The Call and Answer of Discomfort

The face of enduring through serious discomfort. End of a 60k mountain race at the Golden Ultra 2015.

Comfort is more enjoyable than discomfort.

Well that’s obvious and simple, right?


What if it wasn’t so simple… or as obvious?

Here’s some situations to ponder.

 Have you ever had someone go out of their way to do something nice for you?

Why does a nice gesture mean more to you when they put your well-being above their own?

Have you ever felt the desire to make a gift for someone?

Wouldn’t it just be easier to purchase something? Why go through all the work when you can get something similar at the mall for much less time and effort?

Obviously you will appreciate someone who puts your personal happiness above their own because you recognize the unnecessary, selfless effort they put in. But when the roles are reversed, do you really feel like you’ve been inconvenienced by providing the same kind gesture to a friend?

Chances are, as the selfless giver, you’re also going to find reward in these situations. How about this situation:

You’re sitting on your couch, a friend calls, and you find out they are going through a difficult experience and could use some quality face-to-face time with you. What do you do?

Most people would decide to take a rain-check on that super comfortable, inviting sofa and make the effort to meet up with the buddy who needs a helping hand. You’ll likely both come out of the visit better for it.

Now those same types of situations can be experienced within one’s self. Setting big goals or going through unexpectedly traumatic events – finding progress, growth or success will come at the price of enduring discomfort. The only difference being, these positive outcomes will only result from raising yourself up rather than a friend.

Okay, so short-term comfort doesn’t always lead to the best long-term outcome. But neither does short-term discomfort! You wouldn’t intentionally set yourself up for hardship…

Where do we draw this line? When is it appropriate to endure discomfort to result in the best long-term outcome?

That depends… what’s going to make you happy? Wait!… how do you even know what’s going to make you happy? And… how happy is happy enough? Just content? Euphoric? Can you even really be that happy? How are you even supposed to answer these questions?

Can someone else answer these questions for me?

Probably not. Like you’ve heard on more than one occasion, “everyone is different!”


Okay, that’s a cop-out. But really, from my experience there is no one but yourself that can tell you what’s “good enough”, and to understand this, you need a personalized appreciation for what that means to you. It’s a trial and error, an ebb and flow with comfort and discomfort to see what your body and mind deem satisfactory. The problem is that only after uncomfortably reaching beyond your current satisfaction, in an attempt to pursue greater happiness, will you know if the grass is truly greener on the other side.

When I have dabbled with discomfort in the past (LOTS of self-induced discomfort…), I have yet to find less happiness after reaching beyond my comfort zone. Never has there been a time where I have regretted the discomfort when it has been endured under my own accord.

Education. Running. Reaching out to those in need. Stepping out into uncomfortable situations. Being vulnerable.

When put in a situation that is uncomfortable, vulnerable, uncertain – you are forced to break down what you thought you were made of and rebuild your own perception of yourself. Each time you call out to this discomfort and embrace your insecurities, it answers with a new perspective. Even in failure, there is always something to learn and grow from; after all, failure is just another form of discomfort. Listen to it, learn from it, and see what new perspectives come out of the woodwork.

Read it again: Comfort is more enjoyable than discomfort.

This clearly sounds like a self-defeating mentality now more than in the beginning, doesn’t it? I’m hoping the nuance is more clear, and how it can contradict the motivations of us ultra-athletes that endure discomfort for an uncomfortable amount of time.

The more discomfort I endure – the more I break down my body and mind – the more I discover about myself and what makes me happy. Some would call this searching for enlightenment, I prefer to think of it as an ongoing pursuit of happiness.

One last thought. Go watch this video for a similar thought expressed more eloquently and a heck of a lot more succinctly.

Happy Trails!

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