The Value of Getting Uncomfortable

Our family just returned from a two-week vacation rafting through the Grand Canyon.  The majestic river, desert hiking, and unplugged atmosphere were superb.  When asked about his trip, my thirteen-year-old son said, “It was awesome.”  With a twinkle in his eye he continued, “I did the most things that made me uncomfortable of any trip that I’ve taken.”  This came from a boy who’s biked through remote villages in Tanzania, climbed to 17,000 feet on Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked through the Swiss Alps, and kayaked with sea lions and whales.

Throughout the trip, he didn’t resist challenge (never a complaint), didn’t worry about outcomes (at least he didn’t voice them), and seemed to instinctually move toward things that were a little uncomfortable to him.  While he was reluctant to go through the legendary rapids, he held on tight and celebrated success.  During our numerous hikes through side canyons, he rose to the challenge of scrambling up rock and negotiating big exposure.  He even got up at 4:30am to do the challenge hike to Havasu Falls to see the turquoise water rush whimsically through the canyon.  While somewhat scared of heights, he jumped off cliffs into the flowing river and into pools below falls, beaming with excitement with each accomplishment.  During our silent group hike through a mystical canyon, he sat down, took his flute out of his backpack (our guide suggested he bring it along) and played (despite being shy about playing in public); the melodic sound reverberated off the walls and into my heart.

2015-07-17 10.16.16I hadn’t imagined how much pleasure, and growth, this trip would provide my son.  I simply thought it would be a great family adventure in an over-the-top beautiful environment.  To my delight, he seemed to walk away with a new level of confidence by choosing to challenge himself at every turn.

He reminded me of something.  If we put ourselves in environments that make us a little uncomfortable, and we are open to what happens, growth will likely occur.  Adventure is a catalyst for growth.

I have to admit, with little experience whitewater rafting, I was a bit apprehensive about the rapids we’d experience in the Grand Canyon.  And just like my son, I made it through with a beaming smile, and a feeling that I’d stretched myself in a new way.

While my family is accustomed to the life of remote camping, some rafters on our trip were adapting to two week of sleeping on the ground, washing in a muddy river, intense heat, fine sand infiltrating everything, and the communal aspect of living in the wilderness with a group.  These things also provided opportunities to be uncomfortable, and to grow.

Now that I’m back home, with all the many comforts, I hold tight to the gifts from being uncomfortable in the great canyon.

Showing 14 comments
  • Bonnie Cox Coone
    Reply

    Thank-you for sending me an update on what’s happening. Your words allow me to be just a small part of being with you and sharing your joy. God is so good & great.

    • Chris Fagan
      Reply

      Thanks for your continued interest Bonnie.

  • Lindsey Larson
    Reply

    Wow! Thank you for reflecting on this trip and providing such an amazing update. It just makes me smile to see K-man grow and experience the positive joys one can experience when we getting “a little uncomfortable.” I’m sooooo excited he played his flute and shared music with others in the group. I can only imagin the beauty of the sound echoing through the cannon! Love you all!

    • Chris Fagan
      Reply

      Thanks Lindsey – it is amazing to see Keenan growing up right before our eyes. I have a video of the flute playing I can share with you sometime to give you a sense of what it sounded like.

  • Lauren Ausmus
    Reply

    Wonderfully said, Chris – you have such a beautiful way with words. Glad your trip was such a growth opportunity for your son and your family! xoxo

    • Chris Fagan
      Reply

      Thanks so much Lauren!

  • Beverly Davidson
    Reply

    It’s hard to negotiate re-entry after The Grand. Very few adventures compare, as you know, to going somewhere remote, unspoiled and stripped of the distractions of our pampered lives. It’s funny to me that one of my most favorite things is the “bought shower.” Its significant being that it always occurs in the context of some epic adventure and feels luxurious like no shower at home ever does…
    Being uncomfortable is a blessing because it gives us perspective. Eleanor Roosevelt had it right when she said, “Do something you think you can’t.” It is so empowering. Keenan is so blessed to grow up with such amazing parents.

    • Chris Fagan
      Reply

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I agree the re-entry is always an interesting time. And thanks for sharing Eleanor Roosevelt’s words – she has said so many wise things!

  • Maren Van Nostrand
    Reply

    This post holds a lot of truths. I think comfort is wonderful, but diccomfort can be too! Just a thought: we can also use discomfort as a way to help use less water and fuel in our daily lives…make every day an adventure by attempting to enjoy more human powered travel and using other alternatives to home and travel comforts.

    • Chris Fagan
      Reply

      Great perspective Maren — I love the idea of making every day an adventure and all that could mean to us as individuals and as a society.

  • Meredith von Trapp
    Reply

    What a beautiful experience for your family! Validates the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone to experience growth and combine it with an epic adventure connecting with the natural world = amazing and life changing! I’m inspired to plan our next family adventure

    • Chris Fagan
      Reply

      Thanks Meredith. Yes, adventures, especially shared as a family, provide such deep and meaningful connection to each other and the world.

  • Sandy Heaslett
    Reply

    Chris – What a beautiful adventure. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and adventures – I loved your beautiful and meaningful message.

    • Chris Fagan
      Reply

      Thanks Sandy, glad you enjoyed hearing about our adventure. It’s so amazing what adventure can do for our lives.

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