Should pursuing your passions or running your business be uncomfortable?
If you crowd-sourced the answer to this question on social media, you’d get a lot of Yes’s from smart, heart-centered leaders like Brené Brown and Jenny Shih who would point out that you’re never going to grow (as a business owner or a person) unless you stretch yourself in uncomfortable ways.
I agree with them 100%.
I also agree 100% with money mindset mentor Denise Duffield Thomas who advocates finding your “chillpreneur” lifestyle where things feel easy. (Btw, if you haven’t read her book by that name, check it out.)
So what gives?
Should things be hard or easy in business, life, writing, etc.?
The Good Kind of Discomfort
Think back to learning to ride a bike or swim. Maybe you were naturally good at these things. Not me.
I was so scared of tipping over or putting my face below the surface of the water and getting eaten by a sea monster — this was in the local YMCA pool, mind you — that I resisted learning these two essential kid activities for a long time. (No wonder I preferred sitting alone and writing stories to hanging out with other kids.)
In order to master these skills, I had to be willing to feel massive discomfort. To trust my dad, who was holding the back of the bicycle seat with one hand and his 1987 Panasonic camcorder with the other. And to trust my swim teacher.
(Side note, trusting my swim teacher left such a big impact on me that he became the metaphor I use in my book Recipe for Drafting to talk about what it’s like to write when you trust your outline. Shazam! Thank you, Tim Craig. 💙) Trusting and letting go was hella uncomfortable. But it paid off.
This kind of discomfort is where we find growth.
When we let go of the way things have been. I can’t ride a bike; I can’t swim.
And we make way for the new version of ourselves who does know how to do these things — even if poorly at first.
When things are hard because they are new, they are going to feel uncomfortable. And if they are new and related to what you care about most — your writing, your business, your passion — they’re going to feel massively uncomfortable.
Learning new things in arenas you really care about feel challenging and effortful. They may also involve a bit of risk because you’re putting yourself out there in new ways.
Maybe you’re publishing your website. Or dusting off your blog after letting it sit for longer than you care to admit. Or maybe you’re even sitting down to write the book you know is in you.
You’ll probably get hit with some Grade-A mind gremlins wondering…
How will people react?
Will you achieve your goal?
Will you spontaneously combust?
This is OK. You’re experiencing good discomfort. You can recognize it because it often feels like:
- butterflies in your stomach
- a tightness in your throat
- mild nausea
- racing heart
- you’re about to get on a roller coaster
These are all signs you’re stretching into new territory and about to surprise yourself with something new you didn’t know you could do.
The Bad Kind of Discomfort
What about when you’re banging your head against a wall? When instead of butterflies flapping up a storm in your stomach you’ve got lead beetles?
Does this mean you should just go for it? Are you simply resisting because it’s hard? Possibly.
But it’s much more likely there’s another culprit at play: Using a process that isn’t working for you.
When your process isn’t serving you, it feels like you’re walking through mud or snow or the ocean. Every step you take is full of so much effort. You never find your flow.
The road never levels out. It doesn’t get easier as you get used to it. This is how you know you’re dealing with the bad kind of discomfort. The kind that doesn’t help you show up in new ways.
In fact, just like having shoes that are too small, this bad discomfort can actually prevent you from growing or stretching into the new version of you.
This kind of hard isn’t serving you. Instead it’s stopping you from taking bold action.
Discomfort in Writing
When the bad kind of discomfort creeps into your writing, it’s miserable.
One blog post takes you days to draft.
You’ve given up sending emails to your list because for each sentence you type, you delete three.
And you dread having to update your website because you disappear down a rabbit hole of verbal vomit and self doubt.
Your writing — and your passion and your business — can end up completely stalled. Because your message isn’t getting out into the world.
There’s no growth or butterfly metamorphosis happening here. Just plain old stuckness.
When this happens, it’s time to examine your writing process so you stop forcing yourself and find an easier way. What are you doing that isn’t serving you?
… Even if it’s what an expert told you to do.
… Even if it’s what your mentor or your writing buddy does.
… Even if you’ve always done it this way.
Give yourself permission to try something new.
Know When to Give up on Discomfort
This is your invitation to think about which kind of discomfort you’re feeling in any given moment. Is it the kind that’s helping you grow to your next level?
Or is it the kind that’s forcing you to stay where you are and maybe even move backwards because it doesn’t honor your unique process or allow you to express your genius?
Writing is enough of a challenge. It’s a kind of alchemy — you’re taking the energy swirling around in your brain and translating it into words on the page. Don’t make it any harder by forcing yourself to use a process that isn’t serving you.
I promise you there is a path of least resistance for every type of thinker and writer to be able to write in flow. Need help finding yours? Let’s talk!
When you find what works for you, writing will feel like magic.