Discomfort. The lack of comfort. Not always as bad as it seems?
Discomfort is healthy. As humans we need to regularly step outside our comfort zones. That’s where life is truly lived. But what if this discomfort isn’t momentary, but sticks around for weeks, months, years?
I was chatting to a buddy the other day about him potentially quitting his great job at a top tech startup in a beautiful city to move home with his parents and work on his own stuff.
I had to laugh at how good he had it, yet still felt like maybe this wasn’t where he should really be.
Often discomfort is there for a reason, trying to tell us something. It’s saying “there’s something more, come explore it.”
I had a similar experience a couple of years ago. I was working an interesting job with great people on something I was passionate about. I liked the area and was surrounded by a great bunch of people on a daily basis. Yet still something felt not quite right.
The feeling built up over months, nagging at me. “This isn’t your place anymore. This season is coming to an end, it’s time for something new.”
Deep down I knew this moment would come, I just didn’t know when. I certainly didn’t want to pre-emptively put it into motion when it wasn’t yet time. Leaving my job and life as it was before it was time would have made me truly sad. I didn’t want to be hasty.
I knew I had desires I’d yet to see fulfilled, and areas I wanted to explore that I had yet to do, I just wasn’t sure when.
So I sat on the idea for months. I dwelt on it, weighing it up, feeling it from every angle. Is it really time for me to move on, or am I just taking the easy way out? Will I regret taking this step now, is it too early? How can I leave when it’s so good here?
Ultimately, after over six months of deliberation, I decided to move on. I just knew in the depths of me that it was time. Time to step out into the next season. I didn’t know what that next season really looked like, other than a few marker points, but I took the step.
I’d felt it from every direction, this was it.
I’d work more on my own stuff. I’d learn some core skills that I’d need for the next step. I’d slow down a bit, and not rush too quick on exactly what it all looked like.
So I moved back to my parents. After five years away, I came back, slowed down, and started chipping away at what I thought this next season would be.
Little by little I made progress. It wasn’t always easy, I didn’t always know whether to go down path A or path B. But I tried them out for size, and learnt as I went.
I applied for jobs in Australia. I applied for a job in London. I got a job in London.
The job was all I’d wanted. It was doing the job I wanted to do, good pay, good location, interesting product, great people. I learnt a tonne from it. I got the job as a direct result of the work I’d been doing since leaving my old job. Without that I wouldn’t have got this.
Eighteen months on, that feeling came around again. Should I still be here? Is this my place? Is it time to move on? Pivot or persevere?
After feeling through the discomfort once more, it started to become clear that it was time for a change. I’d changed a lot in those 18 months. The company had changed a lot. We were both in different places with different needs.
Discomfort struck again, and forced me to re-evaluate my plans.
Again, I dwelt on it for a few months.
Then one day I sat down with my manager and took the step: I announced my intention to move on within a couple of months. I wasn’t sure exactly what was next, I just knew it was time for next. This chapter was coming to a close, it was time to step out again.
Often that’s how it is. We don’t know what the next step is, we just know in the core of us what it’s not. It’s not about petulance or entitlement, it’s just a knowing.
The desires we’ve put off for tomorrow, are now for today. We can either choose to live in the past, in the known, or step out into what today has for us, trusting we’ll be able to work it out on the journey.
Since making that decision my options became clearer and the right path ahead emerged. I left my old gig and am now in the place I know I should be, at least for now.
There’s something to be said for persevering through tough times, or even just through the mundane. I’m not advocating that we should jump from one thing to the next as soon as our rose tinted glasses lose their colour. The ability to stick at something over a long period is a key skill any entrepreneur has to master. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
That said, we aren’t made to do the same thing over and over and over and over. There comes a time when it’s time for a change. It’s just working out when.
It can be hard to know when that time comes. Hard to decide between sticking it out and pushing through, and moving onto something new.
Often the path ahead is unclear. Knowing what’s ‘right’ is no scientific endeavour. But often our discomfort can lead us, whispering to us over and over, “have you looked over here? It’s time now.”