It’s easy to identify the feelings and experiences we enjoy, whether in our business or personal lives: hiring the perfect client, exceeding income goals, getting a warm hug from a loved one, playing golf in the highest-scoring game. Low of its history … The list goes on and on. However, I am willing to bet large sums of money that there is one experience that rarely appears on anyone’s favorite things list.
Let’s face it: seek comfort and avoid saycomfort are two of the strongest motivators known to mankind. Why would we deliberately look for experiences and activities that make us feel uncomfortable (especially when they seem to appear in our lives without us even looking for them)?
Actually, discomfort is a classic example of mixed blessing. It’s easy to see the negative side of this, because discomfort comes in many forms: feeling rejected, ridiculed, despised, inept, like a fake, ignorant, underachiever … We have all been there and have done that in a way. or other.
It is much more difficult to convince ourselves to view discomfort as a positive, even a desirable experience. But the uncomfortable truth is that discomfort has a huge advantage: When you choose to do something that makes you uncomfortable, you are, by definition, pushing the limits of your comfort zone. That, in turn, means that you are growing. The older you grow, the stronger you become, the more prudent the risks you are willing to take, and the more willing you are to experience discomfort. It is an endless upward spiral of increasing your personal power and positive results.
The question is: Would you rather continually grow in dealing with discomfort or stay comfortable by playing small?
If you vote for growth over stagnation, go for you! Assuming that’s the case, how do you go about accepting or even (gasp!) embrace discomfort? Here are five steps that can help you move in the right direction.
- Take a small step to get comfortable with the discomfort. Choose a new way to do a routine activity; for example, drive home from work using a different route. Whose Start with a huge change, like trying to eat a vegetarian when you are a confirmed carnivore.
- Change your labels. When you are faced with a task that you prefer not to do and you get that sensationTry calling it “excitement” rather than labeling it “discomfort.” Yes, I know, it sounds like a mind game. However, when you think about it, the physical symptoms of what we would call discomfort are similar to those we experience when we are excited: the pulse and breathing often race, and the stomach can jump. If you’re going to have the same set of physical symptoms regardless, why not label them with a much more positive name that can help you take that step forward?
- Plan (ahead of time!) To celebrate doing things that make you uncomfortable. A friend of mine, Christine Otte, introduced me to the “frog jar” concept, which is based on the recommendation that if you know you have to swallow a frog, do it first thing in the morning and finish. with. Christine keeps a stash of dollar bills in her office, and whenever she does an awkward task, whenever she swallows a frog, she puts a dollar in her jar. The more difficult things you strive to do, the more money in your jar of frogs. When you have enough money, you buy something great. I have changed this a bit to follow myself better. Since my “jug” is actually a ceramic bowl (decorated with frogs, naturally), I have chosen to use little origami stars to represent my awkward tasks. Not only is this neater and prettier to me, star-bending is a little meditative break in the middle of the day. Lots of stars = lots of cash, which I spend on something purely forgiving.
- Choose to stop catastrophizing. Many of us are adept at telling stories about all the possible catastrophic outcomes that could result from doing something uncomfortable. Why not change your approach and start creating stories with a happy ending? Since you are making things up anyway, there is no point in focusing on the worst case scenario. Someone (Help me with the attribution please!) said that successful people are willing to do the uncomfortable things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do. It will be easier to join the ranks of those successful guys if you stop freaking out so much that you end up doing nothing.
- Reframe your good / bad thoughts. Approaching situations with this type of dichotomous thinking often leads to stopping in your tracks, severely limiting your options, and generally making life more difficult. Instead of constantly thinking that discomfort is bad and comfort is good, reframe it. When you feel uncomfortable, remember that you are actually doing yourself a favor: Discomfort = growth = greater capabilities = better results.
We are faced with dozens of opportunities to accept discomfort every day. The fundamental challenge in these situations is to focus on what we will gain in the long run by dealing with short-term hassles.
- You can focus on the discomfort of hitting the gym and huffing and puffing during your workout, or you can focus on the pleasure of shedding that muffin-top currently oozing over the waistband of your jeans.
- You can focus on how intimidated you are by technology, or you can focus on the national reach you will develop by mastering it.
- You can focus on doing what you’ve always done and getting what you’ve always gotten, or you can focus on the bolder future you create by stepping out of your comfort zone and onto a bigger playing field.
It may help you adopt these powerful words from Brendan Francis:
Many of our fears are tissue thin, and a single brave step would help us overcome them.
Will you take that step and reap the rewards or will you back off? The choice is yours.