Learning from discomfort

I shared my recent post, How happiness is like memorizing, with Neil Kutzen, the memory trainer, and he wrote back with a great observation that I wanted to share with you, too.

He was struck by this line, in particular: "I had incredible trouble tonight coming up with images to help call to mind different sounds, and had trouble noticing identifying features of faces, too." He explained, as he had during the workshop, that learning this process is like learning two new languages, and as such, it's normal for it not to come easily right from the beginning.

He also reminded me that the words we use to describe our efforts have a powerful effect on our experience, and suggested this re-framing: “It was new for me to be coming up with images to help call to mind different sounds. It was also new for me to not just look at a face, but to identify a single feature. Both of these things will get better with practice.”

I like that wording much better: There's nothing wrong with me; I'm just new at this!

I wonder why I so quickly assume that my discomfort in situations means that something must be wrong: something wrong with me, something wrong with you, something wrong with society, etc.

As if life isn't supposed to involve any challenges or discomfort.

What if the discomfort is simply an indicator that there's something new to learn?

I'm thinking about the situations I encounter that make me uncomfortable: people who are different from me; conflicts between how things are and how I think they should be; physical pain; uncertainty in all forms. So many opportunities for learning!

What could you learn from the uncomfortable situations in your own life? 

Perhaps the first step in that learning process (thank you, Neil!) is to remember that there is nothing wrong.