3 Strategies That Help Me Embrace Discomfort and Lean into Joy

How I stopped avoiding good habits and embraced my life

Charlene Wang
4 min readJan 3, 2024

Chasing happiness can be like chasing a mirage. You think you’re about to grasp it, but then happiness changes its shape. Cognitive psychologist Daniel Kahneman explained this dichotomy with two selves: the experiencing self and the remembering self. The experiencing self feels joy in the moment; the remembering self looks back on our memory and decides how good or bad our experience was. Our two selves don’t even agree on what brings us joy. How do we understand this thing we call happiness?

Most of us, at some point in our lives, have pivoted from one definition of happiness to another. Remember aiming for a dream career, only to be taken down by burnout? Or perhaps you achieved it and now look for the freedom to work when and how you want. The ever-changing nature of happiness makes it hard to define. It’s deeply personal, and when you think you’ve grasped it, it fades away.

I’ve known for years that humans are wired to pursue fast dopamine over lasting happiness. Why, then, couldn’t I stop avoiding things I knew would make me happy — running in the park, even writing in my journal? Why couldn’t I get over the initial discomfort of lacing up, or putting away my phone and picking up my notebook?

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Charlene Wang

Founder, Distillable; Ex-Google Product Manager, Health AI