May is Mental Health month, so let’s look at the experience that sends many of us into anxiety, isolation and depression unnecessarily: situational discomfort. The worst part is we block our own success when we try to side step it. There are few things we would rather avoid more than being uncomfortable. I’m not talking about the sore muscles we get from working out. No, I’m talking about the uncomfortable conversations we sometimes need to have in order to reach a resolution. Then there’s the uncomfortable feeling we get when we risk our financial security to do something far more satisfying. And, of course, there is the massive twin discomforts of change and uncertainty.
We find it extremely difficult to embrace the uncomfortable emotional space these things can create in us. Instead, we try to race through them as fast as we are able, and as a result, we abort the vital process for creating lasting relief from our discomfort. The harsh truth is that a period of feeling uncomfortable is the non-negotiable price of growth, and can make you far more successful, especially if you do the following four things.
1. Slow Down
Most of us react to the first twinge of discomfort by doing one of two things: first, we might distract ourselves from the feeling with busyness, self-medication using food, shopping, social media, alcohol, drugs, and more, or we might race into doing something (anything!) to change the situation as fast as possible. We do this to avoid two things: the situation, and ourselves.
Despite our urgency to distract from, or fix, the cause of our discomfort, the fastest way to dispel it is to first observe it from within, by slowing down. A situation would not be so uncomfortable to us unless there was something for us to see in it—about ourselves! If we slow down, we are better able to see what is triggering us, what we are afraid of, and what we truly want. Then, and only then, a more productive, satisfying and growth-oriented solution becomes possible. That solution can only come from inside of us, and we have to stop and look for it.
2. Get Curious
Too many of us believe there is a single, perfect answer to every uncomfortable circumstance, and we crave being absolutely, 100% right. We also tend to believe the answer is outside of us. We research, recruit opinions, and build a case for why we should do something, or how someone should change what they are doing, so we can stop feeling so uncomfortable. What actually happens when we rigidly do that is threefold:
We stay focused on the problem, instead of solutions.
Our blood flow to the brain constricts and our breathing gets shallow, which actually makes finding any solution 10 times harder.
We judge, and therefore limit, our thinking, which hampers our ability to be innovative, empathetic, creative and inspired.
By contrast, curiosity explores countless possibilities. It relaxes, creating a sense of openness and space, so that something new can be created. It can take many forms, two of the most interesting of which are:
Make two lists—one of everything you do want in a better circumstance, and one of everything you don’t want. This helps you to see the solutions that fit your demands most clearly when the arise.
Explore how you could begin creating the solution you want, even if nothing around you actually changed. For example, if you are stressed by work schedules, how could you create time for yourself for micro-breaks, or reallocate your workload yourself?
3. Take a Risk
What do you consider successful? Do you want a different career, or live in a different city? Why haven't you done it yet? You are probably still in your current situation because doing either of the above would involve taking a risk. Taking a risk can be scary and quite uncomfortable. At least in your current situation you know what to expect—or so you think.
One of the biggest errors in judgement any of us make is believing that there is such a thing as complete certainty. Just look at Covid, the housing bubble, anyone who has ever been in an accident, or suffered a debilitating illness. We just don’t know what’s ahead of us. Certainly we can take reasonable precautions, but we can’t stop living. Life itself is uncertain. Risk is baked in.
The second biggest mistake we make is believing anything is permanent. Yes, we can make mistakes. And we can also make another choice to course correct. Many of the most wildly successful people in the world have made some major mistaken choices. They just didn’t let it stop there. That’s the secret to entrepreneurship, to marketing, leadership and entering into a new romance, new position at work and even getting a new haircut! You learn, and move on.
This is a tough one. No matter how perfect the solution may seem in the beginning, there are bound to be rough spots and outright obstacles along the way, which cause—you guessed it!—that old, uncomfortable feeling all over again.
Feeling uncomfortable doesn’t mean you made a bad decision. It means you have more growing to do. Think of it as a guide post. It is pointing out something you need to pay attention to. That means committing to doing the inner reflection work, staying curious and taking those courageous risks accelerates your growth and ultimately your success.
The most important thing here is to not change directions before you see the situation through to some form of completion. Success is a process, just like everything else. There are no quick fixes. Just good insights.
Are you ready to be successful? If you'd like some support navigating the discomfort and reaching your next level of success, be sure to apply for your complimentary strategy session and we can start making some progress!