A few weeks ago I went back to Michigan to visit Sifu Brown’s school and attend Jeremiah’s Black Sash test. As part of his test, Jeremiah gave a talk about embracing discomfort that I just loved.
Jeremiah Savage is, as his name might suggest, an avid outdoorsman and all-around manly man. Think like a mix between a lumberjack and an assassin. As he spoke, however, he painted a picture of himself before practicing martial arts that was very different. Soft (but not in a good way). He explained how, through his practice and different opportunities in life, he began to embrace discomfort and toughen up.
I totally related to this as I myself was a bit soft before martial arts. I was not only physically inept at most things, but also had no tolerance for discomfort or challenges of any kind. It was Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and meditation that made me appreciate the kind of transformation that happens when you pour yourself into something and truly try as hard as you can, embracing the pain that often comes with growth. The memory of countless classes and tests where I was sure I would die are seared into my mind. Yet I always emerged stronger and happier.
Recently, I’ve been focusing on embracing discomfort in other areas of my life outside of the dojo. One thing that Jeremiah suggested in his talk was jumping into a frozen lake. I will not be doing that. But as an alternative, I’ve been taking cold showers and doing deep breathing, a la the Wim Hof method. I hate the cold, and honestly have spent a significant amount of time dreading this part of my day, but I get beyond it and have started to revel in it. The prospect of enjoying a swim in the Pacific Ocean is no longer a fantasy!
This doesn’t just serve the purpose of causing pain as there are plenty of health benefits that go along with it. I have begun looking for other opportunities that are painful, yet healthy, to tackle. I have especially enjoyed having difficult conversations with family and friends. In the past, I would have put them off. Now, my martial arts practice and the attitude of embracing discomfort propels me into and through these situations.
There is no shortage of discomfort available to us in this life. Everyone experiences it. The only real difference is how we deal with it. Do we put it off, procrastinate, run and hide? Or do we take it head on, step up to the challenge, enjoy the opportunity to grow? This is always a choice. Most of us have lived in fear of discomfort. We shy away from it and now, as a habit, run and hide. We must choose differently and practice embracing discomfort until it becomes automatic for us to step up. Then, discomfort has no power over us.
If you’re reading this article, you now have homework. Choose one thing that is making you feel uncomfortable TODAY and deal with it. Lean into the discomfort and do what needs to get done immediately. See how that makes you feel.