I was curious.
“What’s it REALLY like to run a marathon?”
In order to answer that question for myself, I decided to get uncomfortable. What I learned is applicable to all of us in retirement.
Sometimes you need to get uncomfortable to determine what you’re truly capable of achieving.
It’s time for you to get uncomfortable. Are you ready to embrace the discomfort?Training for a marathon was uncomfortable, but sometimes you need to get uncomfortable to see what you're really capable of achieving. Click To Tweet
It’s Time To Get Uncomfortable
In 2001, a buddy and I decided to run a May marathon in Cincinnati. Since 5 months of training are required, we agreed to start our training together on January 1st.
In Cleveland, Ohio.
In the snow.
It was uncomfortable.
For the next 5 months, every Saturday morning at 8:00 am, we both left our houses and rendezvoused on an I-90 overpass that was halfway between our homes. We’d head out together and conquer new routes, explore new roads, find new hills. Each week we added a mile to our previous week’s “long-run”, and we never missed a week. Like the post office, neither snow, nor hail, nor rain, nor sleet would stop us in our quest (and yes, we ran in all of those. It was a Cleveland winter, remember?).
As the weeks progressed, an interesting thing happened.
A distance that had previously been uncomfortable suddenly wasn’t. After two months, it didn’t even feel like we had started our run until we had crossed the 10-mile mark. Each week, the discomfort didn’t set it until a mile later than it had the week before.
Uncomfort is like that.
After experiencing discomfort for a while, the same effort no longer feels uncomfortable. In the case of our marathon training, it actually began to feel good. We felt no effort, no pain through 90 minutes of running.
Then two hours. Then two and a half.
Several weeks before the marathon, we hit our final “long-run” target of 20 miles. It didn’t get uncomfortable until the 19-mile mark. Amazing.
By intentionally making ourselves uncomfortable every week for 4+ months, the marathon was a success. I never walked and finished under my goal of 4 hours. By making myself uncomfortable, I was able to achieve something I never thought I would accomplish. I now know what it’s like to run a marathon. For the record, the hardest part of running a marathon is consistently hitting your long runs every week. Consistently making yourself uncomfortable. Going 16+ weeks without missing a long-run takes serious commitment, but that’s what it takes to complete a marathon.
Given the amount of discomfort I endured in my quest to run a marathon, I decided to memorialize my accomplishment with a poster, which I still have some 20 years later:
Why Retirement Is The Time To Get Uncomfortable
“Sometimes you need to get uncomfortable to determine what you’re truly capable of achieving.”
– The Retirement Manifesto
Retirement is a time in life to determine what you’re truly capable of achieving. That often requires discomfort. It’s also a rare time in life when you’re in control of deciding what you’d like to achieve. I call it “The Starting Line” for a reason. Retirement is the time to start your next chapter. To pursue your dreams. To achieve the things you’ve always wanted to achieve.
Retirement is the time to get uncomfortable.
Pushing yourself to achieve things you’ve never done before can be uncomfortable. But, just as I found in my marathon training, once you’ve experienced that discomfort you’ll find things suddenly become easier. Confidence increases. Your mind and your body respond to the discomfort.
Like the muscles in my legs through that cold Cleveland winter, you’ll grow.
If something interests you, pursue it. If it makes you uncomfortable, accept the challenge all the more. Take that first uncomfortable run on a cold Saturday morning, and come back next week for another. Follow-up on that curiosity to learn how to play the guitar. Sure, when you start those blisters will be uncomfortable.
Until they’re not.
Some Areas To Consider Getting Uncomfortable
Ok, so we’re done with the theory. What about some application? While far from an exhaustive list, here are some ideas for where you may ask yourself if it’s time to get uncomfortable:
1. Transitioning From Work
Let’s face it, it’s uncomfortable to retire. After years of a predictable routine, your world is upended on the day you retire. For some, it’s easier to stay in the workforce than it is to deal with the discomfort of the unknown world of retirement. If the only reason you’re staying at work is because of your fear of retirement, it’s time to get uncomfortable.
2. Finding Your Purpose
“Purpose” is one of those soft, fuzzy words that scares some people. I get it. What’s it really mean? How do I go about it? It’s uncomfortable to think about your life not having any meaning. If you’re having problems, consider reading my book, Keys To A Successful Retirement. Sure, reading it may make you uncomfortable, but isn’t it time to get uncomfortable and figure out what your Purpose is going to be in retirement?
3. Trying Something New
When I wrote my first post on The Retirement Manifesto, I was uncomfortable. I had no idea what I was doing and stumbled blindly through setting up this website, figuring out how to set up my Twitter profile, how to publish a post, etc. 5 years on, I can do it in my sleep. More importantly, I’m comfortable writing. In fact, I’ve discovered that I love to write. Had I not endured that discomfort, I’d have never found a passion I now enjoy in retirement.
I’m experiencing the same discomfort now as I start my new woodworking hobby in retirement. I don’t know much about it, but I’m learning fast and getting more comfortable around my man-eating saws. What was once uncomfortable is becoming a pleasure, not unlike what I experienced when training for that marathon.
It’s always hard when you’re trying something new. Don’t make discomfort your excuse to not try new things. It’s time to get uncomfortable. Stick with it. Just like hitting 10 miles was a breeze after a few months of running, most things get easier with time.
4. Getting In Shape
You’ve been thinking about it for years, but why haven’t you done it?
You may have started an exercise program, but gave up after a few weeks because it was uncomfortable. Those muscles hurt when you’re using them in ways that are new to them. Stick with it, it gets easier in time. Within a month, you’ll feel worse when you don’t exercise than when you do. Embrace the uncomfortable. Your life will be more enjoyable when you’re in better shape. More importantly, you’ll stave off the effects of aging and have more years of enjoyment before the inevitable decline begins. Getting in shape is one area where you’ll have immediate AND long-lasting effects. Endure the short amount of time you’ll be uncomfortable, and you’ll see the benefits for years to come.
5. Making New Friends
As I wrote in 20 Ways To Be Happier In Life, it can be uncomfortable making new friends. That awkward small talk as you seek to find common interests. That uncertainty about whether you should invite them over for dinner. All new friendships start between strangers, but a true friend is as comfortable as a warm blanket on a cold winter’s morning. Between the two extremes is a period of discomfort as you find ways to build your relationship. Maybe it’s time to get uncomfortable and invite someone to do something with you.
One final note: Just like I discovered during my marathon training, getting uncomfortable is easier with a friend. Consider inviting someone to join you as you seek out your first trial at getting uncomfortable. Are you going to decide to (finally) get in shape? Approach a friend, and ask them to go for a walk with you this weekend. Then, schedule your next walk before you head back home. Before you know it, the uncomfortable will become comfortable, and your friendship will become closer.
- The Virtue of Discomfort – Early Retirement Extreme
- Do You Know What Kills More Dreams Than Failure? John P. Weiss
Growth often requires getting uncomfortable. In time, that discomfort evolves into comfort as we learn new things. Retirement is an ideal time to get uncomfortable. Don’t run from discomfort. Rather, seek it out. Look for challenges that will require you to get uncomfortable. Your retirement, and your life, will be better for it.
Your Turn: Have you ever gotten uncomfortable in the pursuit of growth? What was the result? Let’s chat in the comments…