Personal Development is Often Uncomfortable

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Jordan Harbinger #791


In this podcast Jordan talks to Mark Manson, the author of the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, which is now also a feature film under the same name. His follow up book Everything Is F*cked is another best seller and a superb read. Jordan and Mark also happen to be long time friends from before the book publications, which makes this episode even more compelling than usual.

These books were the first “self-help” books I had read for many years. They took me in with their simplistic way of evaluating modern life, why we are here, and how to make the most of what we have in these complicated times.

The whole podcast conversation is enlightening, amusing and truly educating. But for the purpose of this blog I will focus on what Mark says about personal development from 1hr 6min 50sec. He talks about how and why he came up with something he calls “Manson’s Law of Avoidance”:

“….. I was fascinated at the time as to how people don’t just avoid experiences that could have a negative impact on their lives. People also seem to avoid experiences that could have a positive impact”

“If you think about your anxiety levels, they’re actually quite proportional between something that scares you, and something that could actually change your life positively. This feeling also freaks you out a little bit, so you resist it and sabotage yourself”

“I was looking at what is the common thread there whether positive or negative”. Mark realised that “these are both events that threaten to change how you see yourself, threaten to change who you are”

“Whether it’s a negative event that threatens to change how you see yourself in an upsetting and uncomfortable way. Or a positive event that threatens to change how you see yourself in a way that opens up new opportunities but also raises such questions as; do I deserve this? Did I earn this? It’s another way of saying; anything outside of our comfort zone will strike us as terrifying regardless of whether it’s growth or destructive.”

“It says a lot about the self-help industry that many people have adopted the assumption that change and growth is like a holiday, like a picnic. It’s going to be euphoric. You’re going to raise your arms and cry and scream and sway and hug strangers.” 

“That view of self transformation is in fact very inaccurate. Because what actual growth looks like is really f*cking scary and difficult. Even when you’re on the other side of it, you’re not entirely certain you’ve made it”

“It’s really important to have a realistic perspective on that. Because if you’re not prepared for the negative emotions that come with a breakthrough or come with a certain amount of growth, then you’re going to fall back into avoidance and push everything down”

“There’s a constant tension between happiness and meaning. You need a certain amount of struggle and suffering in your life to feel a sense of growth. And that sense of growth will lead to a sense of meaning and satisfaction. Which ultimately leads to happiness. But you can’t just stay at that happiness level. You have to go back to the struggle and challenge so you can get that next sense of growth and keep that cycle going.”

“If you just have all happiness all the time with no struggle and no challenge, it feels empty and meaningless. It feels pointless”

“Whereas if you have all struggle and challenge with no happiness and no overcoming, you fall into despair.”

This will touch a nerve with many forward thinking life learners. We are stuck in this never ending loop of struggle, to growth, to success and back to struggle again. And when we look back at the most impactful moments of our lives, they are always ones of tough decisions.

I recently heard Chris Williamson say that most people’s regrets are not something they did, but something they didn’t do.

My Biggest Personal Growth Moments

This was exactly the reason I decided at the age of 21, to quit my extremely safe job with huge prospects, to pack my bag and come to Hong Kong. It was the thought of regretting not doing it that drove me to make that move.

When I reached middle management level, I had to overcome my single biggest fear. Being public speaking. 

I am of course aware that nobody likes public speaking, but my fear was particularly rational because of my stutter. Being bullied at school and working hard to overcome my stutter is one of my biggest achievements. And I did this through sheer force. Through picking up the phone at my first job in Hong Kong to talk to potential customers. To visit them face to face.

Then during my initial management years with M+R, standing up and making presentations in front of groups of people. If you have never had speech impediment, you really cannot relate to the sheer fear that runs through your whole body. 

But if I wanted to grow, I had to do it. So I did. I simply forced myself through to a point where I am now relatively comfortable making such presentations.

Future Struggles

We cannot sit still. We should never accept we have made it in life and it’s time to relax. I will never do that. Which is why I continually listen to podcasts and read books to learn from others. To widen my horizons and increase knowledge.

Sure it would be easier to congratulate myself and sit back. But I know the future has some fantastic hurdles to overcome when I finally leave the shipping industry and move into the health industry. That will be moving from a place of comfort and gained wisdom, to a place of discomfort and continued learning to gain that same level of wisdom.

First Principles Thinking

The future is exciting. If you are not entirely fulfilled with your job, your life, think about what you want to do without limiting yourself. Strip your thought process back to first principles thinking by imagining you are starting out again. What would you learn, what job would you want to do?

Remember, never in the history of man has anybody laid on their deathbed and wished they had worked harder at their job. 

You are only on this beautiful planet Earth once. So do not get stuck in the comfort zone, the beta paradox, where you are comfortable enough that you do not HAVE to make a change. But not uncomfortable enough to force a change.

Many people are stuck here, and before they know it life has gone and there is nothing they can do. It is never too late to learn something different, to do something which fulfils you and makes you happy, healthy and strong.

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