January 14, 2020
How does one build Physical strength. Go to the Gym. Work out, stress the body muscles causing “micro tears” in the muscle fibre. The body then repairs and adapts the torn muscles to better handle the stress that caused the muscles to tear in the first place. Tear it to build it. That’s how we build our muscle.
Similarly, how does one build emotional capacity to deal with challenges that stress the emotional state? We normally try and avoid situations that put us in any sort of emotional discomfort. However, similar to the process of building muscle, building emotional resilience requires us to intentionally and purposefully deal with issues and situations that make us uncomfortable and through the process, become emotionally resilient. This is a different way of saying the same thing. To build emotional muscle, don’t avoid doing the stuff that makes you uncomfortable- Just do it
When we are doing any intense physical activity , we know and experience the physical pain associated with it and we do not try to avoid it. We know pain is part of the experience.
Emotional challenges are different though. We never seek them out. As a default, our ego always tries to protect our emotional state by hoodwinking us, to avoid any situation that is likely to put us in a state of stress.
How do we therefore build our emotional resilience? By seeking out what I call comfort challenges. Small stuff we can do daily to take our mental state out of its natural comfort zone. Comfort challenges are a way to get comfortable with being in an emotionally uncomfortable state regularly and in a safe way. Comfort challenges are the parallel of the workout one would do in the Gym to build muscle.
Some friends have told me, this is all hogwash. There is no scientific basis for this and unlike the physical strength,this cannot be measured . That It’s just my imagination. Frankly, I don’t care.
I am listing below some of the comfort challenges I have used to get comfortable with “being uncomfortable” . Through these, I choose to intentionally “Do” something different, to break the compulsive habits of comfort, that I have developed.
- Having a cold water bath daily – Overcoming the mental resistance is the objective.
- Striking a personal conversation with strangers when travelling – Not giving into the compulsion of social media gazing.
- Waking up early by 5.30 am(this has been a tough one and I have not been able to crack this. The early morning sleep is too much of a comfort!!).
- Speaking up at every meeting or Townhall – Practicing concise communication.
- Actively pursuing speaking assignments- Beating down my discomfort of public speaking.
- Giving honest feedback to colleagues- Learning to frame feedback without being judgmental.
- Being vulnerable and open to admitting to personal faults- Striving to be authentic.
- Avoiding Netflix/Prime during weekends- Protecting my productive time and mindset.
Personal development is a tangible process that requires positive intent, focus and affirmative action. I don’t claim that the comfort challenges I have developed for myself are all super effective. What I can say though is that every morning when I come out of the cold shower or when I come out of a weekend not having watched Netflix, I feel like I have achieved a big victory. That is reward enough for me !!