How Discomfort Can Help You Discover Your Infinite Possibilities

Biological Engineer By Samantha Sutton, PhD
Biological Engineer
Samantha Sutton has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT as a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow. She has presented her life design philosophy to companies such as Google and the National Cancer Institute as well as universities like Duke, Stanford, and Yale.

The other night at karaoke, I heard one of my favorite songs from college: "Standing Outside the Fire" by Garth Brooks. Yes, I am from the Midwest. But to me, this song seems to just about sum up human existence: "Life is not tried, it is merely survived / If you're standing outside the fire."

"The fire" is what we each need to go walk through in order to have that life we truly want. It's another way of thinking about "facing our fears," but a little more powerful. Walking through the fire can mean taking a leap to a new career, accepting the sadness of ending an unhealthy relationship or committing to a role that's more than you thought you could be. We need to recognize and own the feeling of intense discomfort in order to make the changes we want to make.

The fire will feel unbearably hot, and as you walk through it, you cry and call out in pain. You summon all your courage and grit to keep placing one foot in front of the other. Can you take one more step? Sometimes you have intense moments of doubt: Is it worth it?

Sometimes, you wonder if you are strong enough to keep going, but then surprise yourself when you realize that you actually do still have more fight in you. A lot more, in fact. As scalding as it is, the fire is very much worth it. That the burning is actually better than the icy cold experience of sitting on the sidelines. When you realize this, you experience an overwhelming sense of peace, joy, pride and certainty. You are alive.

You know what I am talking about. In walking through the fire, you come to understand the limitless power you have. You know the profound gift of being alive. You feel wide-awake after a long slumber.

I stood inside the fire when I left experimental science to become a life coach…and then again when I called off my engagement to a wonderful man who I knew, deep down inside, wasn't my one.

So what fires have you walked through? Are there fires that lay in front of you? What are you doing about them? Are you...

  • Avoiding the fire: You know you want to make a change, but simply don't want to face what you would need to face or do what you need to do to make that happen. So you find diversions and any excuse to look the other way.
  • Convincing yourself that the fire is overrated: You reason that things are good enough, it could be much worse and it probably isn't all that great over on the other side, anyways. You know the drill.
  • Dipping a toe in the fire: You test it out. Maybe you volunteer at an organization that offers your dream career or you start to look at apartments that you might move into if you broke up. No committing to anything. You can always retreat. You are simply curious about how hot the fire truly is.
  • Standing in the fire: You're in it, all-out, alive and courageous. Carry on, friend.

Or maybe, you're emerging on the other side of the fire. You took the jump last year and are now starting to see the beautiful life that awaits on the other side. You feel the relief of cool air on your skin and could cry out in joy because not only did you make it, but you also have changed. You have grown. You are stronger and more confident.

So where are you in this process? Ask your question in terms of process, because none of us grow in a single step. Most of us don't just jump into the fire — we start by avoiding it, talking ourselves out of it or dipping a toe in and getting scalded and declaring that we would be crazy to walk through that burning inferno!

But at some point, after suffering enough with the status quo, you will be ready to walk through that fire.

Don't get down on yourself if you know you are avoiding the fire. That is OK. Acknowledge your situation and what you are afraid of. Look at the fire. See the others in your life who are walking through fire. And know that at some point, probably soon, you will be ready to go for it.

You are stronger than you give yourself credit for. And your heart yearns for that other side so strongly, that it will eventually win.

What fire are you facing right now? Right me a note and share!

P.S. It helps to have guidance and companionship as you walk through the fire. Feel free to reach out to me at if you would like some help fire-proofing!

And do you want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach! Enroll today to join our upcoming live office hours.


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