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Discomfort: A Pathway to Growth

In personal growth, discomfort can be seen as a positive experience.

Key points

  • Research supports the idea that discomfort can be a catalyst for growth.
  • One way to avoid growth, while reinforcing your comfort zone, is to only associate with like-minded people.
  • The next time you experience discomfort, don't run away from it. Embrace it as an opportunity for growth.

Growth is the only evidence of life — John Henry Newman

Khakimullin Aleksandr/ Shutterstock
Source: Khakimullin Aleksandr/ Shutterstock

Personal growth depends on effort and struggle, perhaps some pain, at times risking one’s security, investing our ingenuity and creativity, moving to higher levels of consciousness, giving up familiar patterns of safety and obsolete values, and trading in one’s comfort zones for discomfort. Little wonder so many individuals choose not to engage in their own personal growth. Growth is not easy.

Like-Minded Relationships

One way to avoid growth while reinforcing your comfort zone is to only associate with like-minded people. Social media has enhanced our ability to shield ourselves from a diversity of views by providing platforms that are tailor-made to like-mindedness.

Our likes are the same, and so are our dislikes. How will social media affect our growth long term? Novel and foreign ideas and concepts only become possible when like-minded friends and associates agree to disagree. Growth is necessarily limited due to a need to fit in with others.

A partner with a different view may offer the gift of growth. That difference of opinion opens-up new neural pathways of discovery. My black-and-white thinking has the opportunity to turn to grey and be resolved through healthy debate and new observations about myself and my partner. The struggle provides the benefit of growth, as a person and a couple.

In so many things, growth comes from adversity. — Michael Huffington

Discomfort and Growth

The weightlifter must lift enough weight in order to cause muscle tissue to become damaged so that it may heal and become stronger. The runner piles on the miles enduring soreness the next day or two for the same reasons. Stress and discomfort enable gains in speed, strength, and endurance.

Mental and emotional gains are similar in terms of discomfort promoting growth. Mental and emotional challenges stretch one’s potential to overcome the obstacles of life. Although difficult, our achievements from our struggles will build self-confidence and self-efficacy.

Anxiety has been called the beginning of growth. Discomfort has a way of moving people, even when they are not motivated. Frustration, satiation, and contingency are known to be powerful behavioral change agents.

Even post-traumatic stress (PTSD) has the potential to inspire some to post-traumatic growth. Many people with substance use disorder elevate their lives through growth and serve as alcohol and other drug (AOD) counselors to those still in the grips of their addiction.

We know that complacency and comfort can be debilitating. With a comfort zone in place, why move? The answer is simple, without movement there is no growth.

Responsible Growth

What would responsible growth look like? Change and growth take place when a person has risked themselves and dares to become involved with experimenting with their own life. Ordinary men and women expand their world by diving into the unknown. The known will not help us grow, only the unknown has that possibility.

To seek the unknown will take courage, effort, maybe some pain, and fortitude. But what is to be gained in the status quo of our existence? The responsible growth individual knows the risk and the uncertainty of growth and pursues their evolvement with high energy, a challenge-response personality, and resilience. Their only fear is to be stuck in their own complacency.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. — Viktor E. Frankl

Growth and Freedom

Growth, which takes us from the negatives of our life and toward the positives of our life, is all about elevating one’s freedom. To move from our anger, worry, depression, anxiety, and all the weighty aspects of our life is to free ourselves and grow. To move toward compassion, love, understanding, and hope is also all about freedom and growth.

This movement toward freedom is our growth. Just as economic freedom leads to economic growth, personal freedom leads to personal growth. This movement only occurs through our desire to change and risk the unknown.

A Higher Level of Consciousness

To reach responsible growth our level of consciousness will also need to grow. What does this look like? Our awareness and perception will need to become more finely tuned, like a fine instrument. Then, due to our personal growth, we can make our life a more beautiful composition.


Linley PA, Joseph S (February 2004). "Positive change following trauma and adversity: a review". Journal of Traumatic Stress. 17 (1): 11–21.

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