As a kid, I remember being at the YMCA and standing on the diving board over – what I was sure was – freezing water. I stared down at my reflection nervous not about the jump, but the cold water. The shock of having my entire body suddenly engulfed by the sudden cold was enough to give me pause. Someone yelled out, “Go ahead and jump! It will only sting for a second!” So, I gathered myself and jumped.
This memory brought up a question: do we intentionally avoid conflict or discomfort? On the surface, we may think we do, but I think most of the time we engage and interact because of discomfort rather than in spite of it. The satisfaction we feel when delving into something we don’t control and then finding a connection within it is gratifying at some level. Consider the fact that everything you have ever learned came from that kind of uncomfortable confrontation. You were in a situation where you found yourself challenged and you decided to face that challenge and engage with it. I think that’s at the core of our humanity.
These engagements are primal, even though we often choose to face the world from the comfort of a warm cave. They could be as significant as confronting an enemy, scaling a mountain or parachuting out of a plane. But most of the time it is as small as getting up in the morning to go to work or visiting a doctor.
Engaging inner conflict and finding even the smallest thing that could lead to a solution is satisfying and familiar to us in many ways. Now, if you take that concept of our natural need to solve a problem and act with that understanding while engaging with people, you will see that avoiding fear and discomfort is likely a bad strategy. Challenging yourself to find something manageable and familiar in a puzzle is at the core of effective communication and problem-solving. Our conflicts are a big part of our life experience. It’s what drives us forward in a meaningful way.
Those who confront conflicts the most tend to be more successful because of their heightened level of risk tolerance developed from their willingness to take chances. You can live in the extreme without needing to stare potential death in the face. You can do it by facing life and fearlessly moving forward. You are not someone who, at times, tries to solve problems. Lastly, you are a problem-solving machine that is limited only by your conscious choice to engage problems based on their level of difficulty. So it’s important to remember, “Go ahead and jump! It will only sting for a second!”
Alex Raffi serves as creative director at Imagine Communications.