Epictetus advised his students to participate regularly in an exercise called “voluntary discomfort.” In this exercise, he suggested them to deliberately put themselves through uncomfortable situations. The goal was to not let comfort have an upper hand over us, and to be prepared for anything and everything that may come our way.
Epictetus said, “We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.”
During ancient times, wars were not fought during the winter and the opposing armies typically disbanded, a practice that went on past the American Revolution.
That’s why Epictetus gives the analogy of “hard winter training” to explain that we must always be committed to being prepared and train ourselves hard, no matter what.
We can exercise voluntary discomfort in many ways, here are a few ideas:
- Sleeping on the floor
- Exercising in the morning
- Washing clothes by ourselves
- Fasting for a day
- Taking cold showers
They will help you become comfortable with being uncomfortable. They will get you desensitized to difficulties and challenges. You’ll train yourself like a Navy SEAL and harden yourself in the process.
It’s much better to be prepared and ready instead of slacking off, otherwise, it may lead to negative consequences. As the Spartan Warriors Creed maxim goes: “He who sweats more in training bleeds less in war.”
There’s no time off in this rollercoaster journey of life. We never truly know when life may throw a curveball at us, and that’s why it’s best to prepare ourselves in advance by undergoing rigorous training and cultivating mental, physical and emotional fortitude.