It’s an irritating nudge growing in intensity until it drowns out everything else. It’s tension. Frustration. Scapegoating. It’s ugly. And then the bottom comes, a swirly mess like being in free fall, tossed around in a hurricane. It’s a powerless, painful moment. And it’s the prelude to breakthrough.
Sometimes it seems we wait for rock bottom before we’re ready to change jobs, get fit, end a relationship or make any other big jump in our lives. Acting from rock bottom is a reactive way of fixing things, a back-against-the-wall scenario that’s not likely to lead to the biggest difference we can make for ourselves.
It’s a crisis response. What we’ve been doing is not working. We didn’t want to take extraordinary action, but our heart knows we need to. We’ve been coasting along, and now it’s different. It’s not about getting by. It’s a choice between withering and taking a chance to thrive.
EMBRACING A MISTY PATH
Photo by Arthur Coddington
Planning a world championships performance in my sport is painful and exhilerating. Creating something from nothing feels like torture. Rehearsing that something, improving it, getting better at it, finding moments of rest and moments of possibility is my favorite part. Creating it? Ugh.
This weekend I worked out with one of my world championships teams. We found ourselves in creation mode, and I found myself uncomfortable, frustrated, anxious to get it over with and start rehearsing. Unfortunately for me, this painful chapter is one of the only ways to create something extraordinary.
Having been here so many times, I know it’s going to happen and I try not to fight it. I have control over how I experience that chapter. Sometimes I even take the step of calling it out, telling my teammates to bear with me through my noble suffering. Appreciation and reward are big parts of my new approach. I appreciate the creativity of my teammates. I appreciate the slower pace of creation vs. training. I appreciate the playful and unexpected combinations of our talents. It smooths the ride while we transform raw materials into something we are excited to share with the world. The reward? Training and improving the routine, then performing something infinitely better than if we skipped the hard work and settled.
THROUGH THE WRINGER
Photo from the Boston Public Library
This discomfort, this crashing to the bottom, slamming into a wall, being flung through a hurricane seems to be the difference between status quo and change, even the difference between incremental change and moving boldly toward the big goal we’ve been avoiding.
Do we really have to go through all this pain? Is there a way to shortcut from mild irritation to brilliant leaps forward? Sometimes. We have to find what works for us, what speeds us through the cycle of discomfort, what creates clarity AND inspires us to action. For the most lucky, a regular dose of aphorisms keeps them in bold action. For others, it may be seeking info, reading books, going to seminars, finding insight in the meditative darkness of a movie theater or connecting with community at church. Knowing what works for us in the trick.
What works for you?
THE WING SUIT
Photo by Face Level Industries
Coaching is another shortcut, an excellent one in my biased opinion. Our coach advocates for the life we want. Our coach senses the signs of impending hurricanes and bolsters us to weather the storm and sometimes even muffle it into a gentle summer shower, maybe even with a rainbow and a few playful unicorns. Our coach takes us off the static, incremental road before it becomes too painful to bear. Through our coach, we shorten the cycles so we get to breakthrough before the unbearable slam of rock bottom.
Our coach finds us teetering on the edge of a cliff and delivers the wingsuit that frees us to take a big leap, steer through the air, around obstacles, play with the realities of gravity and access safe landing areas we hadn’t seen before.
What’s your wing suit, and what new territory are you willing to soar toward?
10 Replies to “Soaring Past Discomfort To Breakthroughs”
beautiful post, arthur – thank you for writing it. i especially like this line: ” I have control over how I experience that chapter.” your clients must gain incredible inspiration from your coaching.
Thanks April. It’s certainly a challenge to alter how we experience things. Takes some practice, and it’s usually worth it.
Great post. Through all the work, I am glad you found it playful and unexpected. That’s where so much innovation and creativity happens. And as you said – there is no shortcut to getting the benefits. The hard work is worth it! Thanks for a great reminder.
Thanks Kathy. One of the great things about my teams is our sense of humor. We take the work seriously and laugh at the absurd.
Love this and the metaphor to the wingsuit. That is on my list of things to do. Couldn’t agree with you more about coaching, and not just because I am one 🙂 I too have a coach and my coach has a coach. It’s the fastest way to success. Awesome post!
Thanks Akshay. It’s essential for coaches to be coached themselves, both for our own personal development and to truly understand the experience of being coached. Glad it’s not essential for coaches to parachute, BASE jump or fly wing suits. I’m happier enjoying that metaphorically and as a YouTube spectator.
Great post – I particularly like these lines: “It’s not about getting by. It’s a choice between withering and taking a chance to thrive.” It’s often so tempting to avoid the discomfort and take the “easy” way out. But unfortunately that invariably means we are foregoing breakthroughs, and denying ourselves our best life.
Exactly, Laura. Incremental movement vs. quantum change. Which sounds better?
The hard work always seems to be worth it in the end. Sticking with it long enough to see the end is the hard part. Few people have the discipline it takes. Glad to see you do and that you’re helping others achieve their goals too!
It can feel tough to be in the weeds, and it’s only after we’ve passed through that we realize what we accomplished.
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