Most of us spend our lives trying to avoid discomfort and adversity. We like the world to be at least somewhat predictable and comfortable.

I’d like to suggest that all of us should be spending more of our time seeking adversity. Here’s why:

Just as physical muscles are built through challenge and response, we build our resilience muscles by encountering uncomfortable situations and working through them. The more we avoid discomfort, the less practice we have in dealing with it. If we choose the challenges we take on, we are able to build our strength to deal with unexpected problems and difficulties.

Many parents have already taken this lesson to heart. Parents who overprotect their children do not help them prepare for real life. As hard as it may be to see a child failing at something, experiencing an injury, or feeling sad or lonely, these experiences provide opportunities for the child to learn how to deal with disappointment, pain, and other uncomfortable emotions.

There are limits, of course. Parents need to make sure that children don’t encounter life-threatening dangers, and all of us need to make sure that we don’t get into situations that are well beyond our capabilities to handle. However, within those boundaries there are many opportunities to learn and grow.

Here are some ideas for seeking adversity:

  • Take on a new sport or other physical activity. You will probably experience aches, pains, the feeling of being awkward, and perhaps even some injuries.
  • Take a class in a new and somewhat difficult subject—a foreign language, advanced art or mathematics, or anything else that will require you to work hard and that presents the possibility of failure.
  • Travel to a new place. Journeys—especially those to other countries—usually bring with them challenges related to navigation, transportation, and communication.

What other ideas do you have for putting yourself into challenging situations? Please share them in the comments.