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Today, we will wrap up the series that explores this idea: Discomfort is the currency of your dreams.

I’ll quickly recap what we’ve covered in the previous two articles (Part I, Part II) before diving into the best part: the antidotes!

I got the phrase, Discomfort is the currency of your dreams, from coach Brooke Castillo. I decided it would be fun to unpack it.


Growth Is Uncomfortable

When you think about it, most growth is inherently uncomfortable. That’s where that phrase, growing pains, comes from, right? With growing pains, we are referring to the actual physical changes that take place in a child’s body as she grows.

But, of course, there is so much more. There’s the emotional turmoil that comes with maturation. We can expect the same any time we grow dramatically or embark on a big change.

The Lizard

A lot of the discomfort is self-generated. It stems from the oldest part of our brain, often called the reptilian brain (because that’s when it developed, back when humans were in the beginning evolutionary state). I like to call this “the lizard.”

The lizard has one, and only one, job: 

Keep you alive. 

That’s all the lizard cares about. It also has a short-term focus. The lizard just wants to keep you alive right now. It does its job by maintaining homeostasis within your body and nervous system. It will fight for status quo at all costs, and it even plays dirty to do its job. 

If you’re alive right now, your lizard is doing an awesome job.

But the lizard was created at a different time in our evolutionary development. It is not particularly well-designed for our world now, so the lizard’s actions often seem misguided. 

The lizard causes a lot of the discomfort that you will experience as you embark on any kind of change, particularly something big, like pursuing your dreams.

The Four Discomforts

Last week, we explored four key discomforts that you might face:

1. The belief you don’t know what to do/how to do it

2. That feeling that you can’t do it, you’re bound to fail

3. The myth that you must do it perfectly

4. The fear that other people will abandon you if you do it.

Today, we’re going to explore some antidotes.

1.The belief you don’t know what to do/how to do it

Antidote: Find out! When you don’t know, search for an answer. But, don’t give yourself a long leash. Move quickly from ‘book’ learning to execution. You won’t learn nearly as much reading about something as you will by doing it yourself. Insight will come when you have to make adjustments and get to learn for yourself what works and what doesn’t. Consuming is not creating. 

One client of mine had dreams of going into a new field. Her plan was to start by getting a Master’s degree. I encouraged her to learn everything she could about the field before the program started. Talk to people doing the job, connect with them on LinkedIn, etc. Following my advice, she landed a part-time job in that field. To her surprise, she found out that it was actually quite boring. 

If my client had listened to her lizard, she might never have pursued the part-time job. She might have gotten stuck in the pattern of collecting credentials so that she would be ready. But collecting credentials is frequently not as helpful as learning through immersion.

Not being ready is a red herring. You’ll never be as ready as you can be. Never. And you know what? You will never find the perfect answer out there.

You can take six marketing courses that promote a fool-proof LinkedIn strategy. But only you know your perfect LinkedIn strategy — the one that works exquisitely for you and your business. And the only way you know it is to experiment. 

Try stuff and fail. You’ll never be ready. Get used to it.

2.That feeling that you can’t do it, you’re bound to fail

Military boot camps do an excellent job of taking raw recruits from undisciplined to warrior in a fairly short time.

They do this by transforming the individual, and a lot of it has to do with the recruit’s belief in him or herself. The bootcamp experience is designed to give recruits new experiences and to shape new habits that force them to drop old

conceptions about themselves. Soon they are doing things they never thought they could do.

The military does this within the cocoon of highly specified culture that supports the new behaviors and imbues those behaviors with meaning. Everything in the new recruit’s world revolves around values like discipline and honor. 

We can learn a lot from this example. I’m a strong proponent of the idea that thoughts create our reality, but here we see it can flow in the reverse order, too. Behavior and experience shapes the new recruit’s thoughts about herself. She starts to believe in herself as a new person. A warrior.

If you want to believe something new about yourself, create an environment supportive of that new identity. Be careful who you select as your tribe. 

I experienced something like this in business school. I was a bit of a b-school misfit, coming from a liberal arts background and not having had the traditional kinds of jobs that most business students already had on their resumes. A priority of the school was that we all land good jobs upon graduation, and they shaped us into candidates who would succeed.

The expectations and culture of school taught me I was a highly valued commodity in the job market. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I came out of business school arrogant, but I was also ready to shine in the workplace. 

The MBA experience gave me a boost in confidence that I desperately needed. The environment, the caliber of the people, the expectations, and the demands were all part of that shaping. 

Hang out with people who believe in themselves and learn to emulate them. Build a tribe of people who hold high expectations for themselves. Immerse yourself in a culture of success. 

Belief is contagious.

3. The myth that you must do it perfectly

One way for perfectionism to lose its luster is to realize the irrationality of it. There are few things in this world that will ever really be perfect in the objective sense. 

Perfect is almost always a value judgment. It is subjective. 

When a perfectionist looks at her work, she often does so through the lens of her limiting beliefs. When she looks through that lens, her work appears incomplete. It will never be complete. 

This assessment is not really about the task itself, it is a judgment of ourselves. Since many of us are less than perfect in our own minds, that’s how we judge our work. There are plenty of sources in our culture, like religion and advertising, that reinforce such beliefs. They teach us that there is some imperfection we must solve and that they have the answer.

One antidote to perfectionism is to choose to do imperfect work. Make it your goal.  

I tell my writing clients to write a crappy first draft. This concept absolutely liberated them. Their creativity increases and the quality of their work goes up. They create something that is better than what they would have produced had they aimed for perfection. Pursuing perfection for the writer just slows them down and stifles their creativity.

We can apply a similar concept to anything we attempt to accomplish in life. My coach calls it doing B minus work. If you aspire to write a B minus blog, you will probably do it faster than if you’re aiming for perfection. Doing it faster means you write more blogs. That means your message gets out more and you impact more people. Your blog helps no one if it’s just sitting on your desktop waiting to become perfect.

Sometimes setting out for perfection breeds procrastination. It’s hard to start a task that is burdened with unreasonable expectations.

Some people claim the perfectionism label with a bit of pride. I think it just belies an aversion to the discomfort that comes when we put our work out there and give ourselves the opportunity to learn from our experiences.  

4. The fear that other people will abandon you

Here’s the thing. You will never really know what other people think. Don Miguel Ruiz taught me that.

First, they might not know what they really think. For example, they might say something that they don’t completely agree with because they let their lizard do the talking.

This happened when I told my dad that I was going to go to business school. I thought he would be proud and excited, but instead he said, “Well, I’m not going to pay for it.”

I was deflated. The idea that he would pay for it was the furthest thing from my mind. I was 27 years old and planned to get a student loan. His comment was very alienating.

Now, I see it was his lizard talking. Those were his fears, not mine. Fortunately, I didn’t listen to him.

What other people think about you has more to do with them than you. You have no control over what they think. What they think is being influenced by a million things, only a part of which concerns how they perceive you.

And let me emphasize “perceive” because that’s as close as they can get to you. (Again, check out Don Miguel Ruiz). They can’t see you, they only see their perception of you. It’s an interpretation.

So, it’s pointless worrying about what anybody thinks.

Another thing to think about is where this notion comes from. Back when we lived on the savannah, if someone became separated from the tribe, they would die. Quickly. We couldn’t survive without each other. So, you know what that means – the lizard is all over this one. It’s the lizard that’s needling you about being accepted by others.


If your dream involves creating a new reality for yourself, you are going to have to become a different person to meet the challenge. Not an inauthentic version of yourself, but a deeper, truer version of yourself. You’ll have to become the person who believes you can achieve these dreams. You’ll have to become the person who has new thoughts, which trigger new feelings that lead to new actions. 

That’s how you create a new reality.

You’ll have to bring an unwilling partner with you on the journey of change. Your lizard brain. Know that your lizard has only your best interests at heart. It means well; it is just misguided. The lizard was created for a different world and hasn’t caught up to what is true today.

Since you’re a human, you’ve got a wonderful tool at your disposal. The reptilian brain is the oldest part of the brain. The neocortex is the newest part of the brain. A subsection of that is the prefrontal cortex (PFC) which makes decisions and issues orders. Other animals don’t have a PFC. It’s what makes humans special. 

So, as you go after your dreams, put your PFC in charge. Don’t listen to the naysayers who would hold you back, especially not your lizard.

I’m Dr. Kira Swanson and I’m a Life Coach for people who dread Monday. I work with corporate misfits who feel unfulfilled in their work. Together, we tune into what they really want, find new perspectives, and summon the courage to take bold action. Whether it’s striking out on their own, landing in a new job, or thriving right where they are, I help my clients to Love Monday.

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