BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ! My 5:30 AM alarm greets me to a new day. I lift my head from my cushioned pillow, slide off my comfy mattress, and drag my feet through my carpeted floors. I turn off ceiling fan cools down the hot nights and proceed to my bathroom, complete with temperature controlled running water and even a toilet seat cushion. Everything is exactly how I want it…and that’s the problem.
The advances in technology we enjoy today have undoubtedly made our lives better, but we’ve forgotten what it’s like to experience discomfort. It’s too hot? Turn on the A/C. Water’s too cold? Adjust the faucet knob. Heck, we even take average experiences and make them feel great. Your car seat is only normal? Take a heated seat and your butt will feel AMAZING. Discomfort has become foreign to us. We reject anything less than total luxury, but that standard makes us exceedingly risk averse and miss out on HUGE opportunities day after day.
Why Risk Taking is Important:
People denounce risky behavior. They insist you should “play it safe” or “take the sure path.” That’s bull. Research by behavioral economists Matthias Brachert and Walter Hyll shows that those with a high tolerance of risk create better businesses.
“The results show that entrepreneurs with low risk tolerance before entering self-employment and increased risk tolerance when self-employed have a higher probability of survival than similar entrepreneurs experiencing a decrease in the willingness to take risks.”
Even more, successful entrepreneurs learn to grow more comfortable with risk. Remember, this isn’t a licence to max out your credit cards and buy lottery tickets. Just practice making decisions you’re not 100% comfortable with. What keeps most people from experiencing the benefits taking chances affords? Discomfort. That feeling of anxiety in your chest right before you ask your boss for a raise, or ask that cute girl out. Our cushioned, heated, 100% comfort lives have programmed us to flee this feeling and never take the chances necessary to get ahead. Luckily I have an exercise that’ll teach you to overcome your discomfort avoidance system and get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Take Cold Showers:
A cold shower in the morning is the perfect habit to train yourself to gamble more often. Overcoming the intense anxiety of stepping into the shower when you know the water is FREEZING completely breaks the endless cycle of comfort. It’s not so much the shower itself (though there are many benefits to bathing in cold water) but the mental process you go through BEFORE the shower. You feel the anxiety. You feel the discomfort. You flinched when you put your arm in the water. Thoughts of quitting enter your mind. There’s always tomorrow morning right? You’ll be more ready then. No. You quell those thoughts and you get in. You faced the fear and discomfort and pushed through anyway. That’s what makes it effective.
When I started this habit early in January, it took me thirty minutes (yes a whole half hour!) to get in the shower. Now I enter in mere moments. And the benefits? I feel almost zero stress, have become more outgoing socially (as a staunch introvert) and have created countless opportunities for myself from risks I’ve taken that have worked out in my favor (I’m writing for Lifehack as a high school senior). Interested in trying for yourself? Ahead are some strategies that helped when I started.
Pro Tips for Cold Showers:
- Just Jump In: Thinking about the coldness will just give you time to think of reasons not to go. Don’t waste 30 minutes of your life like I did in the beginning. Don’t give yourself time to think. Pull the curtain back and run in.
- Ease Into It: Start showering with hot water then switch to cold water after a few seconds. I noticed that I was less resistant to the cold water once I was already wet and feeling good. Use this if you’re really struggling.
- Sing a Song: Sounds crazy but singing helps keep your mind off of the freezing water. Again, your brain will only come up with reasons to stop if you allow it to fixate on the discomfort. Pick a song in the shower that you enjoy and know all the words to and sing it all the way through. You (almost) forget and feel like you’re taking a normal shower. Good Morning from Singin’ In the Rain was a lifesaver during my first few showers
Whether you prefer to dive in headfirst or sing a song as you go makes no difference. It’s stepping into the shower, ignoring the initial fear and trepidation, and owning the discomfort that works in your favor. When you master the fear that stems from discomfort you knock down the cell walls. Nothing holds you back from taking the risks necessary to achieve your goals giving you a major advantage over your peers. And don’t worry, you can still sleep on your mattress.