We kind of know we need willpower, discipline, grit, curiosity, openness and other qualities to achieve our more ambitious goals in life, but we rarely focus on deliberately developing them.
If we’re lacking in that department, we either avoid challenges or try to find some shortcuts.
But if you want to find the ultimate shortcut in life – adding these tools to your toolbox!
It’s like driving your own car instead of trying to hitch a ride on an empty road in the middle of the night.
Growth & discomfort are intertwined. That sucks.
As Susan David says in her Ted Talk:
“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. Courage is fear walking.”
When it comes to achieving goals or building habits, I’m a huge fan of removing unnecessary friction to dissolve some of the resistance, and making things as easy as possible.
There are plenty of great tactics to make your work smarter not harder.
That said, at one point or another, you will come across something that is necessary, but kind of sucks.
And in that moment, you will realise that there is no escape, and the only way is through.
That’s when most people quit.
They just decide the goal is not for them, while it would be more accurate to say: they are not for the goal. Yet. Unless they change and embrace the suck.
But it sucks!
I know. You have all the mental hugs I can give you now.
I suggest you shower yourself with self-compassion (not self-pity) or you can go all David Goggins on yourself if that’s more your style.
As he says:
“For me, physical and mental suffering are a journey of introspection; no other experience makes me feel more clear, focused, and alive.”
Either way, just do it.
The best part – you really don’t need to feel like doing it. Once you embrace that mindset, you have a superpower.
As Andrew Huberman puts it:
“It really doesn’t matter if you come at something from a place of joy and love, and that would be wonderful. But there’s a whole other set of ways to approach this that involves slogging through the discomfort, the doubts, the wish for things to be different, and starting with behavior.”
But here’s the twist: if you suck at embracing the suck, you need to make this your practice!
And while most would look for some sugar to bury the bitterness of the experience, I encourage you to go for a head-on collision with the sucky part.
Look it into its stinky eyes, breathe the same air it does, but do not fear it or run from it.
It may look like a mad dog, it may even bite, but you will stand your ground and learn how to dance with it.
Let me be clear: I do not recommend pushing yourself into a panic zone – all you want to do is to stretch your comfort zone, so you can grow.
Your body or mind may be screaming and panicking, when you try to push it a bit.
That’s just what these freaks do – they behave like a hungry two-year-old.
But you know better.
Recognise it for what it really is and welcome it.
It’s time you changed the story around intentional pain that leads to growth.
Every time you decide to walk into this slight discomfort instead of turning on your heels and running away, you grow.
Doing the boat pose in yoga and feel the shake and burning core? Good. THIS IS IT. This is precisely the moment weakness is leaving your body.
Who knows, maybe your next step is building your internal ‘pain cave’ the way Courtney Dauwalter did?
Most things aren’t really as bad as our limbic systems paints them.
Stepping into a cold shower?
Step into your curiosity as well.
You will be surprised how your feelings can shift when you stop screaming and instead lean into the experience and explore it. Open the door and look around with stoic curiosity.
“Ah, so that’s fear….”
“So that’s what cold feels like.”
Surf the urge to escape the unpleasant feeling.
Our bodies are quick to respond to potential danger – and that is awesome!
It works great when you accidentally touch a blazing hot pan.
But when you deliberately practicing embracing the suck, try to explore the space between the stimuli and your automatic reaction.
Is it really that bad or is your mind just being a drama queen?
Use your prefrontal cortex to be the judge of that.
The benefits- any?
Most of the things you desire in life live on the other side of ‘done’.
If you know what needs to be done, but not doing it, chances are, you have a difficult relationship with embracing the suck in your life.
That will manifest as fear, procrastination, or boredom.
How to practice ‘embracing the suck’.
Bad news is, modern world is busy removing a lot of the suck. Most of us have a roof over our heads, and well stocked fridge; we figured out how to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
We’re suffer from a Comfort Crisis.
Luckily for us, everyday life can still give you plenty of opportunities to practice. You just need to run towards it with your arms open!
It’s important to slow down and be reflective rather than reactive. Breathe some air into the situation.
- It starts with awareness: start noticing your resistance, procrastination, laziness, shortcuts
- you take, stuff you avoid doing even if you know you’d be better off if you didn’t.
Take Contrary Action.
Contrary action is about intentionally choosing to act in ways that are opposite to your typical, automatic, and often destructive responses. It involves becoming mindful of your impulses and actively choosing a different course of action, no matter how uncomfortable it might feel initially.
- Work on it deliberately – it’s a commitment. It won’t feel natural at first; in fact, it will feel very wrong as you’re wired to do the opposite. That’s ok. Notice it, do what you can, and move on.
- Do something that sucks every day. Keep a ‘suck’ journal – everyday write down what you’ve done even though it sucked. Celebrate it with a celery stick. Or two.
Take home message
Everything hard is hard until it’s not.
You just grow into it – or it grows into you.
With every lap you take, with every repetition – you become stronger and it becomes easier.
- Make a list of your main life buckets, and list your goals for each of them
- Define the necessary actions to achieve each goal – make them very concrete
- From that list mark all the actions that suck
- Deliberately focus on doing them
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” -Mark Twain
I’m creating a course for
Ambitious Procrastinators Creative Solopreneurs, who are brimming with ideas, but lacking in execution.
To move you stuff from your ‘one day’ pile to ‘day one’ and then ‘done’.
- get clarity
- manage procrastination
- resistance, overthinking
- develop bias toward action
- manage distractions