“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” — Napoleon Hill
During the Atlantic crossing, a lot of my negative inner dialogue was about how uncomfortable I was. Tendinitis in shoulders, saltwater sores on bottom, tippy boat, damp sleeping bag, grumble, grumble, grumble….
And there was the mental discomfort too – fear, boredom, self-doubt, self-recrimination, wondering why on earth this had ever seemed like a good idea. Every moment of every day – and night – was fraught with discomfort.
Then one day, as I was indulging in my usual whiny self-talk, the penny dropped. In the run-up to rowing across the Atlantic, whenever I was asked why I wanted to do such a thing, I would glibly trot out some answer about wanting to get outside my comfort zone.
And getting outside your comfort zone is, by definition, going to be UNcomfortable.
If I had wanted to get outside my comfort zone, I was succeeding in spades.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that the voyage was perfect in its imperfections. If all had gone perfectly according to plan, if I hadn’t have had all those problems, endured all that discomfort, I wouldn’t have learned half of what I did. It was the most intense learning experience of my life, precisely because it was so tough. At first I chose to suffer, but the one thing that I did have was oodles of thinking time, so eventually I figured out how to adopt a better, more resourceful attitude.
So now, if an experience is turning out to be something very different from what I expected, and not in a good way, I remind myself that it is the worst of times that have the most to teach me. I tell myself that at some point in the future I will be grateful for the opportunity to, once again, stretch my comfort zone.
P.S. The judicious use of really bad language, even if only in my own head, really helps too. e.g. “Thank you, Life, for another ****ing great learning experience”. 🙂