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Do I Fear Discomfort in My Efforts, or Welcome it?

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

During downtime between moments in training or writing, I find curiosity and interest in the tendency to overthink or analyze whatever it is exactly that we are doing. More specifically, the tendency for this to happen before or during an activity that requires more mental or physical output than usual. At our own dismay, we construct what feels like a necessary level of courage or buildup to accomplish whatever it is we are setting out to do. We design fear, doubt, dread and monumental struggle in the less joyful segments of our task at hand. Whether our objective is searching for a new job, writing an essay for class, or simply deciding to go outside and run or spend thirty minutes at a gym, we overestimate the simplicity that is to act and allow our brains to take the wheel. Our present cowers as our perceived past and future become too fearsome, too loud, too intimidating and too strong. This is a human trait. However, we can likely all recall instances where we were able to resolve these intrusive thoughts and conquer our task swiftly. Or, we may recall simply bypassing the overanalyzing entirely and being able to feel a wave of accomplishment wash over our day, renewing our minds and view of life. Is our ability to embrace discomfort or fear locked into our genetic code with no real grasp on our goals, or do we hold the keys? Deciding whether we face challenge with a bleak or resolute approach should never feel tentative in our nature. Let us allow precedent, environment and character to explain.

Allow me to reiterate that harboring a constant fear and dread of discomfort is a human trait. While our mentality may be more advanced than any animal we may face in our lifetime, the physical similarities between man and animal exist hardly on a fair scale in terms of strength, durability, speed, survival and longevity. This is a distinction between man and animal that I find to be one of the most profound; we naturally possess mental and emotional advantages while a creature twice our size lacks them, yet makes up for it in physical exploits. Given any animal's base instinct, they will act swiftly, strongly and fiercely without any relent for the sake of nothing other than hunger, reproduction, survival, protection, and dominance. However, when we disregard the raw strength and power that beasts have, the doubled-edged advantage that we as humans possess is that of mindfulness, being able to consider our strength and prowess. We can build on what strength we have through discerning what we are capable of from our conscience, aspirations, concerns, creativity, and an active will to live for more than mere survival alone. Unlike the animals we live among, we can ask ourselves: What is my reason for doing this? Why should I do this? How should I go about it? When should I start and end? Where will this lead me to? Who will I become by fulfilling this task at hand? While the innate drive to act is the same at its core, our needs and desires as humans exist on a level far deeper that can be felt for more than pure survival. How beautiful it is to be able to be mindful of our purpose!

Surely we all enjoy living for more than instinct and the moment alone. Although, while it is a virtue in being able to understand and give deeper meaning to our efforts, the animals we differ from are not burdened by this. They take no time to be apprehensive in chasing what it is needed despite likelihood of injury or leaving behind comfort. They were not designed to attach a conscience to every instinct, thus able to move without a single moment of hesitation. Our emotions and thoughts can bolster our efforts to be done with more heart and soul than we can even comprehend, but if left unchecked then can spiral into chaos. This holds the possibility of complicating a simple goal or task, letting in fear or doubt to cloud our ability, and yes, even diminishing our physical strength by allowing our brains take control. Do we really want our fear and dread of the past and future to keep its heel on our throats? This does nothing short of resulting in death! It's been said by Napoleon Bonaparte that "death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily." Given there is enough of our own end that awaits us all in due time regardless, the last thing that any one of us should want is voluntarily killing our own hunger for battle by surrendering to our apprehension. When faced with such hesitation, the first response before dismissing the tendency to overthink a worthy struggle should be to welcome the challenge at hand.

Our internal and external environment shape our power to approach a challenge, and based on how we perceive such challenges, our innate belief in how capable we are determines how easily we believe the feat will be accomplished. Is your environment one of your own design? Is it one that encourages triumph, or one that is like a thorn in your side? This is entirely up to us. However, should we be unable to change our current external environment as opposed to our internal, we should focus not on the pain that will come from performing our task or the bleak, negative aspects of it, but the impending pleasure and prize we will receive upon carrying out such effort. I feel as though being conscious of what we fear or dread within a formidable task and then abandoning those thoughts entirely only to push through to the end goal is where the real growth is felt, like liquid metal coursing through our veins. For example, I know personally that whenever I prepare to run six to eight miles in less than favorable weather, I am well aware of my desire to bypass the training for the day and cower within a warm room. Although, I am also well aware of the triumph, fulfillment and release of euphoric chemicals I will feel wash over my entire being once the run is finished. I was never unaware of the inevitable discomfort at hand, but rather chose to welcome it as a worthy adversary. This was a challenge that was deserved respect and honor that I paid proudly.

To ignore the warnings that your untapped, more civilized side tries to send to your instinctual being is to unlock what is missing in so many today. This is breaking the law of mind. When we are able to do this successfully and not cheat the future that we can so easily permit ourselves, we learn the answers to the questions that we would have never known otherwise; what could have echoed in eternity? Who could I have inspired? What could I have awakened in both myself and in others had I just acted instead of hesitating, lying, dreading, and fearing? No matter how we choose to see it, this is a principle of fight or flight. Our own predecessors knew this and were keenly aware that there have always been two messages in the ether: embrace or fear. The essence of this is not to dismiss the presence of fear or hesitation in continuing with that which we wish to accomplish, but to be aware of them and choose freedom. Love your discomfort and your discomfort will love you back. As psychiatrist, Carl Jung, once said, "Only boldness can deliver from fear. And if the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is violated."

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