Leaning Into The Discomfort
You may have heard the phrase 'Lean into the discomfort' from the famous Brene Brown Ted Talk on vulnerability. On first impressions, this sounds hard, and a bit far fetched. Why would you want to do that? It sounds uncomfortable, challenging, and even scary. Having spent years researching and working with people as a therapist, Brene Brown recognized that the really happy people who truly felt safe and alive were the ones who embraced difficult situations.
Most people struggle with the idea of following their dreams, not because they don't want to, or they don't believe that their dreams are actually worth pursuing, but typically it's because they are afraid to start, they are afraid of what they'll find on the other side of the door.
The discomfort that comes in knowing that you could fail is usually the determining factor that prevents most people from even taking the first step. The discomfort felt when someone begins to compare themselves to others on social media or even those around them, who are supposedly "successful," commonly stifles a person from reading a helpful book or even Google searching the steps necessary for them to begin their journey.
Everybody's reason for not doing something is usually a discomfort. With that in mind, the best way to approach life is by learning to embrace those discomforts. It won't be easy, neither will you witness instant results, but once you start leaning to your discomforts, the easier it will be for you to pursue your dreams.
Here are 3 ways to lean into your discomfort so that you can create a comfortable life that you envision.
1. Tell Yourself That You are Great
Self-motivation is important, but internal inspiration outweighs even the knowledge aspect of things. It's not uncommon to find that the most confident person in the room most of the time gets to enjoy the most attention because once you believe in yourself, nothing can stop you. However, internal inspiration doesn't come from the outside world; it needs to come from the creative space within you. Once you've programmed your subconscious mind to believe that you are the best, nobody can make you feel otherwise.
Think about it, embracing the idea that hundreds could hear your message is quite intimidating and overwhelming. However, as daunting as the task ahead might be, believing in yourself proves to your audience or your team that you know what you're actually doing and that your ideas could actually work. And when it does work, imagine how rewarding it would be to learn that the idea you had went on to change lives or your company's fortune.
The thing is, you'll never be able to experience this level of service and gratitude if you fail to empower, nurture, and support the man or woman in the mirror. Do whatever you feel that you need to do to embrace and lean into the discomfort that comes with letting go of your fears.
2. Make Yourself Accountable
Accountability is one of the most intimidating words in today's world. The reason being, once you say that you're going to do something, people are going to be looking forward to you delivering on your word. The discomfort comes in knowing that you put an expectation in place, and only you can deliver on the promise. Embracing the discomfort of knowing that others are depending on you to follow through with your word is a liberating feeling because not only are you proving that you can do more, be more, and accomplish more, others begin to see that you're evolving, not only as a man or woman of their word but as a human being with something to offer to the world.
Being accountable could be the starting point for someone else who was watching you in the hope that you would stay true to your promises, which ultimately ends up inspiring them.
3. Solve A Problem
The best way to lean into your discomfort is to tackle a problem head-on and look to find ways to solve it for other people. Think about it; the best business opportunities are created by those who seek to solve social problems that most people just sit around and complain about.
A good example is Jeff Bezos, who literally brought the convenience of shopping for anything in the world at the touch of an Add to Cart button.
Embrace the discomfort in knowing that you don't have to have all of the answers if you seek to solve a problem that needs attention. The reason being, perfection doesn't exist, and people won't mind as long as you're resolving the overall problem with the product or solution that you're offering.
You have to remember that we're living in a time of convenience, and society will be sure to remind you that you're behind the ball if you fail to sharpen your skills daily. So, lean into the discomfort of your life's challenges because the reward will always be worth it.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
There is never a true formula for success when it comes to leading teams, starting businesses, or even learning anything. Just because there isn't a formula doesn't mean there is no hope. According to Ben Horowitz's book, The Hard things about Hard things, there is no recipe for dealing with anything you might face during your journey. Nonetheless, there are many bits of advice and experience that can help with the hard things. The interesting thing about advice is that circumstances may differ, but the patterns and lessons are always constant.
Fear Can Be a Good Thing
Fear is a very tricky human emotion. It can keep you from your dreams, it can keep you small, and it can paralyze you. On the flip side, it can keep you safe in just the right doses, but too much of it will kill you.
Oftentimes fear is imagined, not real. We often think things are going to be hard and then are pleasantly surprised when they are not. Stress, for instance, is a subjective thing. Unless we talk about physical strain, stress is typically induced by our thoughts about what is happening. It isn't the actual event itself that incurs the feeling of stress. It is our thinking behind it that does. Stress is fear-based. We worry that things won't turn out, that what is unfolding is somehow not right. So we take action—or not.
Depending on how we respond to things, we are either more stressed or go into a full release, allowing things to occur just as they might. Releasing that in the end, everything will be okay takes off the pressure, allows fear to go home, and for possibilities to take root in even the most difficult situations.
Love your fear. That's all it needs. It only grows when you let it consume you, and that usually happens when we forget how helpful our fear is trying to be. It really wants our best, however irrational it sometimes is. If you believe the idea in your head can be the next big thing, don't be afraid of letting the world know about it. Sure, you might fail. But the satisfaction you'll get from conquering your fear will be more than the embarrassment that might come from failing.
See The World Through a Different Lens
In business and leadership, sometimes we are faced with scenarios where we are forced to confront situations through different means. We tend to get stuck in our own way of thinking. However, any good leader knows that viewing things through a different lens and being empathetic is an essential tool to have. When you allow yourself to see someone else's point of view, it minimizes arguments and disagreements.
The same applies to business. When presented with facts and figures, the ideal approach would be to tackle the situation in a way that makes the most sense. In particularly dire circumstances, when the facts seem to dictate a certain outcome, you need to learn to look for alternative narratives and explanations coming from radically different perspectives. The simple existence of an alternate, a plausible scenario is often all that's needed to keep hope alive among a worried workforce.
You can't do Everything
It can be hard to be a leader in today's ever-changing business climate. People seem to expect a leader to know everything, be everything, and do everything, all at the same time. But even if you can, that doesn't mean you should. Great leaders know that deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. Most leaders, executives, bosses, managers run into trouble when they think they need to fix it all, but frankly, that's impossible. Once you take on someone else's responsibility, you run the risk of neglecting your own tasks. As a leader, the most common instinct is usually to help others. Instead of always offering to rescue, solve, comfort, or defend, learn to become a better listener. Be compassionate and considerate, but don't offer to take over someone else's problems to make those problems go away. The best leaders empower others by just being there for them. Whether it's your job, team, or relationship, always think about what's more important to you before taking up other responsibilities. You're not superhuman; you can't do everything for everybody.
Doing The Hard Things Not The Fun Things
Fun describes things like watching a movie, going to dinner with friends, or jumping on a trampoline. Fun is an in-the-moment joy that dissipates quickly.
Being a leader requires so much work, commitment, and emotional resources; it's not really fun. It's fulfilling, meaningful, satisfying, and worthwhile, but fun doesn't even come close to describing the experience.
Think of your proudest accomplishments. They might include earning a degree, achieving work, running a marathon, or raising a child who becomes a happy, well-adjusted adult.
Whatever these accomplishments are, each one took work. Hours and days and most likely years of hard work, but all that time added up to something infinitely more rewarding than most fun activities.
Committing to the whole life challenge falls into the better than fun category. When you commit to a challenge, you're after something more. It won't be easy, neither will it be fun, but it will be worth it.
One Clear Message
If you notice something that doesn't sit well with you in the office, whether it's a relationship with a client or a co-worker approaching a problem in a way you wouldn't, you might need to talk about it. In the short-term, it can be easier to take a passive approach and avoid conflict. But in the long-term, it's just untruthful and can do further harm to your professional relationships and your own well-being. Being direct is one of my core values as a professional.
Being indirect at work is like keeping your feelings bottled up in a relationship. Eventually, they're going to spill over and poison everything. In work and life, your goal is to keep that from happening by nipping problems in the bud.
The authors of a 2015 study outlined in The New York Times found that being direct but kind is the most effective way to communicate in the workplace. Being too 'intense' while being candid can cause the person receiving your feedback to take it personally.
Being direct and not beating around the bush builds trust; smart people will see through the lies anyway. Furthermore, it fosters a positive culture and ensures everyone works from the same page with the same information. People are looking to you, and you want to inspire them. But the best way to do that is to be real with them. For example, if you're trying to foster a culture where failure is okay, but you don't get up there and talk about one of your massive personal failures, the culture won't even have a chance to change.
From The Comfort Zone to The Growth Zone
Most people don't like change; they prefer to live life within their comfort zone. It's what they know because change can be confronting. However, to get the results you want in life, the challenge is moving out of your comfort zone, overcoming the fear zone, and jumping into the learning zone where you eventually land in the growth zone.
The Comfort Zone
As an entrepreneur, employee, or individual, you are likely staying with what you know because it's comfortable. Therefore you never look to leave there because it's the zone you are used to evolving. This zone is called your comfort zone, a zone in which you have developed a heightened sense of control and security.
The problem is, nothing grows in your comfort zone. If you choose to do nothing, be nothing, then what you get is nothing. All decisions, even doing nothing, has a result or a consequence.
If you would think about the relationships that would have the greatest impact on your life, it's not the intimate relationships that you have with your parents, siblings, spouse, friends, and colleagues that affect you the most; it's the relationship you have with yourself. It's your thoughts and beliefs that are your constant companion which affects the quality of your life.
When you say things to yourself like, 'I'm not good enough' or 'I don't have the talent,' it gives you an excuse to keep living within your comfort zone. These self-deprecating thoughts are damaging to your self-esteem and confidence levels, so you tend to stay within your comfort zone.
Think of your brain as hardware and your thoughts as the software. You can reprogram your thoughts to help you overcome the fear you feel if you were to step outside your comfort zone. Learning to break through from the confines of old limiting beliefs is the key to leaving your comfort zone. By busting through your fears, will catapult you into the learning zone and when you begin to transform your life into one of constant successes.
The Fear Zone
Along with limiting beliefs and self-deprecating thoughts, the main reason you fail to step outside your comfort zone has to do with the emotion of fear.
Fear of selling, fear of networking, fear of telling people your ideas. Fear is the body's natural response to a threat and triggers the fight or flight response to prepare you to flee from danger or stay and fight. Fear has its place as it is meant to protect you when faced with legitimate fears like being chased by a lion or walking home in the dark. Fear triggers the fight or flight response even if it's only a perceived threat like stepping outside your comfort zone. A perceived threat also triggers the fight or flight response even if there is no chance of being harmed.
Perceived threats exist in your subconscious mind and link back to the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, and the fear of success, all the thoughts that lurk in your subconscious mind.
Coming out of the fear zone, although tricky, requires several things from you; courage, compassion, wisdom, and an overarching vision for a better future. Remember that getting out of the fear zone is possible, and it can be done; you just have to change your attitude.
The Learning Zone
Passage through a zone of fear into the learning zone can last for some time. It's a combination of self-belief and a powerful vision for the future that will help you make the leap and successfully cross into this zone. Once you cross into the learning zone, you suddenly become aware of the opportunities available to you. Inspired by your vision for the future, you then decide to face any challenges and problems you might encounter. When you operate in the learning zone, you begin to let go of things you can't control and learn to respond instead. You identify your emotions, acknowledge them, and take stock of what is happening around you. You embark on a journey of taking responsibility for your life and ditch the excuses and the blame.
The Growth Zone
The growth zone is the zone in which you will be able to achieve exceptional success. This is the zone where you will have realized your vision, achieved your goals, and where you end up living the life you dreamed of. It's also the zone where you move back into the learning zone as you define even more ambitious new ones.
The growth zone is not characterized by climbing mountains, leaping from tall buildings, or wrestling alligators; it's living in a rich, vibrant landscape that prompts you to move forward rather than standing still. It's a place where you have the opportunity to thrive, not merely survive.
Expanding your comfort zone beyond the fear zone and learning zone requires multiple progressions to achieve long-lasting results. You can Listen to the IBGR.network live radio show Episode 9 of the Overwhelm To Owning It show here.
Ally Nitschke is a Speaker, Leadership Strategist and Courageous Conversations specialist, She has been working as a leader and with leaders for over 15 years. She is on a mission to change the way we communicate at work, to lean into those uncomfortable conversations and lead with courage. Ally delivers Courageous Leader programs, Courageous Conversations workshops, Coaching and Keynotes. To inquire about her working with you or your organisation please contact us here.