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How to Practice Being Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations

How to Practice Being Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations

People such as self-help guru and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, financial minimalist Mr. Money Mustache, and author William B. Irvine have all touched upon the idea of Stoicism, a philosophy that I believe is the ultimate self-improvement philosophy.

First of all, allow me to debunk some common misconceptions about the Stoics. Contrary to the definition of a stoic as being emotionless, Stoicism actually raises the ultimate optimists!

Examples include how to remove all negative emotions such as fear, sadness, and disappointment. Another lesson to be learned from the Stoics is their belief that you should intentionally place yourself in situations of discomfort, in an effort to increase your comfort range as well as to make you value your moments of safety, making it easy for you to always consider yourself comfortable after enough practice.

Basically, Stoicism is a set of techniques to get the most fulfillment out of life and lower periods of sadness or discomfort.
Ever since I started applying Stoic principles in my life, I’ve felt an overwhelming amount of happiness and feelings of contentment with everything. I no longer take for granted the times when I am truly comfortable, such as when I am in the warm and safety of my own home. I also endure quite easily most things others would fine to be uncomfortable, for example, wearing t-shirts and shorts in less than 40 degrees (which is a huge deal to Arizonians for some reason).

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Don’t you want to expand your boundaries of what you deem to be comfortable? Don’t you want to always be comfortable even when others are complaining about how bad they’ve got it? Well, here’s how, through the teachings of Stoicism.

Voluntary Discomfort

A famous Stoic was Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who was the tutor and advisor of emperor Nero. Seneca was a huge believer in intentionally putting yourself out in less than comfortable conditions several times a month. It wasn’t enough to just envision discomfort but you had to literally live through it.

He wanted to go with less food, wear less than ideal clothing, sleep somewhere other than his comfortable and warm bed. You had to become a part of a lesser lifestyle to truly learn how amazing it is when you were comfortable and it is something that I’ll do quite often.

While everyone around me is complaining about how cold it is or about how hungry they are I am content and comfortable with fewer layers of clothing and less food. I am just happy to be alive, as I have voluntarily endured much harsher situations.

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This practice of voluntary discomfort that Stoicism does more than just make you appreciate comfort, it teaches you to have a high tolerance of that which is uncomfortable and you will always be content; it is something that you should practice at least a few times a month because you grow confident that if you can survive these minor periods of discomfort, you can also survive major discomforts as well.

Examples of Voluntary Discomfort

Maybe one day you forgot to eat breakfast and you would normally feel miserable, unable to go through the day as you slowly progress into an unbearable person for those around you. However, thanks to your periodic trials of self-inflicted poverty, you are well aware of the fact that even without an ideal amount of food, you are doing quite well and mild hunger does not bother you. You take comfort in your own well-being and you can let go of the discomfort.

Perhaps you can go out for a walk at night while it’s colder than you prefer. Did I mention you could do it without a jacket or sweater? Perhaps even wear shorts. If you are really feeling like testing your Stoic game then do it barefoot. You may get as creative as you want.

Are you used to long and hot showers that steam up your all your mirrors? How about taking an ice bath or setting the shower water to unbearably cold for one day out of every week? You’ll truly begin to appreciate the days where you use hotter water and you’ll gradually grow immune to the cold. Now all of a sudden, “cold” and rainy days are nothing to you as you find yourself comfortably walking in it without a rush.

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Fast. No not speed, I mean voluntarily limiting the amount of food you eat. Don’t starve yourself to the point of unbearable but don’t overindulge yourself. Try practicing being content with less.

I’ve already mentioned this to you earlier but sleep on a harder bed or even sleep on the floor. If you genuinely dislike hammocks then try sleeping in one! Can you imagine how amazing your bed will feel after you’ve derived yourself of its warmth for an entire night? Without a doubt, over time you’ll become so good at this “game”, you’ll even be comfortable sleeping in a car during road trips without the slightest complaint.

Benefits of Practicing Voluntary Discomfort

Now that you know a bit more about Stoicism, you have to try out at least voluntary discomfort and begin to broaden your range of comfort while simultaneously learning to have greater appreciation for the things you take for granted. It’s an interesting philosophy that you can learn a lot from—more than just the subject of comfort. Go out there and voluntarily seek out discomfort, because one day, you will emerge as an individual who is content with any situation.

 

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Vincent Nguyen

Founder of Growth Ninja

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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