Monday November 20, 2017

Amanda Lang on the value of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable

Journalist, author and business expert Amanda Lang's latest book, The Beauty of Discomfort, examines how seeking out uncomfortable situations is a catalyst for personal growth.

Journalist, author and business expert Amanda Lang's latest book, The Beauty of Discomfort, examines how seeking out uncomfortable situations is a catalyst for personal growth. (HarperCollins)

Listen 13:29

In her latest book, Amanda Lang explores the importance of something most of us avoid at all costs — discomfort. The Beauty of Discomfort: How What We Avoid Is What We Need is the business journalist and host of Bloomberg North's second book, which examines how and why discomfort, is essential to success.  

Amanda Lang speaks with Shelagh Rogers about the physiological and psychological reasons that make change so hard.  

Wired against change

"We all have lists — I certainly do — of things I know I want to do and that I know would be good for me, yet I don't do them. So I started to ask the question, 'Why don't we change?' After months and months, the answer was neuroscientific — we are wired against it. When we're wired against something, operating counter to that is not just slightly uncomfortable, it's actually really difficult because it goes against our very brain chemistry."

Discomfort is essential for growth

"We don't let ourselves feel physical discomfort. We've even taken this extra step where we don't let our children feel emotional turmoil or discomfort. We don't like to see them struggle and it's in that struggle, that human beings learn how to tolerate the limits of what they're capable of and push a little bit further."

The athlete's approach

"Athletes aren't more naturally predisposed to pain tolerance than anybody else, but they are able to withstand pain for a few different reasons that we can learn from. One thing is they monitor their pain and they know when the discomfort becomes a signal of something negative, which is important because not all discomfort is good. But they also have a series of mental strategies that we can learn from. One of the most important is simply a mindset that says, 'I can do this. I can withstand this.' That's something we can adopt when we're going through a big change."

Amanda Lang's comments have been edited and condensed.