Some time ago, I got an email from Margaret Manning asking what I did to break out of my comfort zone. Since I received that email while here in Ethiopia, I had a good chuckle.

I am about to launch into a two-week horse-riding adventure in the Bale Mountains, and then hike a live volcano in a war-torn area called the Danakil Depression

Discomfort is my friend. I’m not going to tell you I like feeling uncomfortable. Not at all. The other day, I took a nasty tumble on extremely sharp rocks while descending a 10,000-foot mountain. To say the least, that was uncomfortable.

Especially so since I just committed to climbing Kilimanjaro for the second time in February, but with far less time to prepare. I will definitely be uncomfortable.

How Discomfort Feeds Achievement

It would be fair to say that my definition of discomfort is very different from the average woman’s. However, I did an interview with a 67-year-old brand-new friend the other day; a woman who lives in my old state, Florida.

She had commented on a story and I reached out to her. What intrigued me about her profile was her comment that she was a pilot and a scuba diver. Those, just for starters. 

Here’s the rest of the story: Maggie is finishing her IFR flight ratings, which means she flies by instruments only. This is the second in a series, which will include her Commercial and Instructor ratings. 

Five weeks ago, she pulled a 300-lb man out of the Gulf of New Mexico. That earned her a Rescue Diver certificate. 

She’s also a world traveler.

Maggie’s “Superwoman” Secret

Before you leap to conclusions, Maggie’s not a superwoman. Nor is she super rich. Nor is she a super athlete. Neither of us is. 

To Margaret’s challenge, Maggie told me that, every year, she takes on something new. One year it was piano lessons. She got to the point where she could tinkle out a few songs and she was done with it.

Each year it’s something she’s never done before. Always awkward, but then after you develop some competence, confidence grows.

Beginning any new skill is uncomfortable. However, the process of learning keeps our brains juicy and youthful. 

Maggie is energetic, grateful to be 67, and she can’t wait to see what happens at 68. Her ebullience is captivating, which is why she is now a friend.

I love having Maggies in my life, for they reinforce my willingness to periodically go out on a limb, take a chance, fail spectacularly (and I may this February), and have a lovely laugh along the way. 

Comfort is the enemy of growth. It’s supremely comfortable to settle into the soft cushions of your favorite chair and enjoy endless reruns. 

It’s a wholly different kind of comfort to settle into that same chair after taking on something challenging – whatever it might be – that gives you a case of the willies.

That could be going out on a date, driving across the state, learning to quilt, or starting your memoir. What you choose to do makes no difference. The act of trying is life-affirming. Discomfort is the very proof that a part of you is challenged – and needs to grow.

How do you define discomfort? Are you willing to try out a brand new you? Is there a dream gathering dust in your life? Are you finally willing to give it a chance? Share your discomfort and what you learned from it!

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