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This is uncomfortable
Some thoughts on practicing experiencing discomfort
I’ve been out of my comfort zone for the last week.
I could not control my sleep, food, exercise or work schedule to the degree I’ve gotten accustomed to over the last 18 months.
Further, I’ve had to be “on” for extended periods in ways I haven’t practiced since March 2020.
This has me pondering the value of discomfort.
I used to travel a lot for work. When the pandemic started, I was surprised to find joy in the slower pace of life. While I missed connecting in person, I quickly established habits that made life calmer and dare I say… more pleasant.
I drink less. I cook more. I take breaks. I prioritize sleep. I workout. I go for walks.
Let me be clear that I don’t do any of this perfectly. But I am significantly more balanced and healthier than I was before 2020.
At the same time, I started to feel more anxious speaking to large groups even in virtual settings.
I’ve always experienced anxiety in professional social situations. I get nervous before presentations. I fear event planning because I’m always worried no one will show up.
Or worse yet they will show up and hate it.
Compound this with the pressure a marketer feels to ensure event budgets drive business results and I can easily feel complete panic.
It’s like the newfound peace in one area of my life exacerbated the stress in another area.
This week marked my first major business trip since February 2020.
I’ve been low key bracing for a tough week.
On top of a return to in person events, and all the pressure I put on myself, I knew I wouldn’t be able to lift weights, eat simple food or sleep 8 hours a night. I also knew that there would be alcohol at every turn.
My approach was to control as much as I could and let go of the rest.
I knew what was non-negotiable for me.
I wasn’t going to drink more than two drinks per evening event, ideally less.
Since I knew the meals would be big (and delicious), I skipped breakfast and snacks. This works for me. It might not for you.
I made an effort to drink water constantly, which is not something that I naturally do.
I worked out most days, even if it was shorter than desired.
And that’s another place where I experienced discomfort.
Over the last week, there were zero occasions where I actually wanted to workout.
Getting out of bed and dragging myself to a tiny hotel gym to run on a treadmill and lift a couple of dumbbells sounded miserable every morning.
I was tired, my feet hurt from wearing non-athletic shoes, I felt off from eating so much rich food, and I had an inbox full of things to do. Yet, I went to the gym.
Each morning, my mental dialogue went something like:
I’m so tired. I should probably just sleep for another hour. No, that’s a terrible idea. You’ll feel so good if you can get a quick workout in. But I don’t want to… Maybe I don’t need to… No you do… Don’t think too hard about it. Just get there.
[Pulls self out of bed and puts on clothes. Floats way down to the gym]
Don’t think about the effort. Just start running. Get through one song… get through the next song… Oh hey, this is great!
I found myself living in two realities at the same time.
On the one hand, I was uncomfortable. On the other hand, I was extraordinarily happy. I wanted to be sleeping. I didn’t want to feel my chest burn from running. But I also felt fantastic. I was winning the day before it even started.
This would happen again in the evening as I arrived at our various events.
On the one hand, I was worried that each event would be a failure. I was anxious about my ability to perform. On the other hand, I was overjoyed to meet new people, see old friends, and watch the magic of meaningful networking transpire.
In case you haven’t grown to expect it… I began to see a pattern between professional and physical strength.
When I lift weights, it’s hard. It can hurt. Not in an inappropriately painful way, but I’m stressing myself a little bit so that my muscle can recover back stronger.
In work, we learn and advance by pushing ourselves to do things we haven’t done before or need to get better at doing.
In both cases, it may feel uncomfortable. It certainly does for me. But also in both cases, every time I push through, I feel incredible. The result isn’t comfort. It’s elation. It’s deep satisfaction.
This week, despite feeling out of my comfort zone, I was at ease. I had moments when I felt I was living in parallel universes. There was the panicky, stressed out Evy in one world. And the calm, cool and collected Evy in another.
This is going to sound insane but I felt like I was watching both versions from what I can only suppose was a third universe where I am wise beyond my years. LOL.
I firmly believe that fitness can make us better in many non-physical aspects of our lives.
I work out hard 4 or 5 times per week. That’s an average of 234 opportunities to overcome discomfort every year. That practice carries over to my professional self.
The interplay between physical fitness and professional strength is fascinating.
I find inspiration for how to work and how to lead in sports. I see how strong business leaders exhibit the mental fortitude of athletes.
I also know many people who struggle with one of these areas of their lives, but excel in the other. I want them to know that they are stronger and more capable than they think in whichever area is their weakness.
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