Embracing Discomfort: The Surprising Path to a Meaningful Life

Discover how engaging in challenging yet meaningful activities can lead to a more fulfilling life. Psychologist Diana Hill shares six strategies to help you lean into discomfort, cultivate resilience, and expand your flexibility.


There are a lot of paradoxes in psychology—the harder you try to fall asleep, the less likely you will; the more you try to avoid thinking negative thoughts, the more likely they will pop into your head; and according to newer research, your greatest meaning in life can come from your greatest pains.

As a clinical psychologist specializing in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), I’ve spent many therapy hours straddling the spaces of pain and meaning. As Steven Hayes, founder of ACT, shared with me on Your Life in Process Podcast, “You hurt where you care.”

Let’s try an experiment to illustrate this coupling. Consider the following activities: Go through the list below, mentally check off those that are both uncomfortable and meaningful.

Saying no to people, projects, and activities when your plate is full Resolving a conflict with a family member Listening with an open mind to someone who has a different political view than yours Waking up early to move your body, even when you are exhausted and it’s dark outside Completing a challenging workout, race, or other physical task Visiting a loved one in the hospital Staying at an event when you feel socially anxious