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  • Writer's pictureMegan Filoramo

How much discomfort is reasonable?

Our tolerance of discomfort is often largely based on expectations.

Did I lose you already?

Think about it. We are much more willing to tolerate discomfort if we know that it’s coming and if there’s a perceived gain on the other side. It’s much more difficult to tolerate discomfort when we feel like it is out of place, unreasonable, or just shouldn’t be happening.

There are plenty of times that we tolerate (and expect) discomfort; the discomfort of exercise, or waiting in line for holiday shopping, or anything that requires a trip to the DMV. We aren’t happy about these things, but we accept them as normal and put up with them without a ton of drama…

Which brings up an interesting question, if we can adjust our expectations, can we adjust our tolerance for discomfort? AND, if we take it one step further, if we adjust our tolerance for discomfort, can we adjust our happiness at work and at home?

(Spoiler alert…we can.)

First step: evaluate what your current expectations are. How much of your life do you expect to be “good” and how much do you expect to be “bad”? Do you expect ANY of it to be bad? Have you ever really thought about it? Do you expect that you should be able to be happy all the time? Maybe if things were different at work, or you had more money or time, or your family behaved differently?

We all know that happy-all-the-time is just not a real thing. There are plenty of times when we don’t want to be happy: times when we lose a loved one, or witness social injustice, or when we let someone down. And yet the other, day-to-day, irritations can build up until they’re intolerable.

So back to the expectations. What if we expected life to be 50/50: 50% good and 50% bad? What if we expect a little more of the bad then we are currently allowing?

Is this just a ploy to promote negativity? If you know me at all, you know that can’t possibly be what I’m getting at.

I propose that this is the opposite of negative thinking.

Let’s start by deconstructing the 50/50 a little bit. Instead of 50% good and 50% bad, what if it was more of a sliding scale, leaning TOWARD good or TOWARD bad?

This makes sense when you think about it, after all the happiness of the birth of a child is not the same happiness of making your last student loan payment or getting the closest parking spot when it’s pouring rain. Yet all these things are on the positive end of the scale. The converse is true as well, misplacing your keys and being late for work or having your child not make the team is not the same badness as losing a loved one.

Once we establish that the 50/50 is fluid, the next step is accepting the normalcy of the 50% negative. Trust me, this is where the magic lies.

If you expect 50% of your life to be less than stellar then it is much easier to take it in stride rather than dwell on it and try to spend tons of energy “fixing” it. You won’t waste so much time being unhappy about the way things are. It’s ok that some things are terrible because some things aren’t. In the words of Dory, we just have to “keep swimming”.

This may seem simplified, but I challenge you to try it for a few days. When something is “trending bad”, see what happens if you tell yourself that this is just the 50% negative part and totally expected. Nothing has gone wrong. It’s just the DMV part of your life. And then start looking for the 50% “trending positive” parts, they are just as guaranteed. Expecting the bad ironically makes it not so bad.

And this, in turn, allows for more enjoyment of the good. The good is no longer overshadowed by ruminating on the negative.

I am all about upleveling your life. I am all about finding new and creative ways to make things better. And expecting the negative IS one of these ways because no matter what level we are at, the 50/50 doesn’t change. It comes along for the ride. It’s constant throughout life. Once you know this, practice it and master it, it is so much easier to move forward from a place of confidence in the knowledge that you will be ok either way.

You can be happy with the 50/50, happier than you would be if you expect something else.


Do you need some help dealing with the discomfort of your life? Are you not sure that your particular situation will change with this approach? Send me an email at and I can help you figure out the best way for you.

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