Pain is your reward 🏅

Why Short-Term Discomfort Leads to Long-Term Success?

Bálint Gáspár

4/13/20235 min read

woman lifting barbel
woman lifting barbel

Yes, you read that right. Don't run away in fear just yet, because I'm here to explain why this is actually a good thing. 😉

A few articles earlier, in ,,Flow in Language Acquisition" I wrote about the concept of how crucial is to find the right material, which is challenging enough to improve your language, but isn't too challenging to hinder the development. Not only do we need to determine our current skill level, but we also have to accept that this level is constantly changing as we improve our skills. In addition to all this, we naturally want the fastest possible improvement to stay motivated. As you approach the danger zone, progress speeds up, but so does the proximity to the point of frustration in the process what may hinder consistency.

Unfortunately, pushing to the limit is not quite effective for us, language learners. At this juncture, it is crucial to emphasize Stephen Krashen's concept of the "affective filter" in language acquisition. Now, pay close attention, as I will explain my perspective on where traditional language teaching in schools falls short.

The affective filter in language acquisition refers to the emotional barrier that can either help or hinder language learning. When the filter is low, learners are more open and receptive, but when it's high, it blocks learning. Factors like motivation, confidence, and anxiety affect the filter. A low filter is beneficial, as learners feel relaxed and engaged, while a high filter hampers progress. Creating a supportive and positive learning environment helps lower the affective filter. This is step 0 when I teach a language. Keep the affective filter as low as humanly possible by choosing the right material, simplify my language to the current level of the learner, and create a relaxed, friendly environment. A high affective filter can hinder language learning. Anxiety, fear, and lack of confidence can impede progress and limit engagement.

Instructors and teachers must create a supportive environment that fosters trust, reduces anxiety, and encourages active participation. Lowering the affective filter enables learners to be more receptive, take risks, and develop the necessary skills in driving or language acquisition. I've added two different diagrams to sharpen the concept. We can call it flow state or growth zone, the concept is all the same.

In short, when learning a language, it's important to always be closer to your comfort zone than your danger zone. This is why we say that good comprehensible input material starts at 90% comprehension. But what about other areas of life?

All that being said, I want you to look at discomfort like the zone line sign of your growth zone, leaving your comfort zone. On the other hand, pain is a sign that you are leaving the growth zone for the danger zone. If you happen to be highly competitive you don't call it danger zone, you call it super growth zone. You pay for faster progress with frustration, pain and a lot of sacrifice, which is a totally legit decision in my opinion. I am not here to judge anyone. Not because I am an exceptionally moral person, it just consumes too much cognitive energy. :)

I would like to address another quite important feature of these zones. They are constantly shrinking if you don't push them. In life you either go down or up, there is no such thing as standing still. Or if you want to stay stagnant, you have to make an effort to stay at the same place. That is why you have to cultivate your friendships, relationships, practice and improve the languages you know.

Navigating the Notches: From Discomfort to Pain in the Growth Zone

The Power of the Trigger Move: How a One-Second Action Can Transform Your Life

So, how do we make this process a little easier? By implementing what I like to call the "trigger move." This is the moment when you start the action that is almost irreversible. For example, if you want to take a cold shower, the trigger move is simply opening the cold water. Don't think about how inconvenient this experience is going to be. Your only job is to open the cold water and enjoy it. If you want to wake up early, the trigger move is standing up and staying on your feet for a few minutes next to your bed. Don't think about all the tasks what you have to accomplish along the day. Don't let the little bi*ch inside your head to play the ,,My difficult life" cinema. Believe me, that little fu*ker already got the popcorn ready. 😅 If you want to start learning something new, the trigger move is setting a timer and starting the first task. If you want to speak to new people, including making those dreaded cold calls, the trigger move is simply starting the call. This can be a literal one-second action, but it sets the stage for the rest of the experience.

If the term "pain" sounds too extreme, I highly recommend actively seeking out inconveniences on a daily basis. Reasonable discomfort leads to long-term happiness, while short-term pleasure often results in long-term misery. It's perfectly fine to push your limits just a little bit every day, and remember that even small efforts add up over time. The best thing about constantly pushing your comfort zone is that what was painful half a year ago may now be just really uncomfortable. What was in your growth zone half a year ago is now a comfort zone and what was a danger zone half a year ago is now the middle of the growth zone. So, are you ready to embrace pain as your reward and start living your best life? It may be uncomfortable at first, but trust me, it's worth it. Don't let your fear of pain hold you back - embrace it and see what amazing things you can achieve. Who knows, you may even find that you start to enjoy the challenge.

Most importantly, enjoy the process because it's a really awesome experience. Don't blow your inconveniences way beyond proportion and turn them into epic tales of pain. Believe me, they are not that dramatic. Enjoying the process makes everything so much easier and more fun.

person raising right hand under blue sky during daytime
person raising right hand under blue sky during daytime

Final Takeaways

  • Determine and accept your current skill level, embracing the fact that it evolves with improvement.

  • Progress accelerates near the danger zone, but be aware of the proximity to frustration.

  • Push beyond your comfort zone for personal growth and development.

  • Stay close to your comfort zone when it comes to language learning to prevent raising your affective filter and keep your brain receptive.

  • Use the "trigger move" to initiate actions and make the process easier.

  • Embrace reasonable discomfort for long-term happiness, avoiding short-term pleasure traps.

  • Enjoy the process, finding joy in inconveniences and not exaggerating them as painful.

  • Remember that little efforts add up over time.