We all want to live bolder lives. This doesn’t mean being brash or obnoxious.

I define boldness as doing the right thing for your life, despite the fears and discomforts that are part of the process of changing and growing.

Some people have a bucket list; I have a discomfort list. I have been on a five-year journey to dismantle my comfort addictions, systematically defining what actions I do and don’t do in order to avoid feelings and experiences that are uncomfortable to me. In the process, I have overcome countless personal and professional obstacles, freeing me up in ways I could have never imagined!

I am a typical human being, made up of the same stuff as everyone else. But when a normal person faces the truth of their comfort addictions, it’s amazing what that an altogether normal person can accomplish! Here is a list of some of the things I have achieved as a result of embracing discomfort in my own life. (And funny enough, several of these items are, in fact, bucket list items for me. See what I did there?!)

  • I have written two books, the latest of which was published by McGraw-Hill.
  • I lost 25 pounds.
  • I learned to dance the East Coast Swing and am now working on the rhumba.
  • I started taking jazz piano lessons and recorded a solo piano CD as a Christmas gift for my clients.
  • I have traveled to Germany, France, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Italy and throughout North America.
  • I threw out the first pitch at a San Diego Padres game.
  • I grew my business revenue by 300%.
  • To top it all off, I am currently enrolled in a “learn to play ice hockey” class. This dream/discomfort was especially difficult to embrace since I did not know how to even skate when I started! Not knowing how to skate when one is age 5 is one kind of discomfort. At my age, it is something else entirely.

Bottom line: I am having the time of my life because I embrace discomfort! Here’s how I’ve done it and how you can too.

1. Find a Victory

Start small. Boldness is like a muscle that needs to be developed a little at a time.

Find some small discomfort you can overcome right now. (Ex: sending an email, making a phone call, filling out a form…choose a small, doable task.) Do this one small thing and then celebrate the intentionality of your achievement. And just like that: you’ve started embracing discomfort! Way to go!

2. Make a Discomfort List

Start by being honest about what holds you back. What have you not accomplished because it’s just uncomfortable? What task or conversation makes you cringe when you think about it? What goal has been haunting you for years? What do you regularly procrastinate on because it’s not fun? It is important to identify these opportunities by writing them all down, big or small. Make a list. It won’t be pretty, but it’s necessary. Just get it all out.

3. Prioritize Your Discomfort Targets

Choose the most minuscule discomfort from your list and move it to the very top.

Build from there, ordering the list from the merely pesky discomforts to the epic ones. You don’t want to start with “repair the disrupted relationship with my father.”

The items at the beginning of your list should be more along the lines of “thin out the junk drawer in the kitchen.”

4. Make a Decision BEFORE the Discomfort

The process of embracing discomfort doesn’t start with external actions. It starts with the internal work of rearranging your brain and making a decision. So before you start on even the easiest task on your list, the most important thing to do is to make sure that your mind is right. Do this by deciding RIGHT NOW to tackle that first discomfort at a designated time. If you wait until the moment you are faced with a discomfort (you go to open the junk drawer and it’s so crammed full you can’t even get it all the way open) your mind will give you a thousand reasons why you should not tackle that task right then. So, schedule the time to act on a small discomfort right this minute and resolve in your mind to do so! In addition to the decision to act at a specific time, also decide what your positive mindset will look and feel like when that time comes. As is your brain, so will be your actions.

5. Celebrate the Successes!

As you build your boldness muscle a little at a time, stop to appreciate any and all progress along the way. You’ll find that every success propels you to your next success, especially if you take the time to recognize your progress and celebrate it.

Humans are complex beings…and we’re also not. A little recognition and celebration goes a long way in inspiring us to keep on keeping on. If you give yourself kudos for success (even small success) you’ll find yourself actually wanting to embrace the next discomfort. It’s just how we’re made!

Embracing discomforts in your life in order to be bold is crucial to professional success and a life well-lived. In the wise words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Life is either going to live you or you are going to live it. Stop and look around at your own life, choose boldness, and don’t miss it.

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