The Value of Discomfort

This weekend, at our annual company meeting, we talked about excellence as a habit. Excellence doesn’t just greet you at the end of a finish line; it’s an ongoing process, a daily commitment to shedding bad habits and forging new, better habits.

habitWhile it’s easy to jot down “exercise more” on a list of New Year’s resolutions, the much harder part is actually doing it when you’d rather sink into the couch after a long day. New goals are exciting, but then there’s the discomfort that comes with actually swapping your nightly Netflix routine for the treadmill. And forget 21 or 30 days, experts now say that new habits take about 66 days to set.

Regardless of what goals will guide you towards greater excellence, the path is guaranteed to be uncomfortable, at least at first. But if you keep pushing, eventually your discomfort will turn into comfort, and your new normal will take over. When you learn to view discomfort as something to push through (rather than avoid), dreams and goals can turn into everyday habits, as easy and automatic as brushing your teeth.

For a perfect example of the value in discomfort, take a look at the Reversible Destiny Lofts in Tokyo, Japan. These lofts are designed expressly to make you uncomfortable. They have been described as “children’s playground” meets adult nightmare.

Key features include purposely off-kilter and oddly-shaped outlets and appliances, jarring patterns of dizzyingly bright colors everywhere you look, uneven flooring, and walls that echo back at you. Sounds pretty miserable, right? Wrong, say the architects.

Eccentric husband-wife duo Arakawa and Madeline Gins believed these zany spaces were deeply rejuvenating and could even slow the aging process. How? By making you uncomfortable, forcing you to change your habits, and reminding you of just how well you can adjust to anything.

In fact, some visitors say the lofts have a “reset” effect for them. At first, the six different colors designed to be in your visual periphery at all times are too much for your eyes, you’re tripping over the floors, and you can’t find anything. But eventually, as is true with any new habit, you adjust. Slowly, you get used to the discomfort. And, after a period of transition, you become comfortable with your new situation.

While I’m not suggesting you fly to Tokyo for a $950/night stay in a loft any time soon, I do hope you’ll enter the New Year with this idea in mind. Sometimes, discomfort is good for us. As we pursue new goals and create new habits, we must learn to embrace it. That’s excellence!

Fuel for Thought,