We all encounter challenging issues, but the way we deal with them reveals our willingness to persevere and challenge ourselves. The default status for most of us is to “play it safe” and avoid going outside of our comfort zone because discomfort makes us feel vulnerable, weak, or helpless. So what can we do about making a change from being uncomfortable to being “comfortable with being uncomfortable?”
Reframe the Idea of Discomfort
Most people that don’t know me very well consider me to be an introvert. I disliked being the center of attention in any circumstance. I tried to avoid talking in front of people I didn’t know and felt drained and anxious when I had to step outside my comfort zone. I had a fear of embarrassing myself in front of others, and it was a big issue. Before speaking to practically anyone, I would find myself rehearsing what I would say. Finally, I was honest with myself a few years ago because too frequently, I would use the shy/introvert label as an excuse to avoid doing things that made me uncomfortable, like make presentations or lead a group.
I knew I would have to commit to reframing the idea of discomfort when weekly presentations in various classes would keep me awake stressing the night before or keep me from eating breakfast in the morning. The anticipation of doing these presentations in front of 30+ students every week started to have too much power over me and my mind. I realized that absolutely nothing, especially something that happens so often, should have such a powerful and detrimental effect. Only then was I able to embrace the discomfort because I acknowledged that it was an inevitable part of life that I would have to manage. I knew I needed to remap my view of discomfort into a series of possible positive events that I have the power to influence. I now see it as a way to grow, perform better, and improve my life.
Through trial and error, I have gotten proficient at reframing my discomfort with leading people and taking risks. Without embracing the issues that I allowed to hold me back, I wouldn’t have invented a medical device or created a website to fight financial illiteracy.
It’s easier to procrastinate and stay in a temporary comfort zone. But once you realize that change is inevitable, it makes more sense to influence what that change will become. By the way, when you immerse yourself in new experiences or invest time in becoming more proficient in things that matter, you will also fuel your creative spark. Allow yourself to learn to thrive even when you are uncomfortable with change or uncomfortable making decisions.
Uncomfortable with Change
In today’s world, avoiding imminent change will put us at a constant disadvantage. We fear change because of the unknown outcomes. We want to know the results, so we often process through many scenarios, increasing our anxiety. It’s often the fear of failure that plays the most prominent role because we worry the outcome could be wrong.
We must be willing to look at change as inevitable and think of change differently. Instead of thinking of change as something that happens to you, we should think about making change something that happens to benefit you.
Planet Fitness, one of the largest fitness clubs within the United States, prides itself on their Judgement Free Zone®, a brilliant move to eliminate one of the biggest stereotypes when working out in front of other people: judgment. Since many people can feel embarrassed or self-conscious when exercising in front of others, Judgement Free Zone® brings a sense of comfort, knowing they will not be judged for embarking on their workout journey. While Planet Fitness’s decision is admirable and is appreciated by many of its members, it would be better if we could independently reframe the idea that working out in front of others is a good motivating opportunity, not another anxiety-inducing event.
At every point in our life, something was once an unknown. One approach to embracing change is to break things down into smaller pieces. If you want to choose a possible career path or career change, start by looking for the intersecting point between what you are good at and what you like to do. Ask for insight from people with that type of job and see if there is a way to simulate doing parts of the job before making a full commitment. Each step increases your confidence and increases the probability of success if you choose to continue.
The Path Forward
To live your best life, you must be willing to be uncomfortable and learn from adversity. To be successful in today’s world, we must be willing to shift our mindset. Confidence plays a major role in navigating change. Confident people know where they are and where they want to go. Having confidence in yourself to handle change well and trust your capabilities will take you far.
I understand the struggle because I know first-hand that the fear of failure will convince you to settle and reject possible growth opportunities. My initial reaction is to embrace comfort, so I continue to practice changing my thoughts from negative to the positives that can happen. I put together a plan and get started immediately, and I make course corrections if needed. Sometimes I fail, but I always learn from the experience, and I accept that failing is sometimes the next logical step in my path. As you gain experience managing the discomfort, you will create your way forward. Trust me; the process gets easier the more you do it. Let me know how it goes.