The Beauty of Discomfort

The Beauty of Discomfort

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By: Beatrice Ballarin

I picked up The Beauty of Discomfort: How What We Avoid Is What We Need by Amanda Lang at Indigo one evening after a long day at the laboratory with discouraging results. The aptly titled book intrigued me, for its proposition of beauty in discomfort offered a comforting perspective on my current circumstances. Could discomfort be a part of one’s path to success?

Chronicling the experiences of business founders, university students, elite athletes, meditation gurus, and military leaders, The Beauty of Discomfort showcases failures of people from all walks of life and, astonishingly, frames them as opportunities for personal growth and development. In doing so, it not only calls for the readers to stop avoiding failure, but inspires them to embrace and even benefit from it.

“You need to confront discomfort and view it as a helpful reminder to prepare properly, rather than a signal to quit.” This message resonated in my mind as I reflected on the examples presented in the book, and I began to wonder: why are some people able to adapt and thrive in the face of a challenge, while others succumb to the pressure?

To take it one step further, the book encourages readers to not just embrace failure, but to seek it by challenging and pushing one’s own limits. Cases in point are presented as, while some of the protagonists had no other choice than with failure, some protagonists signed up for it—being determined to achieve their goals in the face of failure. Exemplifying the incongruity between passively succumbing to discomfort and actively seeking it, the book presents stories contrasting individuals facing disease and bankruptcy to those who sought challenge in their seemingly undemanding lives. In doing so, it highlights the potential for growth unraveled when you push yourself out of your comfort zone. With these examples, the book inspires readers to push their own limits and seek challenges when feeling too comfortable with where they are. In re-conceptualizing the negative attributes of failure as avenues for positive change and resilience, The Beauty of Discomfort describes how our approach to failure can determine our potential for success.

On a more personal note, I found this book to be full of great insights that I try to apply in my daily life as a graduate student. First, I try to perceive discomfort as an opportunity for personal growth. I practice applying this new approach to my daily routine, particularly to tasks I find unpleasant, in order to build up strength and determination without feeling discouraged or wanting to give up.  Second, I try to not take criticism personally by separating my professional and personal life. As a graduate student, much of my educational and training progress depends on receiving criticism, but dwelling on it might cause unhappiness and even distract me from my ultimate goal. Following one of my favorite examples in the book, I decided to focus on constructive criticism and use it for my personal growth and success. Third, Rome wasn’t built in a day; this book reminds me that I am here for the long run, and change doesn’t happen overnight. Pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones may indeed create discomfort, but this is short-lived and critical for achieving our long-term goals.

Perhaps the most important take-home message of The Beauty of Discomfort is one of encouragement to be brave, challenge yourself, and embrace discomfort, for avoiding it would only slow you down. The remarkable stories of resilience and personal growth in the face of adversity highlight the value of this book in inspiring readers to learn how to grow from their struggles. When life gives you lemons, will you make lemonade?