Generally speaking, humans don’t like being uncomfortable. However, this blog encourages you to practice being uncomfortable. As a result, you may be able to re-program your brain to achieve goals you thought unattainable.
Alex Honnold is a real-life superman. Or is he?
He is unequivocally the greatest free solo mountain climber in history. Free solo climbing is fingers, chalk, rock. That’s it. In 2017, Honnold free solo climbed El Capitan in the Yosemite National Park, considered by some to be the greatest physical achievement by any human. Ever. The 2,900′ route Honnold traversed often takes a team of professional climbers with full gear two or three days to summit.
Honnold did it with no ropes, all alone, in three hours and fifty-six minutes.
Of his exploits, Honnold has said, “My comfort zone is like a little bubble around me, and I’ve pushed it in different directions and made it bigger and bigger until these objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fall within the realm of the possible.”
It turns out there’s some scientific basis for that statement. Honnold was tested by neuroscientists a few years ago to measure his fear response mechanism – that fight or flight part of your amygdala, the pre-historic lizard brain, that reacts below your conscious control. Alex had no measurable fear response.
“Of course! ” you might exclaim. “Clearly, he has no fear if he climbs 3,000′ without a rope!”
Not so fast. Zero fear response at the subconscious level of the lizard brain is typically only found in instances of profound mental illness or brain damage. By all accounts, Honnold is suffering neither. Why then, does he register no fear response?
Scientists are not sure, but they think maybe he’s actually programmed it out of himself. The fear response appears distributed across a typical bell curve. Some people are jumpy, and some are chill. The neuroscientists that studied Honnold presume he was on the “chill” end of the spectrum to begin with, and that through more than twenty years of constantly testing his limits, he’s literally programmed fear response out of his system. He may have re-written the code in his lizard brain. He does not experience fear because there is nothing in his subconscious reacting to the stimuli.
As it happens, not only is there a neurological explanation behind Honnold’s incredible mental and physical strength, there might be biological proof behind the “coding” process. Daniel Coyle, the author of The Talent Code, writes, “There is, biologically speaking, no substitute for attentive repetition. Nothing you can do – talking, thinking, reading, imagining – is more effective in building a skill than executing the action, firing the impulse down the nerve fiber, fixing errors, honing the circuit.” What Coyle is describing is the process by which myelin, the insulation wrapping our brain circuits, is applied. It appears that the circuits with the most insulation are the ones that get fired the most and therefore are the ones that function the fastest. Externally this begins to look like what we call variously skill, talent, or even genius.
Writer and brain coach Jim Kwik has said, “Don’t fight for your limitations because you get to keep them.” It’s entirely possible that if you’re firing the neurons telling your lizard brain that you can’t do something, you’re adding more and more insulation to that neural path. In effect, you might be making the “I can’t” circuit the fastest, most efficient one in your brain.
The good news is that the process works on any neural pathway that is fired repeatedly. That means you have the ability to re-program your own brain!
It means, in the end, either consciously or unconsciously, you are steadily programming yourself, all day, every day, to be exactly who you are.
There is only fear if you practice being afraid. There is defeat if you practice defeat. You also have the nearly limitless ability if you program your brain to achieve goals. You get to decide whether to push the bubble of your comfort zone or not.
There is a mountain out there. Stand in the valley, or climb it.
This blog explains why discomfort is the way forward for your business growth. Assuredly as we forge ahead into 2022, this concept should be first of mind. Therefore, get uncomfortable and change your future.
If you are never uncomfortable in your life you are at best in stasis. In fact, more probably you’re deteriorating. Even to hold your ground in any facet of life requires work.
Entropy is a concept from thermodynamics defined as the gradual decay into disorder of a closed system. Further, a closed system being one in which no new inputs are received. Every single improvement in life requires some sort of input. And every input creates friction. Therefore, some sort of discomfort is the necessity of getting better.
Recently some researchers have noted that as compared to early hominids, modern humans have a narrower soft-pallet, more crowded teeth, and less pronounced jawline. They hypothesize that this softening and reduction of the mouth and facial structures is because our food is soft. In other words, our faces have gotten soft and atrophied because everything is easy to eat. One renown strength coach opined that the reason we invented the modern fitness industry is that we stopped doing all the physical activities of work and survival. We quit using our bodies the way they were designed. As a result, we then had to make up ways to keep ourselves running optimally.
From the relational to the spiritual to the physical, every improvement requires work. This work and effort represent the inputs into an otherwise closed system. If you are never uncomfortable, then entropy is all you can expect. The more insidious part of this equation is that discomfort might be unavoidable regardless of whether you choose discomfort or ease in the near term. If you choose the friction and discomfort of rising early and going to the gym, you experience the benefits of a healthier, more fit body and mind. If you choose more sleep, and more dessert, you experience the long-term discomfort of a deterioration of your body.
Writer, podcaster and former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink coined the phrase “discipline equals freedom”. That is an uncomplicated, cut-to-the-chase invocation of this whole notion. The application of discipline, in any aspect of life, equates to more freedom down the road. The more you embrace the discomfort and work now, the more options and the more abilities you have later. The less discipline you employ now, the few your abilities and choices tomorrow.
Discomfort is the way forward.
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