What makes someone uncomfortable depends on the person, but what’s universally true is the value of recognizing boundaries and continually pushing them.
As Quora user Joos Meyer explains in response to the question, “What uncomfortable things such as cold showers can improve your life?” pushing your comfort zone is the key to self-improvement.
“I think the best methodology is to every day or week set a task or find a situation that makes you slightly uncomfortable. Do that thing. This will incorporate the experience into your model of ‘normality’ and hence expand your ‘comfort zone,'” he writes.
Here are some uncomfortable things that other Quora users say have helped them grow:
1. Question everything
“The most uncomfortable thing one can do is to question everything that is taken for granted and seek answers,” writes Malli Gurram. “Try to see the other side of the norm.”
2. Be honest
Being the most honest you’ve ever been with someone in your life will be one of the most uncomfortable things you can do, Ryan Brown says, but it could also be the most valuable.
To do this, he suggests writing a list of all the people to whom you have something — good or bad — to say, writing down the honest feelings you need to convey to them in a letter, handing the person the letter, and writing down what happened and how the experience affected you and the other person.
“If you’re being really honest, each letter you write should make you quite emotional as you are writing it,” Brown writes. “That is how you know you have tapped into your actual emotions and feelings — that it actually means something to you.”
“Don’t forget what you have learned from the experience,” he suggests. “Let it be with you forever.”
Oftentimes, slowing down and finding inner calm can be especially difficult for those of us who are constantly on the go and thinking of the next things we need to do.
But as Nathan Hershey points out, the benefits can include enhancing your cognitive capacity, emotional intelligence, and overall self-discipline.
4. Wake up extremely early
Ekin Öcalan loves to wake up before sunrise because it provides the perfect study-and-work environment. Waking at 5 a.m., while everyone else sleeps, is the perfect, albeit challenging, way to begin the day in silence, he writes.
5. Do something creative
“Many people say they want to be creative. Then they go home and binge watch TV episodes on Netflix while drinking red wine,” Mark Toole writes.
While fear of rejection and failure are powerful demotivators, having a creative outlet can do wonders for our bodies and minds. What’s more, “keeping your work to yourself also guarantees that nobody else will ever love it,” Toole notes.
6. Watch your pennies
Keep track of every penny you spend, from auto repairs and life insurance to coffee and french fries, for several months, suggests Bruce A McIntyre.
And try paying for everything you can with cash. “If you have to reach in your wallet and pull out cash, you will often think twice about how much you need something.”
You’d be surprised how much debt you can pay off when you literally watch your pennies.
Gurram suggests volunteering for a nonprofit or doing selfless deeds. Volunteering can make you feel like you’re part of something big, Gurram says, using volunteer experience with TEDx as an example.
“It was such an overwhelming feeling I had on the big day, being part of the community,” Gurram says.
8. Track what you eat
Keeping track of all the food you eat and all the exercise you do in a day can be challenging, but Tina Marshall says using her MyFitnessPal app helped her see the harm she was doing to her body.
“I didn’t realize how little of some nutrients I was getting and how much sugar and fat I was getting daily until I started to do this regularly,” she writes.
9. Eat only nutritious food
After you track your food, start eating only what is truly nutritious — Doug Whitney says this will change your life forever.
“The short answer here is to prepare your own food, eat organic as much as possible — yes, it’s expensive, but it’s cheaper than the medical bills and lost performance — focus on lean meats and veggies, avoid grains (they’re disastrous for most of us), and when you do eat something that isn’t good for you, notice the difference in how you feel. This is key!”
He says this will be uncomfortable for a number of reasons: It’s hard; it’s socially limiting; it can be more expensive if you are used to eating off the dollar menu; it’s not as tasty when you start, and it takes more time.
But he says the outcome is 100% worth the effort. “Being a weird health nut and outperforming everyone else is so much more fun than blending in — and that’s not just athletically. It’s mentally as well.”
10. Practice public speaking
It may be scary to think about, but you never know when you may be called upon to speak in public. Practice, while daunting, is the key to improving your communication skills.
Gurram recommends joining a nearby Toastmasters group or an improv group in your city: “It’s scary as hell until you realize that everyone around you feels the same.”
11. Talk to someone new
“See someone you’re interested in? Go talk to them,” Toole suggests. “The worst that can happen is an epically catastrophic rejection, which gives you something funny to talk about. That and increased confidence in your abilities next time.”
12. Leave your phone in your pocket
“How many times have you checked your phone while reading this? The last time you were at a restaurant or bar, how many times did you pull out your phone to look something up?” Toole asks.
There’s something to be said of taking a digital detox and allowing our minds to wander. Rather than reaching for our phones when we’re bored, research suggests that leaning into boredom can help make us more productive, goal-oriented, and creative.
Plus, it’s just good manners when you’re in social settings.
13. Pick just one thing to master at a time
Your approach to self-betterment might be trying as many things as possible and seeing what works. But Rob Hanna says using the opposite tactic, though uncomfortable, is key.
“Intention is the key to mastery,” Hanna writes. He explains this requires calling your shots and hitting them.
“The problem with most improvement seekers in life is that they really don’t know what they’re looking for, and then they keep casting about capriciously for the next new thing.”
If you’re constantly changing interests, he says, you’re never going to discover your own internal progress. “So pick one thing and become progressively committed to mastering it. It doesn’t matter what it is, anything will do, as long as you do.”
14. Accomplish an almost impossible goal
The most uncomfortable thing you can do, according to Rizwan Aseem, is to set and achieve a goal that’s harder than something you’ve ever done before.
To do that, he suggests you think about a thing you’re comfortable doing every day and amplify it until you get to a point where you become really scared of doing it. If you run a mile every day, the idea of running seven might terrify you. Set this as your one-year goal.
“The hardest part is to actually go out there and take the actions steps that will help you achieve this goal,” he writes.
“You will have to use all your mental and physical strength to actually get yourself to achieve this goal. But here’s the thing: Something very cool happens in your mind, your physiology, your internal makeup when you actually do this. You become invincible. You will be able to set any goal for yourself and then achieve it.”