The push for “peak performance” is real and it doesn’t matter who you are: high-powered CEO or wannabe entrepreneur with their head in the clouds, self-help productivity junkie or go-with-the-flow guru; all of us have been pressured to reach this almost mythical state of fruitfulness.
We need discomfort for that. Conflict, confrontation, and all the other things that make us uneasy; they’re essential for transformation. And really, they’re integral for exposing who we really are at our core.
Why? What do these traditionally “negative” experiences offer us that the easier ones, the feel-good stuff can’t? Why is our character highlighted in moments of struggle rather than times of ease?
Simple: discomfort leaves us without a place to hide.
Consider this. When you’re able to take the easy road, when you’re unchallenged and uncontested, who are you?
Are you the version of yourself that’s at your best? Is your perseverance, your tenacity, your ambition put on display? Do you feel compelled to accept responsibility, to take control of the situation that’s laid before you?
Are you driven to channel your inner warrior, to rise to the occasion and conquer it no matter how afraid you may be of the challenges ahead?
Nope. Only difficulty can grant us these gifts.
Being confronted by circumstance, by conflict; that strips us bare. It takes away the sort of “filter” we usually use to mask ourselves from the outside world, which puts a spotlight on all the things that make us up － good, bad, or otherwise.
And once that happens? We’re portrayed exactly as we are. The warrior, the coward, and everything in-between is put on display, to both us and the people around us.
Being revealed like this is frightening, but it’s a blessing, too. It gives us the opportunity to see what we need to work on. It highlights the problem areas and also shows us the good, proves what we’re truly capable of when the fire’s put to our feet and exemplifies the fighter we could grow to be if we just got out of our own damn way.
That’s powerful, and all it takes is facing the things that make you uneasy.
Sounds simple enough. Just get out of your comfort zone, confront your fears, ditch the security blanket － all that jazz we’ve heard throughout our entire lives. But the fact of the matter is that it is neither simple nor easy.
Part of this is because we simply weren’t, aren’t wired for it.
Humans were never meant to get buddy-buddy with the things that send off alarm bells in our heads. Our psyches were designed to protect us from the uncomfortable, to keep us in our protected little corners and away from the perceived dangers lurking in the shadows － which makes a lot of sense evolutionarily.
When the nerve-wracking, scary stuff is, say, animals with razor-sharp, human-loving teeth or social excommunication that could leave one food-less, protection-less, and, well, lifeless, clinging to the comfortable and secure is probably not a bad idea. But when terrifying predators and necessary social safety nets have been traded for unproductive worrying about failure or upsetting someone or whatever else that’s holding you back, running away from confrontation isn’t quite so helpful anymore.
In fact, it’s actively pretty harmful, leading you away from “transformation” and straight into “transference.” This leaves you － us all, really － only one choice, then: to go against your natural instincts and simply let things feel bad.
Stop fighting against it. Stop trying to make everything in your life effortless and happy and like it’s meant to be the plot of a Disney movie.
Warriors are born from the toil of battle, not from the luxury of ease.
Embrace that. Let the heat of fire shape you, sharpen you. Find value in the uncomfortable. I promise you there’s a lesson in there, so learn from it. Push yourself through doubt, through “I can’t do this” and into “wow, I’m doing it!”
Seek out the warrior within and you will inevitably find it.