Let’s Talk About…The Discomfort Zone

It’s smart to take stock of whether security and familiarity might lead to your downfall, says Davina Greene.

Davina Greene is The Personal Strategy Coach. 
Interested in building your Personal Strategy? For a first-of-its-kind self-management experience, coming soon, keep an eye on this site!

All of us know about the Comfort Zone, linking it mainly to absence of worry and anxiety.  We’re so busy trying to stay in it that we often employ an avoidance strategy in relation to the Discomfort Zone – that magnificent place where we learn and grow (and, yes, become stressed and uncertain at times).

The key question is, I suppose: Do you want to grow? Some people interpret a feeling of comfort as “I’ve arrived!”; others as “Oh no, I’ve stalled!”. As a coach and trainer, there is nothing more painful than having yet another person sit in front of you who has been served up to you by their employer for growth purposes, but who has absolutely no desire to be there. They have the nice salary, the nice role (and perhaps a bit of prestige coming with it), they ‘fit in’ where they want to fit in, and personal growth and development are so far beyond their radar that the entire coaching/training scenario becomes somewhat laughable. They will happily plateau where they are for all eternity, if allowed. This is perfectly fine, on many levels. It is good – indeed, healthy – to recognize that you have ‘enough’.

Many people, however, want more.

Sadly, this is usually just a generic feeling of ‘wanting more’, into which minimal further contemplative effort is put (this makes sense: every day, images of all the things we don’t have are thrown at us from all sides, leaving us little time to think, filter or choose). We dance in and out of the Discomfort Zone, taking lots of minor to mid-level mood-hits due to the confusing misalignment of our true wants and current actions. We spend more time being angry about what we don’t know than overcoming it. However, for those who do take the time to think, prioritise and push through the inevitable difficulties, the Discomfort Zone becomes far less scary. Every little scare is happening for a reason in which you are truly invested – a short-term “Eek!” moment is buffered by a strong vision of what the longer-term gain will be.

I’ll give my own example. At the moment, I am setting up a new business. This means lots of financial discussions – definitely in my Discomfort Zone. This means lots of legal discussions – firmly rooted bang splat in the centre of my Discomfort Zone. But my commitment to the bigger, longer-term picture buffers me against the day-to-day pains of getting the business up-and-running. The only questions in the Discomfort Zone are “Am I worth it?” and “Is the goal worth it?” I can say Yes to both of those. Some people cannot even say yes to the first bit.

If you are, for example, overweight and want to use exercise classes to improve your health then, yes, you are going to have to walk through that door, into the room with (probably) lots of slim people in it, and do that same thing over and over again for months until you have reached your goal. Are you worth it? Is the goal outcome worth it?

If you want to be a manager but your people skills are poor then, yes, you may have to pay for training or coaching for (probably) months until you have reached your goal. Are you worth it? Is the goal outcome worth it? (or are you just going to wait and see if your employer pays for it…one day…maybe….)

One of my absolute favourite quotes is Winston Churchill’s ““If you are going through hell, keep going.” Never were truer words spoken. Too many of us give up quickly when something goes wrong – as if a project is supposed to run perfectly or not at all.

Every moment of uncertainty, followed by learning and clarity, will serve to nudge your base-level confidence up a notch. And who wouldn’t want that?

Key points:

  • Decide if you really want to grow and develop. Don’t assume. Don’t just copy others.
  • Surround yourself with achievers; they know all about learning pains.
  • Persevere. Step away from well-meaning people who want to ‘protect you’ from change.
  • The ‘sweet spot’ is a productive one. Notice if panic has made you unproductive – this is not the aim.
  • Celebrate when you achieve your goal. You wanted it, and you got there. Yay!

 

This article was first published in Irish Tatler magazine.