On discomfort

Be uncomfortable every day of your life. (David Goggins)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Embrace discomfort.”

“Derek Sivers calls information expressed as advice, directives. That is a vague directive. Which is not to say that it lacks value.

The most valuable information is that which has an actionable kernel.” 

“What is an actionable kernel?”

“It means an idea that can be put into action.

It can be an implicit kernel, like in your directive, or an explicit kernel

The implicit kernel needs to be identified [values sensitivity], extracted, and given actionable form. The explicit kernel can be put into action immediately.

Let us explore the actionable kernel in this instance. Let’s do it in the form of directives.

What does embracing discomfort mean?

We might say it means,

Cultivate a positive relationship with discomfort.

Still vague, but it suggests that it’s not just a one time thing, but an ongoing process.

We might say it means,

Practice discomfort.

To cultivate a positive relationship with discomfort, you need to practice it. There’s no other way. To increase efficiency, you need to deliberately practice it.

That means,

Move toward discomfort, rather than away from it.

Our natural tendency is to move away from discomfort. This suggests doing the exact opposite [inversion].

The key to the process is repetition and oscillation. The more often you do it, the greater the benefit, as long as every rep(etition) is followed by an appropriate recovery [stress/recovery oscillation]. Every rep that is followed by reflection is a learning cycle [<link; short read].

There’s two ways to get more reps in:

Seek out discomfort.

This means, when given two options, picking the more uncomfortable one.

Create discomfort. 

This means, creating opportunities to practice discomfort. They can be in the form of discomfort challenges.

There’s two kinds of discomfort: physical discomfort, and emotional discomfort. Well, technically both are physical discomfort, but the latter have a very specific signature. 

Dealing with physical discomfort does not transfer to dealing with emotional discomfort. 

In her book 90 Seconds to a Life You Love, Joan Rosenberg identified the most common uncomfortable emotions as being eight in number:


You can do push-ups and pull-ups in the thousands and not get a single step closer to dealing with vulnerability.

Each individual uncomfortable emotion is a practice in itself.

The practice in case of emotional discomfort is to

Fully experience discomfort.

Give it your full attention, lovingly and non-judgmentally, over and over and over and over and over again.

Like meditation.”

“Which of the eight feelings do you struggle with most?”

“Shame and vulnerability.”


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About Dani Trusca

Playfully seeking wisdom

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