Life Skills for Turning Discomfort into Motivation

more difficult

We all encounter a degree of resistance in life, it’s simply unavoidable. But does it seem to you like life has been getting more difficult lately? Do you find that it takes more effort to accomplish things that used to be simple?

As life gets increasingly more challenging, we naturally need to learn more advanced life skills. To be effective, these new life skills should increase our ability to overcome greater challenges in a positive and productive way.

What life skills help you cope with challenges?

Everyone develops their own ways of coping with challenges. Some of them are productive, some are neutral, and some are destructive. The life skills we use to cope with life’s challenges will eventually define the direction of our personal growth and development.

If we use happy hour, drugs, anger, or depression as a coping mechanism, what will be the long-term effect on our personal development? And yet, for a growing number of people, these are their primary coping strategies for challenging situations.

Positive life skills for coping

We all have the ability to turn challenges into motivation and opportunity. If we learn to view each and every challenge as an opportunity for personal growth, we will be much more inclined to develop positive life skills to meet those challenges.

The more you learn to embrace the idea of personal growth, the more you will appreciate the valuable lessons that come from developing the life skills to successfully meet new challenges. Oddly enough, many of the most valuable lessons we will ever learn are the byproduct of challenging situations.

You can run, but you cannot hide!

Life will always present us with challenges, it’s up to us to decide whether that is a good thing, or a bummer. Our perception will determine our response, and ultimately our attitude toward life in general.

Do we see our circumstances as positive, or negative? Do we see insurmountable obstacles, or new and exciting opportunities? Do we welcome the chance to learn new life skills and grow, or do we just want to avoid anything that requires effort? Your answers to those questions will form the framework of your life.

The springboard approach

The two most powerful forces for change are moving away from pain, and moving toward pleasure. When some situation in life makes us uncomfortable, why not harness that energy and use it as a springboard for positive action.

Discomfort is a signal that some area of life needs our attention. If we complain about it, or try to hide from it, the discomfort increases. If we analyze the situation, and then take decisive action, the discomfort motivates us to move away from pain, and toward pleasure. Discomfort is a source of energy that we can use in a positive way.

How I use discomfort to create motivation

When I become aware that something in my life is causing discomfort, here’s the life skills I use to create a springboard response. First I agitate the discomfort by looking at the negative ways I am experiencing it. Then I acknowledge the direction I need to go in order to move toward a solution. Finally, I challenge myself, make a commitment, and use the discomfort as rocket fuel to accomplish my new goal.

I especially like to do this with fitness goals. While many people are content to allow their level of fitness to decline after the pass a certain age, the very thought creates adequate discomfort to keep me motivated. As a result, my continued progress has added to my motivation and determination. You see, with the right coping skills, discomfort really does become a source of energy that we can harness and use in a positive way.

Choose positive life skills for coping with challenges

To some degree we can work to simplify our lives and reduce the number of challenges we are exposed to. This can make a significant difference in our quality of life, but we will still face challenges! In the long run, adopting positive and productive life skills for meeting those challenges is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

Are you finding life to be increasingly more challenging?
What are your favorite life skills for coping with challenges?
The lines are open!

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  1. Steven Aitchison November 24, 2009 Reply

    Hi Jonathan, In my profession I see so many people turning to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism and it’s a challenge in itself (no pun intended) to try and let them see that there are other ways of coping with life.

    • Jonathan November 24, 2009 Reply

      Hi Steve, once someone learns to rely on such things it’s very hard for them to initiate change. Even so, I know that you are successful in helping some, and that’s extremely commendable.

  2. Rocket Bunny November 24, 2009 Reply

    I think you need to roll with the punches. Right now it is the holiday season and we are dealing with work, visitors, parties,traveling and fitting everything into 24 hours. Holidays can be stressful. They come the same time every year but still have a way of sneaking up on you. I think you need to learn how to say no and don’t bite off more then you can do. It is your holiday also and even if “YOU” aren’t talking holidays here, I think it is a very good example. You don’t need to feel smothered by tasks or invitations. Take care of what is important to you, your family and your true friends or associates will understand.

    • Jonathan November 24, 2009 Reply

      Hi Bunny, good point. Setting reasonable priorities is certainly a wise way to avoid unnecessary discomfort and stress.

  3. John November 24, 2009 Reply

    The easiest thing in the world is to escape our difficulties. We all have our favorite ways. They work for a while — and then…?

    Do we then reach for another escape, or do we learn, and instead choose a positive action? Those decisions are opportunities that occur every day — and every one of them is a defining moment.


    • Jonathan November 25, 2009 Reply

      Well said John, some people consistently choose escape rather positive action. Eventually this course leads to looking back on life and wondering why it wasn’t more meaningful. The term “defining moment’ is one we should contemplate deeply. What is defined by these moments? LIFE!

  4. Steve November 24, 2009 Reply

    I definitely feel that life is getting more difficult. With a new child and a mortgage on the horizon, things are going to be really hectic. Quite frankly, I need all the advice that your blog has to offer in the coming months :)

    • Jonathan November 25, 2009 Reply

      Hi Steve, keep smiling my friend. You have been blessed in many ways. Take time to focus on your blessings every day, and the rest will start to feel less hectic.

  5. Mike November 25, 2009 Reply

    More difficult, maybe. However two things do seem more certain: life is getting more complex and it is moving faster. The accelerated pace of the information age seems to be driving both of those factors. The increased speed and complexity then seem to drive change. So perhaps it is just a function of how well a given person can handle change?

    • Jonathan December 3, 2009 Reply

      Nicely said Mike, I agree with your analysis, thanks.

  6. Walter November 25, 2009 Reply

    Life has always been challenging, of course from the prospect of our mind. The problem with us humans is our tendency for control, we don’t realize that we cannot control the reality of life.

    Life is temporary, therefore we should learn its lessons. We will gain nothing if we resist it. :-)

    • Jonathan November 25, 2009 Reply

      Great point Walter, trying to control everything will not only make life seem more difficult, but markedly more frustrating as well. For the most part, control is a illusion. The one thing we can control is our perception of events and circumstances. And really, isn’t that enough?

  7. Robin Easton November 25, 2009 Reply

    Hi Jonathan, I read this and then immediately (like BunnyGotBlog) thought of the holidays coming up. As I once told you, my husband and I don’t do holidays. I didn’t do them for years when I lived in the wild. When I returned to society there was huge pressure to “do” the holidays…and other totally accepted ways of living like go to mall to shop and “hang”.

    My friends couldn’t understand that I’d rather take a picnic and go hiking, or inner tubing down a snowy mountain, or rafting, or nature photography, or compose music, or write another book, or other creative projects…instead of shop at the mall and “do lunch”.

    It was amazing the sometimes harsh judgment I received when I didn’t do all the holidays and busy-type things that maxed me out beyond belief. Even my friends would turn up at my door in tears they were so stressed from it, but unable to believe that they could give it up. I can understand this, as you were saying in your last post some things are so deeply rooted that we can’t fathom letting them go or we don’t know how to. After a lifetime of believing certain things we can become them.

    My point to this was that a few years ago I became very ruthless and picked up a big pair of pruning shears and started pruning everything out of my life that caused unneeded stress, overload, etc. There are enough things that I don’t have control over. And those things I learn to choose my way of responding to them and often the world just has to wait.

    PS: I loved the solid reality in your line: “….but we will still face challenges!” So many new-age schools of thought teach that if we have challenges that we aren’t doing “IT” right. We haven’t “arrived” yet. Phooey!! So it was good to have you put that out there solid and true. Also, love the part about transforming discomfort into positive energy. I strongly resonate with that. Also, l.

    • Jonathan November 25, 2009 Reply

      Hi Robin, I gave up all holidays about 20 years ago and have also received some harsh judgment for my choice. Interestingly, in the last few years I have noticed a shift in peoples reactions when they discover that I don’t participate. Quite a few have pondered my choice for a moment, and then said, “Wow, you’re lucky.” This tells me that the stress they are experiencing in relation to the holidays has overshadowed their feelings of joy and celebration.

      I choose continuous thanksgiving and gratitude interspersed with random acts of kindness and appreciation. Not because the calendar or tradition dictates it, but because I feel it. This of course is a personal choice, and I respect everyone’s right to celebrate life in whatever way they choose.

  8. Stephen November 25, 2009 Reply

    Hi Jonathan!

    “Isn’t technology supposed to make life easier, more affordable, and less complicated? Theoretically, life should be getting easier, not more difficult. Has that been your experience, or is the exact opposite true?”

    Technology is making meeting the needs of our daily existence easier, but it certainly isn’t making life overall easier. I think technology is creating such an unnatural environment for human beings to exist in that our minds and bodies can’t take it. We are not made to be connected 24/7, socializing through a computer, living in a concrete jungle, and up all night in the artificial lights. Our brains are exhausted from over stimulation of the unnatural kind.

    • Robin Easton November 25, 2009 Reply

      Wow Stephen!!! I am hugging you right not for writing this. It’s like you read the words in my own heart. I agree!! It is just soooooo refreshing to see this here as I often think….”Am I the only one who feels this way?”

      I too see this unnatural environment. Especially having lived wild for so long I HAVE to shut down and literally IGNORE what is coming in. People don’t always like it. But the internet is sooooo huge and allows us to connect with FAR more people than we could in our lives w/o internet. The demands or pull (if we let it) could devour us like some crazed monster. Luckily for me I am NOT addicted to it, not even close. I need it for work, but otherwise could walk away and not bat an eye doing so.

      Thank you for this truly dynamic comment. It means the world to me. Robin

      • Jonathan November 25, 2009 Reply

        Stephen, I totally agree with Robin, hugs and all. This unnatural environment plays weird games with us on very core levels. It also seems to be addicting! Balance may take some effort, but that is true in every area of life. I want to quote you, just to let the full value of your observation sink in:

        “I think technology is creating such an unnatural environment for human beings to exist in that our minds and bodies can’t take it. We are not made to be connected 24/7, socializing through a computer, living in a concrete jungle, and up all night in the artificial lights. Our brains are exhausted from over stimulation of the unnatural kind.”

        What a powerful statement. thank you!

  9. timethief November 25, 2009 Reply

    Heck no is my answer to the title of this post. I gave up trying to live up to the expectations of others decades ago. I am free of the rat race mentality of hurry, hurry, hurry – buy, buy, buy messages that prevail in the consumer driven society I left behind.

    I astonished my friends, family, co-workers and employer when I quit my job, walked away from the government employee benefits package and pension plan, and moved to a remote location.

    Here I live consciously. My lifestyle is a cabin in the woods basic and frugal one in close connection with nature. I have never looked back with longing at the pressures of the urban life I left behind. I celebrate doing my own thing in my own way each and every day.

    Last week and this week too, I had a notebook, pencil and flashlight, so despite the driving rain and gale force winds causing trees to fall over powerlines I was still able to create blog posts and have them ready to publish when the power was restored. And, if I hadn’t been able to write them in pencil, then I would have written them on the backs of my eyelids. :)

    • Jonathan November 25, 2009 Reply

      timethief, I am so glad you shared these details of your life. I to live in a remote area surrounded by forest. It’s refreshing, and rare, to meet someone else who pulled the plug on urban life. My move was almost 37 years ago. Congratulations on being so well grounded.

  10. Vin November 25, 2009 Reply

    Great article, Jonathan!

    I think two important reasons why many people are finding life to be increasingly difficult are:

    1. Unrealistic expectations and taking on too much responsibility.

    2. Unhealthy habits that alter emotions and reduce physiological ability to cope with stress.

    In either case, I think your message to use discomfort as a form of motivation is a great one!

    • Jonathan November 25, 2009 Reply

      Hi Vin, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment on both counts. To compound matters, I think that many are dealing with both of these at once. It’s a deadly combo.

  11. Karlil November 25, 2009 Reply

    Hey Jon. In the past, I had a hard time coping with depression. These days, I’m doing better as I’m more control of my thoughts. I think it’s important to acknowledge that misery and pain cannot be avoided, and at some point, it will come to you no matter how lucky, happy and positive you are. In the end, it’s all a matter of how one choose to accept the reality that has been laid out in front of him. Safe to say, I have been coping well, at this point.

    • Jonathan December 3, 2009 Reply

      Hi Nik, coping is a skill we develop as we continue to face challenges. Sounds like you’ve got a good handle on it.

  12. John Duffield November 27, 2009 Reply

    Top of the morning/afternoon/evening to you Jonathan! Thanks for another interesting and informative article. Over the last 30-40 years I’ve watched this technology tsunami arrive and wondered. I see kids today spending virtually all their time playing monolithic violent games or twiddling smartphones to create too many texts. Some youngsters of my aquaintence haven’t seen sunshine for months….and don’t have a clue what it’s like to scuba dive or bicycle across the country. But I’ve also noticed the “confusion” you speak of here. A curious example is in the food we eat. Pretty much every day you’ll see people on T.V. pitching additives or foods that supposedly keep various diseases at bay. How can we choose amongst all the health tips real and bogus out there? Soon you and I will have to take college courses just to learn what to eat. Then there’s the vast sea of success and happiness advice hurled into our lives by a supreme example of technology. The internet. If you want confusion, this sucker is the place to go for it. The internet offers a gazillion choices for anything. Bottom line? We’re snowed under by choices and it’s getting worse by the day. Even so, in truth technology has nothing to do with our “coping angst”. Certainly there are literally millions of folks out there desperately seeking direction for their lives. And for sure the rise of technology has spawned choices faster than anyone can keep up with them. But the problem is this. The direction everyone needs for their life is not out there in the techno-landscape. It’s “within” each of us and we must learn how to let it out. A little analogy will illustrate what I mean. Imagine someone trying to find their way home through the woods as it begins to snow. As snowstorm gets worse, the innumerable flakes get in the way of the trail ahead and this person is lost. But now imagine he or she has an “internal compass”. Now it doesn’t matter how dense the snowstorm is, because this man or woman doesn’t need the “external landscape” to show him or her the way home. Same for you and I in this increasingly complex technological world we’re in. If we don’t have our own “internal compass” to guide us, we’ll just be confronted with too many choices and no way to decide amongst them. We might think our problem is in a technology that dumps so many options on us. But it isn’t. Our problem is…..we haven’t learned what keeps our internal compass from coming back into our lives. Keep up the great writing Jonathan. Like one of your readers said…..there are people needing good advice like yours on every street corner these days. Ciao. John Duffield

    • Jonathan November 28, 2009 Reply

      Thanks for the great comment and encouragement John. I really appreciate your contribution.

  13. Frugal Expat November 27, 2009 Reply

    I like the idea of using discomfort to creative motivation.. Thanks for the insightful post..

    • Jonathan December 3, 2009 Reply

      Hi Cyra, It’s a tried and true way to move away from anything. Just give it a strong, negative emotional anchor, and you’re out of there.

  14. Dragos Roua December 2, 2009 Reply

    Yes, sometimes life gets difficult. My approach is to eat up the discomfort and move on. Discomfort is part of our life and it surely has its role…

    Positive motivation stems for me from service while negative motivation stems from fear.

    • Jonathan December 3, 2009 Reply

      I love this quote: “Positive motivation stems for me from service while negative motivation stems from fear.” Thanks Dragos!

  15. Lana December 2, 2009 Reply

    This is the question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately – Do I welcome the chance to grow, or do I just want to avoid anything that requires effort? You literally read my thoughts Jonathan. This post resonated with me greatly, thank you!

    • Jonathan March 25, 2011 Reply

      Hi Lana, I am pretty sure that dream followers always welcome the chance to grow!

  16. Steve June 22, 2010 Reply

    I listened to a beautiful podcast recently about ‘struggle.’ The way we look at struggle definitely influences how we will deal with it. Struggle is a sign that either a) we have set some worthwhile goals, and are alive and growing or b) that we are unwilling to ‘roll with some of the punches’ that life brings. The road to great living is a roller coaster. We can’t expect to always go up with never coming down. Your 90 day challenge is a great example of thriving instead of just surviving.

    • Jonathan March 25, 2011 Reply

      Hey Steve, what an insightful saying: “The road to great living is a roller coaster.” That’s also where the excitement lives.

  17. Daniel Brenton May 5, 2013 Reply

    Jonathan —

    What I see is a major theme in our life is not so much that technology is making things worse, but that technology is a sort of enabler, in that we see more of our own nature through it. Cybercrime didn’t exist 20 years ago, identity theft was much harder, and government agencies can stick their noses into our business much easier (and with less accountability) than ever before.

    What we’re seeing are new pathways for greed, addictive behaviors, and the lust for power to express themselves. Obviously, I don’t feel the technology is in itself evil or negative; what’s evil is how we (as a species) use it.

    Having said all that, I will concede that technological advances can be a sort of trap, in that once a big achievement is accomplished, then everyone has to have it, and it becomes much more difficult to dial the clock back. (Think of, for example, nuclear weapons or surveillance drone technology, the latter of which we are seeing spread much to America’s chagrin — but probably not the contractors that created the stuff!)

    On the flip side, if the internet hadn’t been created, I would never have heard of you. And that would have been a loss for me, and I’m sure many others feel the same way.

    How this can be used positively? It does seem to me that we can use technology as a way of seeing our own nature magnified and learn from it accordingly. That’s all I can suggest at the moment.

    – Daniel

  18. alaa March 19, 2014 Reply

    We are who make any technology easier or difficult cause our actions that played the most impotant role people do wrong and then simply related our faults on technology

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