Advancing, or getting different results than you’re currently getting, requires doing something different, which isn’t always comfortable.
How many people do you know who keep doing the same things and hoping for different results? We’ve all done it. Why?
Because it’s easier, and more comfortable, to do what you know. But we learn—and grow more effective—during periods of discomfort, which is exactly why we need to train in discomfort.
Here’s how I unintentionally trained in discomfort recently.
A good friend of mine told me about a spa that I had to experience. She went into elaborate detail about the healing nature of the various saunas, hot tubs, and treatments.
“It’s a full day experience,” Christina said, “and it’s thirty bucks.”
My partner, Yvette, had also heard great things about the spa from her aesthetician, who said we had to get the body scrub.
A full day of hot tubs, saunas, and body treatments? Sign me up!
We picked our date, and headed over to Security Mall, near Baltimore, Maryland.
Turns out, that mall is partially shut down, and the spa is located in the nearly deserted part.
There were giant “going out of business” signs over the entrance, the escalators weren’t running, and most of the lights weren’t on.
Clearly, this is going to be “a cultural experience,” I said to Yvette, as we made our way into the Korean spa.
We felt like we had been transported to another world. It had all the calming smells and relaxing music you’d expect of a spa. So, we scheduled our body treatments and headed back to the saunas.
They had a Himalayan salt room, jewel room, wood charcoal room, terracotta room, and even a cold room to cool off in between. It was nice, and very relaxing!
After a couple of hours of going back and forth between the various saunas and the cold room, we grabbed a bite at the spa’s Korean restaurant.
Stuff your face, and then go get a body treatment—great idea, right?
We headed to the hot tub area, which is behind the women’s locker room. To enter, you must remove clothing, and they request that you sit in the hot tub for twenty minutes prior to the treatment.
A while later, two middle-aged Korean ladies escorted us to a back area, where there were eight massage tables covered in heavy-duty plastic.
We stood there staring at each other for a good sixty seconds—they don’t know English and we don’t know Korean.
As I was trying to figure out where the sheets, face rest, and bolster were, one of the ladies looked at me and commanded, as she patted the table, “Sit.”
I didn’t want to be rude, or offend her. So, I lay down. Then, without warning, she took a bowl of hot water and threw it on me.
“Well, okay then,” I said, trying to make it clear just how uncomfortable that was.
She doesn’t speak English.
She put another bowl of hot water on the table between my feet, slipped on orange gloves, and started scrubbing my feet and legs with what felt like…brillo pads.
That was when I realized I had NO—zero—zilch—nada—NONE…defenses. Everything was wet. I couldn’t even grab ahold of anything. My very full belly was hanging out, and I couldn’t even sweet-talk her into being nice.
I was totally, and completely…defenseless!
And my manners would not allow me to jump up and run out of there—that would be rude.
Besides, Yvette looked like she was enjoying this experience.
“She must have gotten the nice one!” I thought, reminding myself that this was a cultural experience—I wasn’t dying!
Or maybe I was…of embarrassment.
My belly certainly didn’t need any more scrubbing! But of course, I couldn’t tell her that.
Yvette broke the silence: “Do you see those pellets on your table?”
I saw what looked like little pieces of tea.
“That’s your dead skin,” she said.
“And you couldn’t let me get through this experience before telling me that?”
“Nope,” she said, clearly enjoying herself.
She must have gotten the nice one.
At about that time, my lady said, “Flip.”
In my mind, “flip” means “turn over.”
In mid-flip, she grabbed my leg and pulled, forcing me onto my side.
My manners, once again, stopped me from blurting out, “That’s ‘side,’ lady, ‘side.’”
When she threw another bowl of hot water on me, it became abundantly clear why I needed those layers of skin.
“A little burn isn’t going to kill you, Misti. Besides, remember, you’re having a cultural experience,” I said to myself.
As she was scrubbing my arm, she suddenly dropped it. My arm flopped on the table, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought that this was a game for her. How hard can I get her arm to hit the table?
The laughter released my tension, and I remembered that I knew one phrase in Korean, “Kamsahamnida,” which means, “Thank you.”
“Kamsahamnida, Kamsahamnida, Kamsahamnida, Kamsahamnida, Kamsahamnida,” I started repeating, hoping she’d see that I really am a good person.
After I made it to the end of the torture—I mean body scrub—she pointed to a sign: “Tips not included.”
I had some tips for her—sheets, pillows, a face rest, and warnings—please!
Then it occurred to me that anyone with that job deserves a big tip! So I hooked her up.
That evening, Yvette read a blogger’s post about her Korean spa experience. “Koreans ‘relax hard.’ You’re like a fish being scaled,” the blogger wrote.
You should try it. Really. Not because being scaled like a fish is delightfully fun and relaxing—though some people have argued with me about that. Try it—or your own version of it—because you’ll have a chance to experience discomfort, on purpose.
If you want to reach new levels of success in your career, with your team, or for a customer, you have to try something new. Training in discomfort will help you build tolerance for it in all areas of your life.
Feeling the feelings of discomfort at that spa—and not dying—helped give me the courage to write posts like this, create videos, and plan for a big event in 2016. Learning about your body’s natural reaction to fear can actually make you less afraid.