An edited version of this article can now be seen on the Menprovement website by following this link http://www.menprovement.com/get-uncomfortable/.
“I think people are obsessed with comfort to the point that they forget, if you don’t have any discomfort in your life how do you know when you feel good?” – Gary “Laz” Cantrell (Co-founder Barkley Marathons)
It’s time to get uncomfortable.
As the manager of a small circuit training gym I know that whenever someone walks through the door of the gym for the first time that the person standing before me is the result of a life; a life that has been led up until then; a life that is more or less comfortable to them, and that it’s going to take a whole lot more than diet and exercise to change that person into who they want to become. It’s going to take a new life (something very uncomfortable). But I never tell them that. I don’t sell ‘new lives’.
In the gym (and outside of it) I get to hear people complain all the time about how this routine or that diet isn’t working for them; how they’re so frustrated that they aren’t getting the results they want; that they just don’t understand what they’re doing wrong; that they’ve followed all the rules, that they’ve shown up and completed all the exercises; and yet, they still can’t seem to transform their body into what they want. Into something better.
But when I hear complain I know there’s a difference between those that do and those that don’t, and I know it very well. Those that complain don’t like pain, they don’t like discomfort, and they want the act to be payment enough for the reward. Unfortunately though, without sacrifice there can be no reward. And that is what you see in the ones who don’t complain – sacrifice. A willingness to do whatever it takes to get to where they want to be. A willingness to get uncomfortable.
For those that don’t complain, I don’t even think there is a need to complain because they go about things almost as if they don’t care about what happens along the road to get to where they are going. They’re just going to do whatever it takes to get there. Even if that means running others off the road in the process. With them (the non-complainers) you can see this intenseness in their eyes; a determination to get to where they want to be, seemingly staring at a goal years away as they fight – blood, sweat, and tears – towards that goal. They don’t even truly understand yet what it will be that’s waiting for them at the end of that road, but they know it’ll be better than where they started.
It really is a beautiful thing to see. To me, seeing someone flip that switch and realize how powerful they are; to see them take control of their life and point it in a new direction, that is one of the most beautiful things in the world. On rare occasions, I have even been able to help those I’ve worked with flip that switch and point their life in a new direction. But those occasions are few and far between, and I could easily count them on one hand. It’s a very hard and difficult thing to accomplish, it’s an extremely delicate matter to manipulate, and it usually requires breaking them down completely or backing them into a corner first before they choose to stop playing the victim and come out fighting.
Unfortunately though, most will only continue on complaining, and you will never see that look in their eyes. All you see is this look of confusion. A look that says I have no idea where I’m going, but where I am is comfortable, and I’m afraid to leave that.
Luckily, I saw the former look in a 400lb man that just joined our gym. Although I knew he didn’t know jack shit about what he needed to do yet, I knew that he was ready. That he had that look in his eye; that he was going to fight, and that my time spent with him would be incredibly beneficial. That’s not to say he won’t lose that hunger; that look in his eye; that taste for discomfort, but if he can keep it I know he’ll get to wherever it is he wants to be and he won’t even recognize the person he was before.
You see, wherever you are in life, you are there because that is what has become comfortable to you. If you want to change your life, if you are unhappy with your life, you are going to have to accept that getting there is gonna require being uncomfortable. A lot.
Changing a life, metamorphosing into something else, requires pain. But without that pain you wouldn’t be able to tell that you are changing.
Sadly, the people that just complain don’t realize all that yet, and so they always ask me instead what it is that they can do or what it is that they can eat to change themselves; or, what it is that I do or what it is that I eat that makes me so healthy (as if there is one or two solutions to their struggle). And, so, I tell them the things that I do and the things that I eat, or the things that they should do and the things that they should eat. But what I should really be telling them is that it’s not what we do or what we eat, but who we are that really matters. Because those things are all just a part of that – who we are. That everything I do and everything I eat is just a reflection of who I am, and that they are simply (not so simply) going to have to change who they are if they want to be better.
It’s like when I hear how some new study just found a link between eating whole grains and having a lower risk for heart attack, or how eating refined sugars increases it. And how I know automatically that those who are lost will hear those things and suddenly think to themselves that if they start (or stop) eating those things they will become healthier. Well, yes, possibly so; however, those things are only a by-product of a life that someone is leading which makes them healthy or unhealthy. Doing one or two of those things on their own does not make you healthy or unhealthy. In other words, I can eat shit that’s bad for me without a problem, because the remaining 90-plus percent of my life is spent living a life that counters that. Whereas, if you’re doing the opposite and expect that putting a different bun on your hamburger, or that exercising to burn it off is going to change you, it’s not.
I mean as a trainer I can help you for the 30 mins that you’re in the gym exercising (although I can’t make you commit yourself to the workout), a nutritionist can help you plan all your meals, but neither of us can actually do anything about the other 20 odd hours of the day that you’re stuck living in the same life that led you to us. And we can’t take control of your life and change all of that for you either.
Simply put, there’s always one common denominator in failed diets and exercise routines, in goals unachieved and dreams that fall short, in relationships that end and plans that get shat on, and that’s you. You are the problem, and until you fix you nothing is going to change.
Coincidently, you’re also the solution to the problem. But no one can really help help you unless you’ve first helped yourself.
You just don’t gain weight, or lose a job, or have a marriage end, because of calories in/calories out, or showing up late to work one day, or because of poor communication. Those things are simply the tip of an iceberg. The much bigger problem lies beneath the surface. A place dark and cold where only you can go and eliminate the obstruction that is before you, the obstruction that is you.
So if you want to change your life, if you want to be happier with who you are and where you’re going, you have to be willing to go deep down and break that ice at it’s core. You have to be willing to melt away the life that was you, and allow a new you to take form.
And that my friends, isn’t in any comfort zones.
It’s not be an easy process (breaking yourself down to the core and rebuilding yourself piece by piece), it will not feel good at first, and it will not be quick. But it will be better than continuing on as someone who constantly complains ‘Why me?’, or ‘Why not me?’. Someone who has no idea of where they’re going. Someone who’s stuck in the comfort zone.
You see, life isn’t some Sleep Number bed that you get to choose a setting on and have a perfect nights sleep. You make the bed you lay in. And if you don’t like it; well, then you better get to work on making a new one.
The world simply ain’t gonna change because you want it to. You have to change your world.
So wherever you are in life, it’s time to embrace getting uncomfortable. Because comfort is just the easy way of saying you’ve given up.
Don’t give up.