Befriend The Uncomfortable

Felix Hirschburger explaining the 40% rule by David Goggins

On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, the lunch and learn event took place at the Kantonspital Graubünden – @KSGR. Felix Hirschburger had a speech with the title, “Befriend the uncomfortable – growing beyond yourself.” A group of hundred employees across all departments of the hospital showed up. I would like to share Felix Hirschburgers’ talk with you.

Thank you very much. I’m very excited to stand here. I have to say that it would be much more comfortable to be on your side. Who here knows this tingling feeling in the belly. The pounding heartbeat? It’s uncomfortable. Deep down, I know, and I feel that it’s the right thing to do. It’s uncomfortable, and because of that, I can learn, and I can grow.

Muhammad Ali said, “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it counts.” Muscles grow when they are overwhelmed with stress. It’s a simple protective mechanism of the body. If you train repeatedly, the body counteracts this stress by getting stronger and bigger.

The comfort zone is like one of your muscles. It’s hard to step out of the comfort zone. The pain starts at the limit of your comfort zone. When you are speaking in front of a big audience, like I’m doing here – it’s uncomfortable. You have two choices. Either you quit and jump back into the comfort zone. Or you step deeper into the unknown territory. The unfamiliar territory is fascinating yet scary. If you step out of your comfort zone often, magic happens – your comfort zone grows.

Our brain, our heart, our mind, and our emotions work the same way – like a muscle. Most of the time, as soon as something scary or confusing approaches, what do we do? We shy away. We retreat to our well-known comfort zone. From an evolutionary standpoint, this occurs naturally. Our two million-year-old brain is programmed for survival. Our brain is not programmed to be happy or to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

So, what can we do about it? It’s time that we do something about it. When we feel tense, this is a clear sign of reaching the limit of your comfort zone. You know, all right, “I’m about to grow.” And then you allow yourself to retreat. And accept whatever comes up.

Let’s try this out for a moment. Please, close your eyes for a moment. Soften your eyes. Soften your face. Soften your shoulders. Soften your whole body. Sink into your lower belly. Take one to two deep breaths there, and welcome whatever feels a bit uncomfortable or tense. Just welcome it.

Open your eyes again. Breathing, relaxing, and smiling always works. I can tell you that this works on stage. It is so simple.

Probably it’s not a good idea to do a too big jump out of your comfort zone. David Goggins, a former Navy-seal and a famous ultramarathon runner, has a fascinating point of view about this. He calls it the 40% rule. He says that as soon as our brain tells us that we are done. Then we are only about 40% done.


As soon as we step out of our comfort zone, it is wise to be kind to ourselves, accepting that we are doing something challenging. Growth is the most natural thing in life. Look at the trees. Look at all of nature. Growing or helping others to grow gives meaning and purpose in life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived a life without those self-limiting borders and fears?

What if we would strive for our dreams? What if we would talk to strangers? Today you can step up for yourself and grow. You can go in a different direction than anyone else is going. You can visit places that scare you. Be courageous. Befriend the uncomfortable and grow.

And still, you are right; there is a risk of getting hurt. Roosevelt said, “At the worst, if you fail while daring greatly, at least you have always yourself.

So please, do wild things. Always be kind to yourself.

I trained that daily for the last five and a half years. And how do I do that? I take cold showers every morning. I hated cold water. Who hates the cold water like me? I thought so. I take the daily cold showers. I relax into it by taking a long breath. This ritual activates my rest and digest system. It’s fantastic. I’m outside of my comfort zone, and I can relax. Of course, every morning, it is still a challenge when I see this cold water in front of me, and I’m stepping into it. I challenge myself even further.

For example, I challenged myself to do a hike in the Swiss Alps near Interlaken in temperatures of -10 degrees celsius. I hiked for seven hours – just wearing pants. It has so much to do with our minds and our mindset. I expanded my comfort zone, and not only when it comes to cold temperatures.

If you are willing to do hard things, life becomes easier. And everyone can learn this simple technique. Cold exposure is just a substitute for anything uncomfortable in our life.

A group of one hundred thirty people has proven that this technique works in Switzerland in March 2019, 2200 m above sea level. It was minus five degrees celsius. We hiked 90 minutes up to a mountain top. And I think you know what’s coming next. We were barely dressed. The Iceman Wim Hof himself led the group.

Every participant followed one thing, believing to be able to breathe and relax outside of the comfort zone. We believed to be able to grow into a better and healthier version of yourself. We trained those participants a couple of weeks before with mindset, breathing, and cold water exercise. The day before the challenge, we did a long breathing session. We went outside in the snow barefoot. We stood there for 20 minutes. Still, not everyone felt prepared to do a 30-minute walk. However, everyone did 90 minutes the next day. It was terrific going beyond your comfort zone. And do that together in a group is even more powerful. This multiplies the positive effect. Thanks tot he initiators of the Swiss ice challenge, and with the help of many, we raised over 400’000 Swiss francs for two significant projects, helping young people to find their strength and to overcome depression.

I’m convinced that all of us can be so much more if we are willing to step outside of the comfort zone and to befriend the uncomfortable.

So just reflect about areas in your life, where you have been in the comfort zone for too long? Where do you want to befriend the uncomfortable?

2 thoughts on “Befriend The Uncomfortable

  1. Reblogged this on Pastern Corner and commented:
    This is an excellent talk – “Befriend the uncomfortable – growing beyond yourself” given by Felix Hirschburger and shared by Marcel Kuhn in his website the Unthinkable Mastermind.

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