Happiness and Using Discomfort to Make Change

Think about big changes you’ve made in your life. Maybe you ended a relationship or a job, or moved to another town. Maybe you stood up for yourself with a bully, or asked for a raise, or confronted a loved one. I bet at least some of these actions were inspired by emotional discomfort. You felt unhappy in your relationship, undervalued at your job, bored in your town. You felt afraid of the bully, stressed about money, irritated at your loved one. We could argue that even the changes we make because we are trying to move toward something wonderful (current job is fine but this other one would be amazing) are motivated by discomfort – the discomfort that comes from suddenly realizing there is something out there that could make us happier than we are now.

Why is it important to recognize discomfort as a motivator? Because we spend so much of our time trying to avoid discomfort that we sometimes forget to listen to it and use it for what it is: a signal that we need to make a change. Think of it this way: you shift your body sometimes when you’re sitting at your desk or in a movie theater, right? You’re doing that (often without realizing it) because your body is in discomfort. You don’t ignore it because you know if you were to ignore it you would eventually be in pain. So next time you feel discomfort, close your eyes, listen to it, and appreciate it for what it is – a clear and early warning sign of pain.