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-betterment.
“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 have found 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.”
3. Wake up extremely early
Ekin Öcalan loves to wake up before sunrise because it provides the perfect study-and-work environment. While everyone else sleeps, waking at 5 a.m. is the perfect, albeit challenging, way to begin the day in silence, he writes.
4. Watch your pennies
From auto repairs and life insurance to coffee and french fries, keep track of every penny you spend 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.”
7. 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. “Its scary as hell until you realize that everyone around you feels the same,” he writes.
8. 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.”
9. 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.”