How to be more comfortable with discomfort

When you're facing a challenge that's new to you, or as a leader you're innovating and creating something new for your business, chances are you're going to feel uncomfortable at some stage.

It's been acknowledged that as leaders in business 85–87% of our success accounts from soft skills, emotional intelligence, and personal skills, yet we only pay attention to them 10% of the time. That's not much!

I get it. I've always been in a battle with myself when it comes to discomfort. Amongst my core needs are the need for security, comfort and certainty. But as I've developed myself as a leader, particularly since starting my own business, I'm constantly pushing outside my comfort zone.

This leads to feelings of discomfort, which in the past I would push away because, well it just doesn't feel good! But more recently, I have discovered that the quickest way to grow is to learn to sit in the discomfort. When I do this, I tend to have more compassion for myself, and I can tune into what the underlying reasons are for these feelings. From there I can view the situation with fresh eyes.

According to Dr Travis Bradberry in his book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” having a keen understanding of your tendencies is crucial. A high degree of self-awareness requires a willingness to tolerate the discomfort of focusing on feelings that may be negative. This means we need to stop trying to mask them, ignore them or push them away. And to do this, we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

If you're someone who is challenged by stepping outside your comfort zone, here are 5 ways you can become more comfortable with discomfort.

1. Be willing to fail

Chances are if you're trying something new, you won't get it right the first time. And that's ok. We learn from our mistakes, and if we can be honest about them then we can gain respect rather than criticism. Re-frame the term ‘failure' to ‘a learning opportunity' and remind yourself when your internal voice tells you that you failed.

2. Do something different today and every day

It might be as small as striking up a conversation with someone you don't know well, listening to a podcast about a topic you know little about, or going somewhere different for lunch whether it's a cafe or outside in a park with a sandwich. Mix it up!

3. Question your beliefs

Beliefs are sneaky in that we just don't even realise what they are until we question them. Look at something you believe to be true and ask yourself:

  • ‘Can I know beyond any doubt that this is true?'
  • ‘What if the opposite was true?'
  • ‘How do I treat others when I believe this to be true?'  

4. Ask someone for feedback

Seek out someone in your peer group or your team and ask them to provide you feedback on something you have done recently – an action, communication or decision. Be open to hearing without being defensive. Rather, be grateful for the opportunity to learn from them.

5. Listen to your unconscious mind

Think of a problem or challenge you are currently facing and pose a question you want to know the answer to. Grab a pen and paper and start writing with your non-dominant hand. Your conscious mind will be busy figuring out how to write, which allows your unconscious mind to give you the answer you already know.

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