Personal Writing

Comfortably uncomfortable

Happy New Year! I am three days into my 47th year, and I have taken stock of 2019. Now it’s time to look ahead to 2020. Last week, a friend of mine was talking about an assignment her team filled out at work to uncover their focus word for the year. I was intrigued by it and asked if she would share it.

This Christmas break, I thought it would be fun to be more intentional with friends and family. On Christmas Eve, Dr Marry, Quinn, Alejandra and I played Vertellis, which I highly recommend for deep conversation through thoughtful questions. By Christmas Day, we were already in the mood to be more introspective, so this worksheet was a good next step. At my birthday party, I invited our guests to answer this question: What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

The answers ranged from podcasts to fiction and nonfiction to a new refrigerator manual to a mom’s blog to a meaningful song. In the spirit of Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering, I had sent the question out as a text so that the mood of the party was set before anyone ever walked in the door. That did exactly what she says it will, and the answers did not disappoint. It was a fabulous way to spend a little time with some important and fun people in my life.

The worksheet proved harder to complete than I had anticipated, and I actually found it fairly unsatisfying upon initial reflection; how was I supposed to find my focus word in the midst of my answers? But then I read it out loud again, and I realized that the theme of my answers were all pointing toward a somewhat unsettling word: uncomfortable.

I’ve been saying for awhile now that one of my challenges is that I have become very comfortably “house broken.” I mean that in the sense of having lost my freelance grit, my tenacity and my comfort with the feast and famine mindset that is so often the freelancer’s/entrepreneur’s/artist’s world. Having a job, and a pretty fabulous one at that, for the past nine years where I receive a regular paycheck has afforded us a new lifestyle that I am loathe to give up in the pursuit of the unknowns of venturing to see what could really come of the writing and speaking I am interested in doing.

But it was clear in my reflections that if I am serious about this pursuit then I need to lean in much more to being uncomfortable. I need to take more and bigger risks; I need to continue to find the balance between my day job and my passion projects; I need to continue pushing myself with learning and networking opportunities that help me stay motivated and introduce me to new paths and people.

For many reasons, I’m not ready to take the full leap and quit my day job yet, even though I have a scary suspicion that that will be required of me to actually see this all take off. For the time being, I will travel both avenues, spending my work days advocating for the arts and my free time learning, growing and challenging myself to keep climbing, even when, and precisely because, it’s uncomfortable.

Dr Marry and I have agreed that I need to have a legitimate plan in place before I just walk away from my current job. I don’t have to have a dollar for dollar replacement, but neither one of us is particularly excited about going down to one salary with no prospect of my potential earnings being in place. I’m super proud to say that for the first time in my entire life, I am in complete agreement with my partner on something that delays my immediate desire. Normally, my “you are not the boss of me” gene would kick in strong, and I would rail against his hesitation at my instinctive desire for change. It’s a true mark of how deeply I feel about him and how much I value his opinion that I have acquiesced willingly to this suggestion rather than following my current want.

So I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t make vision boards, and I don’t typically set intentions, but I have fixated on this idea of getting uncomfortable and being ok there again. I spent a lot of my earlier life in uncomfortable; I definitely know how to reside there. The difference is that I have experienced an alternate reality in these past years, and I like a lot about it, including many aspects of my current job. The challenge will be to tip towards uncomfortable while maintaining a level of comfort where both Dr Marry and I can be happy.

So in the spirit of trying new things and embracing uncomfortable, my extraordinary goals for 2020:

  • Complete the altMBA course that starts on Jan 6. The calendar dates and assignments attached to that month’s work has already made me feel a little bit sweaty but also pretty excited to see where it leads
  • Find the right coach to help guide me further
  • Read 12 new books related to pursuing this work
  • Write 96 honest, raw, sentimental, confused, confident, etc blog posts (8/month)
  • Do 12 podcasts (1/month) with people I am genuinely curious to talk to in this format
  • Be invited to give 4 paid keynote or panel talks regionally (I would like these to offset at least half of the price of the cost of a coach, so approximately $6,000)
  • Grow my blog followers to 250 (currently at 41). Grow my FB page to 1,000 (currently at 424). Grow my Twitter page to 500 (currently 28)


  • Get to spin class 175+ times ( an average of 3.6 times/week)
  • Keep my current weight or slightly less (in the spirit of holding myself accountable, today I am at 154. I was at 152 at the start of the holiday break)
  • Be healthier than I was in 2019. I don’t want to be taken down by a cold, the flu or worse every 8 weeks. I have to get a concerted handle on that.
  • Continue year 3 of (almost) no shopping for clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. As a side note, this has been one of my favorite things I have ever done. Again, to be accountable, this year I purchased:
    •  Three pairs of Allbirds shoes (2 for me and 1 for Alejandra). They are exceptional travel shoes
    • Two more of the Betabrand sweatshirt travel dresses in pumpkin and robin’s egg blue because they are amazing (although they are not sweatshirt material at all, which is good) and have basically become my go to uniform
    • Six Tommy John underwear—totally worth the price
    • Three pairs of high heels, two black and one neutral. I absolutely needed all these, but only one pair, the 3 1/2″ heel, is astonishingly comfortable, the other two are wearable but not for super extended periods; wouldn’t purchase if I could go back in time
    • I chose each of these items intentionally and would absolutely purchase all of the rest of them again
  • Continue to travel for pleasure and for work
  • Be present in my joyful life with Dr Marry
  • Make more time to be with the important women in my life. My friendships have taken a hit this year because of the additional work I have packed on to my plate. I want to schedule walks with them, however, not wine meetings. Let’s be active together—the talking is always as good or better.

Here’s to being comfortable with being uncomfortable again and seeking and recognizing the joy in the day to day of the journey. The script is ticking, the props are in place, and I’m ready to enter on stage.

Featured image from Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. I guess I’m living up to his title’s demand.  🥳

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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