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Living Life On The Edge: How Embracing Discomfort is The Key to Personal Growth

Author: Peter Alternative

I’ve been blessed in many ways, including the joy of having two healthy sons. My older son and I shared the wonderful adventure of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro when he was twelve years of age. Looking back, everyone on our trip, myself and son included, agreed that the day we reached the summit was one of the most challenging days we had ever experienced.

We had begun our summit attempt at 11PM the night before, with only our headlamps and the stars to light up our 5,000 ft. ascent to reach Uhuru Peak. As if the elevation gain at high altitude was not taxing enough, we had 40-50 mph winds that took the already freezing temperatures down to well below zero. I will never forget my son turning to me during one of our rest stops, about 3 hrs. into our 8 hr. ascent, and saying “Dad, I’m so cold, I can’t feel my feet. I want to go back down, I can’t do it”.

My son had thrived on this journey up until that point, gaining enormous confidence in himself along the way. But in that moment he had transitioned into his discomfort zone, finding himself at a point where in order to continue, he had to look inside himself and find resilience. After some hot ginger tea and active warming exercises to ensure that there was no real danger of hypothermia or frostbite, we agreed to embrace the discomfort and continue our ascent. About an hour later, as the night transitioned into day, my son forgot all about being cold, and led the expedition to the summit.

The day after our summit we asked our guide; “why did we start the ascent in the dark?” He responded that experience had taught him that the summit success rate dropped precipitously when hikers started their ascent in the daylight, because they could see how far away the summit was and their minds often convinced their bodies they could not do it.

In the immortal words of Wim Hof, who is otherwise known as the Iceman, “ You are stronger than you think you are”. This statement is consistent with my experiences overcoming challenges in the outdoors, and is therefore one of the founding pillars of the Sherpa of Souls mission. Overall, research suggests that stepping outside your comfort zone can have a range of benefits, from increased creativity and performance to greater resilience and self-confidence. While it can be uncomfortable or even scary at first, taking on new challenges can ultimately help you to achieve your goals and reach your full potential.

That said, we work very hard to ensure that our clients are safe and stay outside of their danger zone. It is the sweet spot between comfort and real danger, where discomfort can provide a sense of awakening to how little time we have to experience life, and the importance of seizing novel experiences.

In fact, I just finished a really interesting book by Michael Easter called The Comfort Crisis, which makes the case that we all could benefit greatly from adding a little more discomfort to our lives. With an investigative journalistic style, Mr. Easter has filled his book with amazing anecdotes intertwined with tangible medical research. It is a great read, and I highly recommend it, if you are looking to further explore this topic.

Sherpa of Souls retreats aspire to use this discomfort strategy, and support our guest’s efforts to push beyond their comfort zones to experience personal learning and growth. We aim to help you get beyond the perceived limitations of the mind, and into the boundless opportunities that exist when you embrace the discomfort.

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