Discomfort is the Catalyst of Change

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To those of us committed to personal growth, change is nearly a constant state of being.  The need for change can be felt subtly, like an inner tug that begins to pull at the conscious mind, beaconing self-reflection to note that something feels outgrown and tight, like children’s clothing that no longer fits.  Other times the need for change can be overt, like a slap in the face, that tells us that we are not on track!  The process of changing can be painful, but change can be a birthing process that leads to a more expansive and enriching experience of life.  Being stuck is also rather painful.  And so there one sits between the proverbial rock and hard place… do you choose change and going through the difficult place of moving the rock, or stay stuck between the rock and hard place because it is a known discomfort?

Because change is how we expand and evolve, embracing the process as a part of life can reduce the resistance and discomfort.  When I first recognize that something is changing, there is some initial resistance, and I can hear myself thinking with some sarcasm, “Oh joy, here we go again!” It’s at that first moment of detecting that shift is happening that I realize, I have a choice to embrace change or to resist it.  Here are some of the strategies and steps that can help with embracing change.

  1. The Change Epiphany: Realizing something needs to change

Discomfort can be a wake up call.  The first step of consciously relating to change is realizing that something in one’s life is no longer effective or could be better.  When we realize that something is broken, then there is a choice to consciously ignore it or go about the process of fixing it.  For example, we can allow our faucet to continue to spray water everywhere and keep cleaning up the mess, or fix the leak at the source.  Similarly, we can allow our fears or anger to spray out into our interactions with others, or we can begin to face and heal those wounds at the source.  

To some of us on the personal growth track of life, the change epiphany has become almost automatic.  We feel our inner selves beaconing for attention, asking for us to reflect and to bring voice to an internal process.  Other times an event happens to very directly challenge a long-held belief in a way that causes us to question, “Hmmm, do I really still believe this to be true?”  Or conflict can arise in a relationship that highlights the need for a better approach of relating. Nearly anything in life can bring about an awareness of limiting patterns or ways of being.  Our physical bodies can also provide cues for change. Recently my body has been showing me a pattern of neck and headache pain and this has lead to a deeper exploration with the desire to understand further and shift this physical pattern.  Rather than just accept it as part of my injuries and “how my body is,” I have been working with it, it seems like the headaches are going away more quickly.  It is empowering to realize that discomfort is not just discomfort.  Discomfort can be an alert that there is an opportunity for change.  

What helps you realize that you are ready for a change?  Please share in the comments section below.

  1. Discomfort as a Call to Adventure: Embracing Discomfort as the Doorway to Change

Discomfort is the catalyst of change.  Discomfort, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual (and often all of these at once) can be a strong, catalyzing force.  Change is almost always exciting and scary. After we realize that something needs to change, the next step is embracing the discomfort as something valuable, even befriending the discomfort as a valuable messenger.  

The message in general terms are, “your life could be better.”  Ask yourself “how” it could be better, and you embark on the path of discovery.  This empowers you to become curious, invested, interested, and even excited and passionate about finding a way to make your life even more fulfilling.  There are countless methods to discover more about yourself: spiritual retreats, self-help books, journaling, meditation, yoga, taking a hike, getting out into nature, conversing with a friend who is a good listener, painting, seeing a counselor, etc.  I often find that doing something physically active to help release some of my anxiety and irritation related to my discomfort, followed by some quiet time to reflect, meditate, and journal can really help me to access my inner wisdom and discover the deeper meaning behind the discomfort.  I also have some wonderfully wise friends who can be great listeners and provide insight; we take turns doing this for each other. I also love receiving and giving craniosacral therapy, as it helps to access the whole being (body, mind, spirit) in a way that provides deep insight to life questions and patterns.  In addition it can help to unravel and reorganize deeply held patterns in the mind, body, and spirit which are all connected.

Here are a few ideas to embrace discomfort as a catalyst for change:

  • Find and hold a question related to the discomfort in the back of your mind, or write it down.  When you find just the right question, it will have a positive emotional charge.
  • Ask the part of you that is uncomfortable (sometimes it is a physical part of your body, sometimes it is a more abstract part of your beingness), “what do you need?”  
  • Imagine, how could your life be better?  What could you do right now to move toward that life experience?

What ways have you found to connect with your discomfort and help to shift it?  Please share below so that others can benefit from your hard-won wisdom!

  1. Being in the Unknown: The Leap of Faith

Part of change often means we have to lovingly let something go – and decide what new thing will take it’s place.  This isn’t always a linear process. Sometimes it is part of the leap of faith.  We know something needs to change and surrender to that process of discovery.  Other time the leap of faith comes after we realize we have to lovingly let something go that is not longer the right fit or something that can continue on in the same way.  It can be so hard to let something go, especially when it is something we love: a beloved hobby, a relationship, a job, a favorite shirt that no longer fits or is beyond repair … whatever it is sometimes we have to let something go before the something new comes to fill it’s place.

After you commit to change it can feel like you are in the unknown, which can feel like you are lost and nowhere.  You have left the relative comfort of the known and are not yet at your destination. This step can feel like you are floating in the middle of the ocean with only a single paddle.  You cannot see land behind you and you cannot see land before you. It is often in this place, especially when we are making a subtle spiritual or emotional shift, that some our usual ways of coping may no longer be effective.  We have to sometimes temporarily suspend the known in order to develop new habits. Developing a new neural pathway can feel like bushwhacking through the jungle. But as you travel down that trail over and over again, it become easier and easier to travel. This is where you draw on your strengths, belief, and faith that even though you can’t yet see results, your effort is worth it.

Sometimes part of the leap of faith is knowing what we want to manifest but not knowing how we will get from here to there, or when things will align for what we want to arrive in our life: an opportunity, a life partner, moving to a new location, a dream job, health, happiness, etc. 

This part of the change process is where phrases like, “It is always darkest before the dawn” come from.  Remind yourself that you are working toward something very valuable. There are no guarantees that you will have the outcome that you are working toward, but you certainly never will if you don’t take the steps to get there.  “God helps those who help themselves” – we have to meet the Divine half-way!

Here are some tips during this especially tender step of change:

  • Be gentle with yourself.  You may feel very tired for “no reason.”  It takes a lot of energy to change!
  • Give yourself a lot of space.  If you can help it, don’t pack your days and nights full of activity.  Give yourself some space to just be with the change.
  • When the change feels especially uncomfortable and you want to run back to the known, distract yourself.  Focus on something else. Sometimes I just let myself watch TV, so that I distract my mind from panicking.  Or I focus on something that I really enjoy doing.
  • Pad yourself with pillows: i.e. positive things in your life.  Plan ahead to have some highlights to look forward to during a time of change, like a coffee date with a friend, a hike, whatever it is you enjoy.  Maybe buy yourself a little treat. Be kind and sweet to yourself.
  • What are your working towards?  Keep imagining it! Feel what it will be like to have the life you are working towards!  Make a vision board! Make a vision video! Look at images of things similar to what you are creating.  Immerse yourself in what you are creating. 
  • Remember what you are going through is part of change.  Remember positive results past change experiences – remember how you have gone through this process before, and that it ended well.
  • It can be easy to focus on the negative, especially when we are in the midst of a big change, because the unknown and the lack of the comfort that was left behind can be overwhelming at times.  We don’t want to ignore the negative, but try not to dwell on it. Practice saying “It is good because…” when someone asks you how you are doing.
  • Notice the little incremental steps towards the goal you are moving towards.  
  • this is temporary

Please share a change story or some of your change strategies!


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