Conversations at the Crossroads.

Perk Up and Lean In

“What’s uncomfortable?” I asked my client, who replied,

“Everything. All of this. The not-knowing.”

We had been exploring new possibilities for a few weeks. Door after door had been opened. Box after box had been unpacked and sorted. The contents were spread around on the floor, begging for examination, pleading for meaning.

And it was uncomfortable.

Being where you’re expected to be, doing what you’re expected to do, without having to give it much thought… These situations tend to feel comfortable.

Whereas standing at a crossroads, with access to different paths, finding yourself in a position of choice and recognizing that you will own the outcome… Well, the feeling can be just the opposite. Discomfort.

Exploration and examination require energy. The insights come, but at an unpredictable pace. And the truth is, the things that we do that require energy, without providing immediate payoff, are sometimes more challenging to see through. We want to surrender and return to comfort, to what is known.

It’s human. It’s understandable.

But what is the cost of returning to comfort? Or, more aptly phrased, what is the cost of running from discomfort?

In her book When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chödrön writes:

“Generally speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors—people who have a certain hunger to know what is true—feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

We can learn from discomfort and uncertainty if we just sit with them. In fact, sitting with discomfort and uncertainty may lead to unexpected results.

In his book Uncertainty, Jonathan Fields writes:

“The more you’re able to tolerate ambiguity and lean into the unknown, the more likely you’ll be able to dance with it long enough to come up with better solutions, ideas, and creations.”

When you adopt such mindsets, moments of discomfort become an opportunity. To what extent are you leaning in and embracing each chance to learn about yourself? It’s something to think about in the week ahead.

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published June 12, 2013