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The Discomfort Zone

I feel out of control today. Overwhelmed might be more accurate. Too many things vying for my time, too many balls in the air; eventually one has to drop. To me, this begs the question: when is discomfort okay?

Part of the leadership journey is stepping outside of your comfort zone, finding the things that make you uncomfortable about your work life and facing those things. Of course, the comfort zone looks different to different people. For me, perhaps stepping out of my comfort zone involves overcoming fears of missing out or fears of failure; perhaps it manifests as being able to give up control of certain aspects of the work I have personally (and solely) done for years.

But in any situation, when is the discomfort felt when stepping out of your comfort zone actually beneficial? I'll tell you when I figure it out for myself. In the meantime, let me share some strategies for getting through the discomfort no matter the level of professional benefit.

  • Understand the discomfort: Something as simple as taking a minute to decide if the discomfort you're feeling is legitimate can lead to larger gains. The next time you feel this, you'll know why and move forward.
  • Get up and move: Sometimes, the best thing for your psychological well-being is to do something physically different from the task at hand. For me, I often just do a quick loop around the building, checking in with colleagues or filling up my water bottle. Serendipitous meetings or flashes of inspiration can happen when you aren't expecting it.
  • Work on another task: With a larger to-do list than I know what to do with, I often try to move on to another task on the list if I am hitting a roadblock or a point of discomfort with my progress. When I come back to the original task, I can do so with fresh eyes and renewed energy. I discussed this sense of timely renewal last week.
  • Start something new: Nash helped me with this one. When he hits creative low points, he shifts to something completely new to get into a rhythm and flow, then he uses that energy on the task that needs a little extra push.