For years and years I ran long distances, competing in several marathons and half marathons. Although it’s not something I do these days, I continue to use the lessons I learned from running every day in my personal life and in my professional life.
So what did I learn?
Running is an experience that’s unlike any other. Going into it, you know your lungs are going to burn. You’ll probably get a stitch in your side at some point that’s super uncomfortable. Your legs will fatigue and start to feel heavy with those steps, and it may get worse as you get closer to the finish line. But if you settle in and just acknowledge these discomforts as they come, then you will keep running. You will simply keep putting one foot in front of the other. The discomforts will pass. And you will finish the race.
How many experiences in life do we go into expecting discomfort? If you’re like me, you’ve probably naively approached at least one thing in your life with the expectation that it would be a piece of cake. And when that discomfort showed up, you were probably totally caught off guard. You might have even diagnosed it as something being wrong. For example, if you have a stitch in your side, it means you should stop. And if you stop, two things will happen:
- You won’t finish at all
- All of the stopping and starting and stopping and starting is going to make it take longer, in which case you’re going to push closer to finishing last
Running taught me three key things about discomfort:
- Discomfort is normal
You should expect it. In fact, vizualize it sort of in technicolor. Maybe have conversations with other people who have done it so that they can tell you what it felt like for them when they were new to whatever the thing is. Normalize discomfort so that you can go in expecting it.
- Discomfort is temporary
It will ease up over time. And this idea is different than just merely toughing it out. This is intentionally leaning into discomfort because it’s temporary and you know it’s a vehicle to grow.
- Discomfort is survivable
You will not die. Even if, at some level, you think you’re going to die. You will survive this discomfort, just as you have survived every moment of discomfort up to this point in your life. Pushing through this moment will not kill you.
- Discomfort is normal
So get comfortable being uncomfortable. Normalize it. Realize it’s temporary. The discomfort will ease up over time, it is survivable, and it will ultimately help you grow.