The Importance of being uncomfortable.

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Something has been happening in my world over the last few weeks that has been very uncomfortable.

Four weeks ago, Sharon who has been my companies business administrator for 15 years resigned. Last week she tidied up her desk and ended her decade and a half tenure. As yet I have not found a replacement for Sharon and running the company without her is proving difficult and uncomfortable.

Two words stand out when I think about Sharon, Honesty & Loyalty and these are both traits that cannot be taught or trained.

Sharon and I had a very close working relationship and I know that all relationships have a life span. However, I find myself asking why did Sharon decide to leave all of a sudden?

Without delving into her personal reasons, I feel partially responsible because I have been preoccupied over several months with my own problems such as the ongoing legal battle with a previous client and trying to keep the business on track.

One thing that is very evident, is that “just soldiering on” is not going to work and that it’s imperative that I find a new administrator ASAP.

I will greatly miss Sharon and her friendly easy going nature and I wish her well with whatever the next chapter in her life brings. But a change is coming and that makes me insecure and uncomfortable.

Most self-help books contain leading statements such as,

  • Change is essential for personal growth, and achieving your goals.
  • Without taking risks, you can never reach your full potential.

I believe that both of these statements are true, and it’s important to examine and understand how they relate to you and your future success.

It is widely recognized that human’s benefit from discomfort. Hard physical exercise and solving challenging mental problems are vital to our physical and mental health and wellbeing. However, we are genetically wired to run away from most forms of discomfort. Our “fight or flight” reactions are the inbuilt safety mechanism that has ensured our survival for thousands of years.

Without physical and mental challenges we get bored pretty quickly, and we start to seek out or create problems for ourselves in order to combat the boredom. We are all very good at finding problems to grapple with, even when there really are none.

“A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is designed for.” Albert Einstein

A book titled “The Comfort Crisis” by Michael Easter puts forward the premise that the right type of discomfort can dramatically improve our health and happiness and can help us understand what it means to be human. Easter cites numerous studies that show that regularly experiencing discomfort can protect us from or greatly reduce anxiety, depression, heart disease and obesity.

Being constantly comfortable is therefore bad for us, so why do we all crave it and actively seek it so much?

Why is it so hard for us to voluntarily leave our comfort zone?

When discomfort is involved we are all very good at finding excuses not to do something we know we should.

For me the discomfort I often find excuses to avoid is going swimming after work. A frequent barrier I encounter to going swimming is finding a carpark outside the local swimming Pool. Not getting a convenient parking spot is often a sufficient excuse for me to pull the pin and just drive home. Ridiculous I know, but that’s the truth and this just goes to highlight how good we can all be at creating barriers to avoid discomfort.

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is one step outside your comfort zone.” Unknown

It takes considerable work and effort to overcome the internal barriers that rise up when we are faced with a challenge. The first step towards overcoming some of these internal barriers is to acknowledge the discomfort and to recognize the feelings that are holding you back from doing something. What do you tell yourself just before you decide not to do something?

Once you become familiar with your internal dialogue (i.e. “no car park within 100m of the pool, so I’m out of here”) you can start to create side-steps to get around the barrier. One hack that my wife and I often use with our three children whenever they are facing a challenge, is to tell them “it only takes 20 seconds of courage”. When I use this hack myself it’s amazing how easy it is to get past the barriers in my way and to get stuck into the uncomfortable task at hand.

“It’s a curious truth that when you pay attention to negative emotions, they tend to dissipate — but positive ones expand.” Oliver Burkeman

Thanks for reading,
Stay safe and lean into discomfort.



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David McCallum

David McCallum

An Australian builder for 35 years who brings a practical no-nonsense approach to personal and professional improvement. I Mentor small business owners.