Transcend Difficulty By Practicing Discomfort

If you do something difficult every day, when unexpected difficulties arise, you will have had lots of practice at dealing with them.

None of us wishes to live in difficult times. If anything, we tend to do everything in our power to shore ourselves up against and to avoid difficulty, seeking comfort and convenience in whatever forms we can. The funny thing about life, though, is that what we want and what we have control over is a relatively small fraction of what we will actually experience from day to day and year to year.

Obviously, we cannot prepare for every contingency of difficulty we may face in our lives, and those of us who try to tend to miss much about life that truly makes it worth living: the joy, the spontaneity, and the pleasant surprises. We can, however, prepare to be uncomfortable. We can do things that are intentionally difficult, that push us past our perceived or self-defined limitations, and that we are not good at, that we will fail at over and over on our way toward improvement, and that will force us to grow, not so that we can avoid the inevitable challenges that arise, but so that we are more robust and ready for them when they do.

By choosing difficulty in the good times, by facing it day to day in whatever form it happens to take for us, whether through strenuous exercise, martial art training, strict dieting, or even facing our fears through public speaking, sitting quietly alone, or venturing out in business or investing, we become used to discomfort, what it feels like to live with it, and what it feels like to overcome it. Intentionally facing and overcoming difficulty prepares us, not necessarily for the specific challenges we will face when uncertainty is upon us, but for the mindset we will need in order to transcend the obstacles in our path. Preparation gives us confidence and practice is the means by which we become prepared even for unforeseen difficulties.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh (artist unknown, unless otherwise noted).

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