It seems counterintuitive. Why would I want to move towards pain? What are you talking about? Are you some kind of masochist?
The answer is no. I’m not. I’m the opposite. I’m addicted to comfort. You may ask, what’s wrong with that? Isn’t comfort good?
yes and no.
Human beings naturally seek out comfort. It’s in our DNA. This is how we survived and evolved to be who we are today.
Thousands of years ago, before agriculture, and free markets created trade, wealth, and abundance, our primary objective was simply to survive.
We invented tools and outsmarted other competitors and predators.
As Kevin Kelly says, we outsourced our brains when we invented fire.
We no longer had to expend energy breaking down raw meat because the fire cooked our food and made it easier for us.
We essentially created an external stomach by cooking, and that freed up our minds to think about other things. To invent other things. To innovate and progress and ultimately evolve.
That is what makes us humans stand out from the other species on this planet. We are highly advanced tool builders.
Why do we build tools? We build tools to make things easier. We want things to be easier because we want to be comfortable. Why do we want things to be comfortable? Because we have a better chance of survival. We have a better chance of living a long and enjoyable life.
Every species on the planet is born with the same natural instinct to survive.
From plants to animals to us humans. Survival. Protection. Comfort. These are what we innately seek from birth.
But along the way, something went wrong. Now, we are seeing all kinds of diseases, illnesses, and epidemics that we’ve never had before. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression and more.
Is it possible that we are all now too comfortable? My answer is Yes.
We no longer live in a world of subsistence living (at least in most advanced 1st world countries) We do not need to spend hours, sometimes days on end chasing down our next meal.We are no longer small, tight-knit communities of hunters and gatherers. We are a global Empire that lives in a high speed technologically mediated, cognitively outsourced world of surplus, abundance, and tremendous waste.
We live in a time of over indulgent excess that is rapidly changing from year to year at an exponential rate. Endless options of entertainment and extreme addictive comfort has become the norm.
Today, most of us enjoy a life that wealthiest kings and queens of years ago could never have dreamed of.
I have had stretches of days sprawled out on my couch in my NYC apt like I was King Robert Baratheon, sitting on the Iron throne. “More wine, more whores!” Binge watching hours of mind numbing entertainment, while “hunting” for a meal on my phone.
I can enjoy any cuisine I wish. From Indian food to Thai to Mexican, the options are endless.When I finally find an option that pleases me, I command the food to be brought directly to my doorstep with the click of a magic button and then quickly shew away the peasant boy who scurried from the far reaches of the realm with my feast.
Back to the feeding pit in my royal throne room and the cycle continues.
We have all done this to one degree or another.(I probably fall on the extreme end of the spectrum.) I have been guilty of doing this to an abusive level, and my waistline is proof of it.
I have been stowed away in my castle of comfort for days on end in a vicious cycle of hunting for comfort.Hidden away from people. Away from anyone that may upset me, rub me the wrong way or annoy me. The cycle goes on and on. And it goes: Netflix-Seamless-Nap-wake up-Pornhub- get a weed delivery- hit the bong-order seamless again (insomnia cookies this time) – back to Netflix. Meanwhile, the entire time I am glued to my phone, not really even watching what is on the TV, instead I’m listening to it and catching brief moments while I’m on the hunt yet again to satisfy my basic primal needs. More entertainment. Snapchat-Instagram-Twitter-tinder-Porn- etc..
At the end of my three-day comfort cruise, I’m left feeling depressed, depleted, and worthless.
It was a temporary high.Now it’s all over and what’s left? Nothing.
Was this the dream of our ancestors? Is this the pinnacle of human satisfaction and pleasure?
No, Of Course not.
For me, this over-indulgence of comfort was once a normal habit. It was so ingrained in my life that I did not realize the trap I had fallen into. These once comforting habits chad developed into serious addictions.
I was almost impossible to stop. Even if I began to feel really bad and sick.I was like a drug addict. I just wanted “one more hit.”
Why did I let myself get like this?
I wanted to feel safe and secure. I wanted to avoid feeling bad but in reality, I wound up feeling way worse because I was avoiding everything in my life. When you avoid things that may cause conflict, pain or discomfort, you wind up missing your life. In the end, all I did was prolong the pain. It was still there waiting for me. I hadn’t solved anything. Instead, all I did was put myself in a self-inflicted Comfort Coma.
This is a microcosm of our western culture. We want quick fixes. We want fast relief and instant pleasure. We wind up stuffing ourselves with absurd excesses but never quenching the thirst that our human soul truly desires. It may have helped us survive in the past, but now it’s killing us.
Nowadays it’s too easy to fall into the comfort trap. It is largely due to our toxic environment that does not encourage and promote healthy human living in harmony with nature and inspire us to strive towards a higher state of being. Instead, our fear-based culture plays to our most primitive “reptilian brained” wants and desires and we easily fall prey to it.
We are told that if we just get this thing or that thing that ou lives will be easier, more comfortable, safer and more secure, but ultimately I have found in my personal experience that these things do not satisfy me at my core.
To feel alive and healthy again, I have to do things that are challenging and painful.
This is the only way I have grown and made any sort of progress to improve my life.
By moving towards pain and Getting out of my comfort zone, I have discovered a whole new world.
Move into the mystery of life.
I have found that I feel the best when I am living in the mystery. When I am open, vulnerable and exposed. When I venture into the unknown to explore new things. When I move into uncertainty and toward pain. That is when I feel the most alive.
Living in the unfamiliar can be stressful but, that stress is far more beneficial than the limited and safe space world of comfort. The world seems open, abundant and full of endless opportunity.Life tastes richer.I find that the reward is a level of comfort beyond what I thought I knew.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I don’t know if that is a famous quote or not. It sounds like it. But, if not, then there! I said it.
This is not easy. It’s not going to feel good at first. You’re going to say “what the hell am I doing?” “this sucks!” and that’s ok. You will probably fail. Like I have a million times before and still do. Nobody has all the answers. Nobody is perfect, but as long as you try and keep going forward, that’s good. Some people will do better than others, but don’t compare yourself to anyone else. It’s not a competition. The only thing that should matter is how you feel.
By the way, when I say move towards pain, I don’t mean keeping doing deadlifts if you’re back is killing. Don’t do that. You could get a serious injury that way. Listen to your body. Your body knows what it can and can’t handle. Push it, but don’t break it.
I have found a way to turn pain into progress. I am not master at this. I am still learning. If I had a nickel for everytime I tried, failed and tried again only to fail and try again I would be a millionaire.
Don’t just take my word for it, do your own research and develop your own way that works for you. That’s the best thing you can do.
I have developed strategies by learning from my own experience of what works best for me and by implementing methods and practices from other sources, most notably through The Book The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower–and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion by Phil Stutz and Barry Michaels and James Altuchers book, Choose Yourself!: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream and The Wim Hof Method.
Instead of looking at things in your life as problems, change your mindset, remove your ego, and take a step back and reevaluate. See them as a learning lesson, a challenge and try and take it one step at a time. You can learn more about mindset in This awesome book by Mike Cernovich called Gorilla Mindset
Some things that I am doing that are painful right now:
- Cold showers (read the benefits here)
- Going through a breakup
- Cutting out sugar and grains for 30 days.
- Waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier.
These are all tough things for me to do right now. Sometimes I feel like I want to lay down and die. Sometimes I feel like it’s too hard. That’s just the addictive nature of comfort teasing me to come back into her sweet, warm arms. I won’t do it, though. I know that if I can take it one day at a time and get through it, I will learn a lot. I will become wiser and more disciplined, and the next challenges will be easier to get through. If you dive right into the pain, you can become a Jedi Knight.
If you revert into the comfort zone. You die. You must be like a shark and stay moving. The laws of the universe operate this way. When you operate this way, you operate in harmony with the universe and summon a force that makes you one with all that is. When you summon this universal force (the force), you activate the energy to move forward. I try to always remind myself that I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone.
When I move towards painful things, I notice that the pain eventually goes away. I find a new comfort after the pain. It is not a traditional comfort. It’s a unique comfort. I move into a flow state like a “runner’s high” something that feels good while being challenging at the same time.
But the whole point is explained in my high school football motto: “PAIN IS TEMPORARY – PRIDE IS FOREVER”
As much as the immediate gratification feels good in the moment. The reward you get from “doing the right thing” pays off big time later on.
This is a fact.
It actually becomes exciting and desirable to move towards pain now. Moving into pain teaches me better than any other teacher could. As The Iceman Wim Hof Says: “I learned my technique in hard nature. The cold is a merciless but righteous teacher”
If you hide from pain, it will find you. If you try to avoid it and replace the pain with some sort of temporary relief or instant gratification, you will wind up postponing the pain. It will actually hit you way worse. It doesn’t go away if you run, hide or avoid it. It gets bigger and scarier and more serious. One day it will get you, chew you up and spit you out. Because the universe doesn’t care about you.
The universe operates in the realm of organized chaos. Creative destruction and flow. The only way to better yourself is to mimic the movement of the universe and flow with it. Become one with it and embrace it.
You must stand up to it. Walk into discomfort, uncertainty, and face adversity head on.
“Whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Now, I start my days with pain and I love it. When I wake up in the morning, I go right into a cold shower. At first, it sucks. I’m not going to lie to you. It fucking sucks. It is very uncomfortable. But here’s what I do to break through the other side of pain into a new realm of comfort.
- I take 30 deep breaths in (almost like hyperventilating) then on the last one I exhale about 70% and then hold it.( for more info see The Wim Hof Method)
- I walk into the cold shower
- I expose my head and entire body to the cold shower.
- I eventually exhale and repeat. I keep breathing and eventually as the Iceman says – I create an “inner fire” and I no longer am affected by the cold water.
- It is now pleasurable, and I enjoy the cold shower.
This is how you breakthrough pain and come out on the other side to a whole new world of pleasure.
If you’re stuck in a rut. If you are going through a bad breakup or struggling with being healthy or staying focused, just start with one uncomfortable change at a time.
I used to have a big ego and think I could change everything bad in my life all at once. I would inevitably fail. It’s like the ball hog on the basketball court who decides to take it all the way even though he’s guarded by three guys. You wind up letting your team down. You could’ve passed it. You are your team. Don’t let your team down. Focus on one thing at a time.
Here are some tips that have helped me:
- write out your goals.
- choose one of them and commit to accomplishing it for 2 weeks straight.
- buy a large calendar and colored markers or pens. hang it on your wall. every day that you do the One thing you set out to do – put a green check – they days you fail put a red x.
- if you succeed and have more green checks than red x’s for 2 weeks straight. great! continue on for another 2 weeks. if you fail. revaluate why you failed and put practices in place to prevent failure again.
- try and get more green checks than red x’s during the the next 2 weeks than the first 2.
- go back and start over with the one thing you set out to do until you have an entire month of green checks. that’s 30 days of green check marks and no red x’s.
- if you get 30 days of green checks – then you are now ready to incorporate this new habit into your daily life and can move on to your next goal.
Avoiding pain is a natural human desire. We like to shelter ourselves in a “safe space” to avoid confrontation, awkwardness, and bad feelings. When things become challenging we want to give up and retreat back to base. We do this in all walks of life. Many things that we know will be best for us, in the long run, we choose to avoid for short term protection.That protection in the short term lessens the experience and the value of our lives. When we lessen the value of our lives we are not only hurting ourselves, but we are hurting the people around us who we care about, and the world at large.
Everyone has different challenges and different levels of pain. We don’t open up to people. We don’t get out of toxic relationships. We don’t travel enough. We don’t take risks. We don’t get rid of negative people in our life. We don’t leave jobs we hate. We don’t fully live. whatever it is, ultimately we don’t do all these things because its painful. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unknown and “scary”, but like my comfort cruise bingeing, we are ultimately left with a reality we wish we weren’t in.
We want to replace the pain with pleasure. What we don’t realize is that every time we do that, we are putting up walls around our lives. We box ourselves in, and we will grow old and look back and have deep regret. “I wish I traveled more” I wish I really did what I cared about” etc.. there is a famous study that recorded the actual top 5 regrets of the dying.
Here they are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- Wish that I had let myself be happier.
People have these regrets because they are avoiding pain. They avoid feeling uncomfortable. But, I can’t imagine any bigger pain than these 5 regrets on my death bead. I refuse to live a life of regret.If you feel the same way, then stop avoiding the pain and move towards it. Focus your mind in the present moment and take action!
Do these things now. Don’t wait till you are dying. The past does not exist and neither does the future. the present is all there is. The now is all we have. It is all that exists. As soon as you realize that, the better chance you have for success.
If you can stay in the moment and move forward out of your comfort zone, you will be happier. You will live a full life of learning, conquering challenges and doing everything you set your mind to. You will live a life of little regret, and you will smile in the vastness of infinity among the stars. It’s a fight, but it’s a good fight. Stay in the ring, give it all you have and don’t give up.
I’m not perfect nor have I mastered these skills yet, but I am in the process. I’m fighting in this battle right alongside of you. We are all in this journey of life together. Let’s give it all we have. Do the best you can. I wish you all peace, love and the best of luck.