A few years ago, I read an interview about Laird Hamilton, the 50-something surfer.
When asked why he needed the danger of big-wave surfing in his life, Hamilton replied, “I know that if I scare myself once a day, I’m a better person. And I think everybody would be. I think it’s part of actually existing,” he said. “I think that we’ve gone so far away from that [physical fear]. A dinosaur was chasing you [in pre-historic times] and wanting to eat you. I think we need [some fear].”
That concept really resonated with me. I decided I wanted to do something scary every day, too. I never ended up big-wave surfing, but I did compete in triathlons, which required me to swim in the scary ocean. Note: I love water, but sometimes ocean critters even scare us mermaids! I’m looking at you, Mr. Stingray!
I also took a big leap and closed my P.R. business and transitioned to full-time writing. My income took a hit initially, but it was something I needed and wanted to do.
In hindsight, I realized I didn’t want to do something “scary” every day. It was just too much work. But the idea of pushing myself was still appealing.
As we start the New Year, I have a better idea:
Do something slightly uncomfortable every day.
That seems less stressful, right? Scary = fear. Slightly uncomfortable = intriguing.
It could be something physically, socially, or mentally uncomfortable.
Your version of slightly uncomfortable will be different than my version of slightly uncomfortable.
Something slightly uncomfortable for the cooking-challenged (me!) is trying a new recipe. I don’t cook much, and most of the time I follow a new recipe it doesn’t come out well.
If you like to cook, trying out a new recipe might be fun, and not the least bit uncomfortable.
On the other hand, I love sports and fitness activities. Ask me to go on a bike ride, swim, run, walk, or play pickleball, and I’m all in. You might be less active and have decided that this year you are going to try pickleball (as one of my friends recently shared with me), which makes you feel slightly uncomfortable.
Doing something slightly uncomfortable each day doesn’t have to require a ton of planning. That’s stressful. You can make decisions that lead to habits that make you slightly uncomfortable initially, but make you feel so much better in the short and long run. Here are some ideas:
- Decrease the amount of sitting you do each day. Instead of sitting, stand up while talking on the phone, work at a standing desk, or set a timer each hour to remind you to take a five-minute walking break. Sitting may seem relaxing, but it’s not good for you. Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking?” Researchers analyzed a total of 13 publications and found that sitting for more than eight hours without any physical activity is associated with a mortality risk comparable to that caused by obesity and smoking. This analysis, which includes more than one million people, has also pointed out that moderate-intensity physical activity for 60 to 75 minutes a day can mitigate the negative health effects of prolonged sitting.
- Make conversation with someone new. This could be as simple as complimenting a stranger on his shirt. In my case, I want to start introducing myself to people at the gym, which is slightly uncomfortable for me. If you’re in business, it’s almost a necessity to reach out to new people all the time, on social media, or in real life. These conversations, in your personal and professional lives, while slightly uncomfortable at first, can lead to new relationships, more business, and greater well-being.
- Create one healthy eating habit. For me, this is ending my eating at dinnertime, so I have at least 12 hours of fasting. It’s slightly uncomfortable because sometimes I get a little hungry, but, really, I just like eating while watching TV. You might choose to have protein at every meal or dessert only on the weekends.
- Ask an acquaintance out. Have you met someone through volunteering, work, or other friends, that you want to get to know better as a friend? Sometimes asking an acquaintance to lunch or coffee or to join you for an event feels awkward. What if the person says no? But what if you get a yes? Your life will likely be enriched when moving beyond your comfort zone.
Does the idea of doing something slightly uncomfortable every day resonate with you? What ideas do you have for slightly uncomfortable actions?