Choosing Constructive Discomfort
Four years ago, I started coaching my son's
football team. It was a position I didn't
want. I was quite comfortable up in the stands.
"I can't demonstrate technique,"
I told the head coach who was recruiting me.
"Doesn't matter," he said. "Other
coaches can do that."
"I'm not sure about moving around on
the sideline," I said. "We'll bring
a chair, if we have to." No matter what
objection I offered, Mel countered it.
There was no doubt that I was signing up
for discomfort, but I also felt like there
was a reason that I was being called to this
opportunity, so I agreed.
Life often makes it easy for us to avoid
discomfort, especially constructive discomfort.
We insulate ourselves in an identity that
allows us to avoid challenges. We become that
employee who consistently extends just enough
energy to fulfill his requirements or that
parent who keeps just enough distance from
her child's activites that she doesn't have
to get involved. When we do that, our world
shrinks, and our potential remains just outside
Often, the reason that we don't put forth
that extra effort is because we want to avoid
discomfort. Doing something new and unfamiliar
exposes us to constructive discomfort - one
of the most powerful tools for personal development.
Growth requires discomfort. In order to grow,
we have to leave behind comfort. We have to
take on new quests, respond to new challenges,
face down our fears. We have to live to grow,
and grow to live. That's constructive discomfort.
Like I expected, coaching football was completely
uncomfortable and awkward at first. The 20
boys on our team were 10-11 years old, and
they came to us with varying degrees of football-playing
experience. Some could run and catch at levels
far surpassing their age, while others had
a difficult time even getting their pads on.
None of them were capable of putting together
an offensive or defensive plan, or drawing
up a play. If you are old enough to remember
that board game where you placed figurines
that resembled football players on a field
that vibrated, that's what the first couple
of weeks of practice felt like. Our goal was
simply to get our players moving in the right
direction before they spun around and fell
I quickly learned that I didn't have to be
Vince Lombardi to do a reasonable job of coaching
at this level. All I needed was an understanding
of kids, some organization and energy, and
a cursory knowledge of the game of football.
In addition to setting line-ups and helping
with strategy, I organized the practices and
parent communication. At practice and games,
I helped where needed. My body didn't allow
me to be a "rah-rah" type of coach,
but my involvement helped other coaches do
Because Patrick is in eighth grade, the final
year for club football, this was the last
year of my coaching career. Over the last
four years, he and I grew quite a bit together,
as we shared the highs and lows of athletic
competition, as not only father and son, but
as coach and player as well. It was a unique
and precious opportunity that I would have
missed out on had I not exposed myself to
Life is full of opportunities to experience
constructive discomfort. It's also full of
opportunities to avoid constructive discomfort.
Which option you choose often determines the
fullness of your life. Start or continue choosing
constructive discomfort today.