We Need Discomfort to Force Us to Learn and Grow

When it’s time for baby birds to learn to fly, the mommy bird puts sticks and thorns in the nest. She makes it uncomfortable to stay where they are, so they’ll become who they were created to be. Evidently, humans are a lot like birds. We, too, need discomfort to force us to learn and grow.

Oh, sure, we can learn in other ways. We can takes classes. We can read books. We can even earn a highfalutin Ph.D. The education will have value, yet there is a difference between acquiring information and receiving learning.

Education affects what we know. Learning affects who we are. We might know a great deal, but until we integrate that knowledge into a lasting change in behavior, we have learned nothing.

That is precisely why we need to experience discomfort. Just like those baby birds, our behavior only changes when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of learning a new way of being.

Albert Einstein said you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it. Since I keep trying to do exactly that, obviously I’m no genius. Maybe that’s why it takes outside influence, in the form of uncomfortable pokes and prickles, for us to learn and grow.

When I’m deep in the throes of discomfort, I’d give anything to avoid the pain. But, then, something amazing happens. If I don’t resist the learning, but instead lean into it, I come out on the other side changed.

My lesson in stop trying to figure out other people’s behavior was a very painful learning (not only for me, but also for the person I was psycho-analyzing). Looking back, I wish there would have been a way for me to learn it without that pain. Since there wasn’t, I’m just grateful I learned it at all.

Now that I’ve learned it, I can’t imagine how I managed to stay sane during all those years spent making myself crazy with obsessive speculation. In fact, maybe I haven’t. Maybe it took my recent painful learning to catapult me back into the land of the lucid.

Now that I’m here, I can’t help wishing I would have learned the lesson long ago. I think “if only I’d known then what I know now, I could have avoided all that pain.” Yet, you can’t know what you don’t know until you know it.

I’ve known that for a long time. What I didn’t grasp until recently is this – I’m not the one in charge of my learning. That is God’s job. He will get me where I need to go, and he will get me there by whatever means he chooses to provide.

It’s only natural to want to avoid suffering. Even so, the lessons we learn through the pain of discomfort are often the very things that equip us for success. Just like those baby birds, being forced out of our comfort zones is where exponential growth can occur.

It will feel foreign. We will flutter and flail. We may even crash a few times. But, before long, we’ll discover . . . we were always meant to fly.