Years ago I subscribed to Runner’s World magazine, and though my subscription lapsed (you can only read the same “train for a 5k in only twelve weeks” article so many times) I still get their “quote of the day” email every morning. I especially liked today’s quote.
“You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.”
Percy Cerutty, running coach
Cerutty was most famous for coaching John Landy, who was himself most famous for being the guy who lost the “Miracle Mile” to Roger Bannister. You know, glance over your left shoulder and the guy passes you on the right. This was back when everybody cared about track, because Bannister had just run the world’s first four-minute mile, and Landy ran the second.
It reminded me of a similar tidbit of wisdom I heard from an unlikely source recently. Madonna’s ex-husband, Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels director) was interviewed in Esquire, and related to the interviewer three pieces of “life wisdom” he had accumulated. The first one stuck with me.
“You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
I keep thinking about that, and mentioning it to people. I believe one of the big things that goes wrong with people is they get too scared of being uncomfortable.
It’s hard to exercise, so they don’t do it and they become frail, couch-bound, or have cardiovascular problems.
People hate the idea of saying “no” to even one of their own cravings, so they drink too much, eat too much. I don’t have to tell you what lurks downstream from that lifestyle.
Both quotes are saying the same thing. You have to keep a certain level of comfort with the notion of discomfort, of straining or stretching or reaching. This applies to athletics, to creative work, and really to all areas of life that matter. It’s easy to fall into a groove, to feel numb and comfortable and just coast along, and fail to recognize life is passing you by and nothing very interesting is happening any more.
I say you have to open yourself up to life, consciously engage with it, and be willing to feel uncomfortable sometimes. It’s good to sometimes feel scared, or very hungry, or hot, cold, or exhausted.