AdaptingChangeConfidenceCourageMotivationOpportunitiesOvercome ChallengesPurposeResilienceSuccess

Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort!

Dilbert cartoon - becoming comfortable with discomfort. Credit: Scott Adams

Developing through uncomfortable situations

Becoming comfortable with discomfort develops leadership skills and happens when we consciously step outside of our comfort zone. What drives this phenomenon? External pressures on leaders to be more agile, tackle complex problems, think horizontally, and identify connections or patterns not yet visible to others – and let’s not forget that leaders need to do so transparently.

The world is changing at a pace not seen in recent memory – climate change, intelligent technologies, geopolitics, and now leaders are facing double-digit inflation – something many have never experienced in their lifetime. 

In face of such change – leaders will either rise to the occasion, stumble before recovering or falter altogether. Rising to the occasion takes a few purposeful actions to develop the skills of leading through the discomfort.

10% New 

Change is uncomfortable, this is a well-understood and documented phenomenon. However, change also brings about growth and development – something, as humans, we need to survive. The 10% new idea underpins two concepts:

  1. Incremental change (or improvement) helps us (and others) to better adapt
  2. Small-dose changes develop agility for large-scale changes

The idea is to embrace small and incremental changes rather than trying to transform or reinvent something quickly. You may wonder why this approach versus a big bang change. Think about a time you wanted to make a lifestyle change – such as becoming healthier. It is a lofty goal – one that eludes many of us so how do we turn the tide on this tendency? 

We break big bang changes into several mini-change goals because we’re much more likely to adopt several small changes that are minimally disruptive within our lives and our surroundings than we are to stick with a change that disrupts our life and that of those around us. 

The more you practice tolerating discomfort, the more confidence you’ll gain in your ability to accept new challenges.

Amy Morin

So, what steps can we take to become comfortable with discomfort?

Two specific steps to becoming comfortable

Build resiliency

We build resilience in everyday little ways. For instance, by establishing some boundaries around work and non-work recovery periods. During work, we can build microbreaks into our day, block shortish (2 hours max) work periods in our calendar to do things, or go for a coffee chat with a colleague. In non-work periods: take holidays, spend time with family and friends, attend cultural events (like the theatre or museum) or enjoy time in a passionate pastime. 

Basically, resiliency builds when we make a conscious decision to strategically stop. Gift ourselves with the time and resources needed to leverage during and after-work recovery time. 

Try this strategy to see it in action. During your next business trip, build resiliency by choosing to watch films, draw, or listen to entertaining podcasts. This ensures that when you get to your destination, instead of being drained or tired, you are refreshed and ready to jump back into your high-performance role!

Build Confidence

Resiliency and comfort with change are aided with confidence. Self-confidence comes from understanding and relentlessly believing in our abilities. Using an ABC approach makes this journey quicker and easier for us. 

ABCs, Copyright David Wray, 2022
ABCs - copyright David Wray, 2022

Final Thoughts

Throughout our lives, we need to continuously test to see if we are successfully managing our fear of failure or being hindered by fear such that it holds us back from moving forward. In our ever-changing world, ironically there is little safety in playing it safe. Having the confidence, bravery, and resilience to move outside of our familiar circle to embrace the discomfort of being outside our comfort zone is critical to our success in life.

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your advice with others on how you address the challenge of getting comfortable with discomfort in your personal or professional life.  

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: Scott Adams

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