at the end when you’re only 30 minutes into it?

It seems like we’re always trying to forcibly push things to a conclusion. For whatever reason, most people are incredibly uncomfortable with uncertainty.

We all do it. We want everything tomorrow: Answers, success, resolution. We push to make things happen now. Later isn’t an option.

We’ve been conditioned to think of our relentless push past uncertainty as ambition – and sometimes it is. Other times, however, pushing past uncertainty is a result of an aversion to temporary discomfort.

“Faith means living with uncertainty – feeling your way through life, letting your heart guide you like a lantern in the dark.” — Dan Millman

Stuck In The Middle

If you think about it, the middle of any endeavor is usually the most challenging part. The reason that’s true is because when you’re in the middle of something, you’ve already been at it a while – so the beginning looks like a long time ago. Since you’re in the middle, the end goal seems far away, too – so it can feel like you’re just dangling out there in between the two.

The middle of any endeavor is also where we encounter most of the action. There are tons of obstacles and challenges in the middle – and the learning curve is usually as steep as it gets.

Because things get hectic in the middle, it’s easy to get worried, stressed, and fearful. In other words, the middle is where we feel the most discomfort.

Weakness and Fear

There are a couple of ways you can choose to look at discomfort. One comes from a place of strength and confidence – the other from a place of weakness and fear.

When you’re coming from a place of weakness and fear, you see discomfort as an unpleasant condition that you will do anything to get away from as quickly as possible. Including things that will hurt you and make your life more difficult long-term. You’re looking for an easy way out. You may even know that the easy way will do more damage long-term, but it’s a trade off you’re willing to make to relieve temporary discomfort.

If this is how you make decisions in your life, I suggest you step back and reflect on the time and opportunity you’re wasting.

A Magic Pill Society

Huge numbers of people operate from this “short cut” mentality – trying to avoid uncertainty and discomfort. Why do you think there are so many “magic pill” quick-fix products out there?

How many diet drugs are there that promise miraculous results? How many internet offers do you see titled “The easy way to (whatever)”, “Secrets of fast (whatever)” or some other such garbage? The reason there are so many of these types of offers is because they sell. They exploit the weakness of people who are unwilling to do the difficult work, deal with discomfort, and live with uncertainty. They know fearful people will fall for promises of fast, easy answers.

Throwing Stones From My Glass House

If it sounds like I’m being judgmental about people who behave that way in the face of discomfort… maybe I am. No, I definitely am. But I think I’ve earned the right because I spent over 10 years of my adult life behaving that way.

If you didn’t know this about me already, I’m not one of those bloggers who only shares personal information with you that makes me look good. (I think doing that also shows weakness, by the way.) If all I do is share things that make me look good, I’m missing opportunities to help people avoid the mistakes I’ve made – and who does that serve? No one.

Not to go too deep into the story, but…

I was always a positive, unafraid, risk-taker. From childhood into my 20’s, my attitude was that I could take on just about anything… and I often did. I figured that no matter what it was – if someone else had pulled it off, why couldn’t I? And it served me well. I accomplished what I wanted to for the most part.

Then at some point in my life, I allowed the weight and responsibility of the world, family, adulthood – whatever – get the best of me. I spent most of my time worrying about things that would never happen and, through my inaction, caused far worse things to befall me than the stuff I was originally worried about. It was stupidity and weakness squared.

I share this to let you know that it’s the wrong way to live. It’s bad for you and those you love. And most of all I share this to let you know that if you’re in this situation – you are not a slave to it. Change your mind. Start over. Reboot.

“Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.” — Henri Frederic Amiel

Discomfort From a Place Of Strength and Confidence

Uncertainty and discomfort look totally different from a place of strength and confidence. When I finally said, “no more” to my weakness, worry, and excuses… everything changed. And it’s not because I’m anything special. I’m not. It was just a decision I made about who I was going to be for the rest of my life. You can make that same decision.

When you encounter discomfort, instead of running away from it as fast as you can, stop and see it for what it really is: Opportunity and growth. If you’re in the middle of a project being hit with challenges and barriers, stop and consider the following…

You’re In The Game
Why are you experiencing all these challenges? Because you’re in the thick of it. You’re in the game mixing it up with the big dogs. That alone should bolster your confidence. In the game is a great place to be as opposed to being on the sidelines.

Discomfort Is a Symptom of Growth
When you lift weights and start building muscles, how do those muscles usually feel in the middle of that process? They hurt like hell, right? That means something good is happening. There’s a metamorphosis taking place. Growth is afoot. The same goes for any endeavor in your life. When you are experiencing pain or resistance… something good is happening or is about to happen. Tough it out.

Uncertainty and discomfort are signs that you’re growing, learning, and improving – so why be afraid of them? When they rear their heads, acknowledge them as a sign that something is going right.

Your turn to share. In the comments tell us about a time when you encountered discomfort – and how you handled it.


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Why You Need To Get Comfortable With Discomfort And Uncertainty


About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

14 Replies

  1. Jarom Adair

    Where have you been all my life Gary? I really like this post! I just, as you say, rebooted my relationship with my audience with a revealing “I have always put my perfect side forward but I’d like to be more real and here are some mistakes I’ve made” post recently and got a great response. 🙂

    “Discomfort and uncertainty” is a big part of the problem we’re looking at when it comes to coaching people to success. Where would you say “expectation” comes in? That seems to be at the root of a lot of people’s problems that I work with, especially after being exposed repeatedly to magic pill messages.

    How would that fit in to your message here? I’d be very interested in your thoughts. Thanks for the insights!

    1. I’ve just been hangin’ right here, Jarom! I think sharing your bruises and scars is a smart thing. It makes you human and approachable. People respond to that. I know I do.

      Good point about expectation. Expectations should be set by the teacher or leader. That is, in situations when there is one… and that person is a decent teacher or leader. Unfortunately, as you point out, many people have been fed a lot of… (trying to think of a clean word)…. tripe.

      I think a good place to start is to expect progress. Not perfection.

      1. Jarom Adair

        I like that: “expect progress”. That may be the only thing you can really count on.

        The frustration I’m seeing concerning expectation (and I’m certainly no stranger to) is that of feeling “I should be a lot farther ahead than I am right now.”

        What would you say to somebody who told you “I really should be (i.e. I expected I’d be) much farther along by now.”?

        This stems from an interesting conversation I just had on a group coaching call recently, and since you’ve touched on several points above that we talked about I figure I’d run this past you. I hope you don’t mind me tapping you for wisdom…

        1. This is a *perfect* example of why a blog post can only scratch the surface in answering a complex problem for an individual. Great follow-up question, Jarom.

          When someone tells me they expected to be much further… honestly… I first assess whether or not they may be right. Under-performing is not exactly rare. If that’s what’s happening, a frank discussion and some re-commitment may be in order.

          If they’re simply expecting too much too soon – they need to hear that from an authority in whatever area they’re trying to excel in. Preferably in a one-on-one situation rather than on a group call.

          Interesting… the scenario you’re describing is an every day (literally) part of my professional life.

          Good stuff, Jarom!

          1. Jarom Adair

            Scratch the surface indeed Gary–and this goes at least a couple levels deeper into goal setting strategies, mindset, and a couple other things that I thought you’d get into when you started with “stressing over the end result”.

            This conversation could go on for a while. I’ll contact you by email or something if you’re up for continuing it.

  2. I really enjoyed this post. It’s different than anything else that I have read on the Internet about blogging. During the post I didn’t think about seo, keywords, competition or any of those shiny words that bring stress and worry. Thanks for afresh breath of air and a good message.

    1. Thank you, Jennifer! That’s a HUGE compliment.

      What if I told you this post wasn’t specifically about blogging? It certainly applies – but it’s pretty much true of just about anything you undertake. Thanks so much for commenting. You made my day 🙂

  3. Hey Gary. I dig the overall vibe of this post but I’ll split hairs for a moment. I think the most resistance and discomfort comes at the beginning of a project or journey. For a lot of people – myself included – just getting the initial motivation to actually *start* is the biggest obstacle. And that’s too bad because nothing happens if you don’t start (duh, huh?).

    Also, am I noticing an intentional or semi-permanent shift in the nature of your posts to be more philosophical? It’s something I’ve picked up on lately, but it could just be me. I make stuff up in my head all the time.

    1. Getting started can be hard. But I’d still argue (that at least in my experience) most interesting challenges and barriers occur when you’re in the

  4. Gary, I think this idea of the middle part of a project being the most difficult is really true. I know for me it’s the time where I can get bored, distracted, and really lose my momentum – all signs of discomfort. I usually just have to acknowledge my pattern and try to find something to challenge me during this middle period. This is a good reminder to be more mindful about my own discomfort and what I’m doing with and about it. Thanks!

    1. I agree Bobbi. While (as Joel points out) some people have trouble getting started, the real meat of the challenges come when you’re in the thick of the fight. Thanks for jumping into the conversation!

  5. Funny, I’ve edited and then removed a number of responses to your blog entry before hitting “post”… each ultimately was unsatisfactory in its own way. I’m left with simply saying that I agree. Comfort can be especially insidious and soul-killing.

    1. Seeing as you’re a military man, Mike. I’m not surprised. You know as well as anyone that the most resistance comes right before victory. Thanks for stopping in.

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