We’re wired to avoid pain, discomfort and effort!
Instinctively, we naturally avoid just about anything that causes us pain or discomfort.
For example, if it’s cold and windy outside we’ll put on a coat to stay warm. If we dislike crowds, we’ll generally avoid shopping during busy times. This ‘in built’ avoidance of pain and discomfort is mostly sensible as unpleasant feelings and sensations usually indicates something which is dangerous or not good for us.
In addition to avoiding unpleasant feelings, we are also ‘hard wired’ to avoid exerting unnecessary energy. This is why we can often feel discomfort and sometimes pain when exerting excessive energy – it’s our bodies way of getting us to ‘pull back’ and conserve. The urge to conserve is so ‘in-built’, that we need an opposite and greater force to overcome the tendency to ‘take the path of least resistance’ – Motivation. If it weren’t for motivation, we wouldn’t get much done!
Avoiding discomfort & pain in the modern world
Despite the evolutionary importance of these inbuilt natural tendencies (i.e. the success of the human race over the centuries), in modern day society, the natural avoidance of pain including our tendency to conserve energy can more often work against us.
Today, we do not need to conserve as much energy as what we first did (we usually know where and when our next meal is coming from) and there are not too many threats that pose a real ‘danger’ to our safety (like being chased by a saber-tooth tiger)!
Nowadays, experiencing pain and discomfort is often just a by-product of doing something outside of our ‘comfort zone’. The primitive brain however, does not know the difference. It is still frequently on ‘high alert’ often firing at the response of any perceived threat. So unless we are working in a ‘high risk’ industry, most of the threats we perceive nowadays are often related to our ego and self-esteem rather than being a threat to our physical safety.
The conundrum we face…
There are many ‘work-related’ activities which can still fire the primitive brain response to cause us discomfort.
Giving a presentation in front of your peers is a typical activity that can cause discomfort through anxiety and stress. However, if we always choose to avoid this experience, then we will never improve our ability to speak publicly.
This means that we need to be willing and able to tolerate different types of discomfort in order to persist and continue with those behaviours which will improve ourselves.
So whether you are a student trying to overcome the nerves of an upcoming exam, or perhaps a teacher planning to run a PD session;
We all face the conundrum between choosing to accept discomfort and grow, or choosing to avoid discomfort and not grow!
So the question is; how can we become more tolerant and willing to put up with discomfort so we can grow?
Perhaps understanding and rationalising the reasons as to why we can feel uncomfortable is the first step. We also need to consider what has worked well in the past for you to more tolerate pain and discomfort.
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