Yesterday I was faced with the experience I often talk with others about – the question of running from or toward an uncomfortable situation. Actually, I’m faced with this every day, as we all are. That is, if we stop often enough to look inward to realize how often it happens.
Let me lay out the scenario for you. I wanted to attend a class at the gym. I knew it was possible that a person whom I prefer not to see would also be in attendance. We’ll call this person Pat. I arrived early, but started mentally backpedaling when I realized that Pat was indeed there.
The mental gymnastics commenced. “I want to do this class, but I don’t want to be around Pat. And Pat is here. I could just leave now and it wouldn’t be a big deal. I mean, I don’t really care anyways. Maybe it’s not important for me to do this today. I could leave and get a lot of other stuff done. Why is Pat here? I sent her mental messages to stay away. If she would just leave, I could do what I want to do. If she weren’t here, I could do what I originally planned to do.” (*I will expand upon the bold portion below)
Apparently Pat’s telepathy reception is deficient. It was clear she was staying. So I had a choice to make.
I talked to myself. Not out loud (I don’t think?), but my brain talked to my brain. I know. So meta.
I asked myself: “Why would you leave?”
I answered myself: “I would be walking away from something I really want to do because of an external thing that I have no control over.”
Actually, I first said “I would be walking away because I don’t want to deal with Pat.” I arrived at the broader intellectual answer after a bit more prodding.
I also realized I would be leaving because of my expectation that Pat should not be there, which was not based on anything factual. Because expectations do not equal facts, I had (and always have) the power to change my thoughts to serve me.
Most of the time, this involves one or both of the following:
A) Minimizing expectations
B) Turning expectations inward, rather than projecting them onto others whom I cannot control
In this situation, Option B seemed fitting. Turning my expectations inward meant focusing on my original intent (to exercise and receive all the goodness that goes with that), rather than focusing on expectations I have for people or situations.
*This is where I get back to the underlined sentences from above. I was falling into self-defeating thoughts based on notions of what others should be doing to fit into my grand plan. Yikes! This never works. I gave myself permission to leave. However, I had to be honest with myself about why I was leaving - because I just couldn’t face the potential difficult situation with Pat - rather than leaning on the easy external reason – that Pat shouldn’t be there, and if she wasn’t there I would stay. Consistently defaulting to externally driven contingencies keeps us stagnant and hijacks our power.
If I had left, it would have been because I was avoiding a situation that I thought might be uncomfortable. I thought it might be. I was prepared to cash in my original goals and head for the hills for a scenario that lay on pretty shaky ground.
My brain-to-brain conversation continued with these questions: “When will you not walk away? When will all the stars align accordingly?” It was these questions that made me realize that if I walked away now, I would likely always walk away. Things rarely go exactly as we hope or plan. Because I stopped to check in with myself, instead of operating without contemplating, I saw what the real deal was.
Annnnd it was still uncomfortable.
BUT, it morphed into empowering discomfort. Or rather, I morphed it into empowering discomfort. I had shifted to being proactive rather than reactive.
I stayed for the class.
So, at first, this situation wasn’t easy. And then it was. The lead-up was kind of hard, but once I had committed to staying based on a conscious (i.e., I chatted with myself) and responsible (i.e., I owned my thoughts and behaviors rather than giving that power to someone else) standpoint, it not only wasn’t hard, it was enjoyable.
People who are successful in making behavior changes are not completely immune to uncomfortableness (not a word). However, embracing discomfort helps us overcome fear. It helps us gather information about situations and ourselves that we can use in the future.
I was happy I stuck to my initial goal, and I left the situation smiling. I put the experience in my back pocket, knowing I could use it as a building block for future difficult situations. Because they aren’t going away. There will always be Pats.
Change will not come without discomfort. If comfort is your main priority, expect to stay exactly where you are. It’s your choice.
Much love y'all,