“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.” – Rabindranath Tagore
More and more it seems to me that a vast number of people have a common goal in life. I don’t know that it’s a new thing, but I’ve not really been conscious of it until fairly recently. That goal is to be comfortable. Let me explain.
A very high percentage of people spend much of their lives trying to remove things from their lives that make them uncomfortable. It might be certain people, it might be certain activities, it might be any number of things. They gradually eliminate things that bring uncertainty or seem unnecessarily challenging.
When you’re young, being in uncomfortable or challenging situations is unavoidable. Everything is new, you’re learning all the time, you’re constantly being pushed into situations or experiences that keep you on edge. As you get older, those kinds of situations and experiences become more and more optional, and most people seem to just opt out.
That’s a huge mistake. The people I know who are the happiest, most energetic, most awake in life do just the opposite. Those people intentionally seek out uncomfortable or challenging situations, both in their personal and professional lives. They know that without the growth that comes from those kinds of experiences, they’ll become complacent, bored, lazy – and they’ll spend most of their life just coasting.
I’m not going to say I never try to be comfortable, but I will say my career was never so engaging and energizing as when I started intentionally doing things that made me uncomfortable. Getting up in front of a group of people and facilitating change, strategy, growth, whatever, or doing some kind of public speaking – those things are terrifying to me. I’ve been doing them for years and I’m still scared every time. But those things have become most of what I do and they’ve forced me to grow and become a different (hopefully better) person. Now when I feel like I’m getting really good at something I look for ways to blow it up and start over, just to stay uncomfortable.
Think about yourself as a leader, or just think about your career, or even your personal life. What are you purposefully doing that will scare you or make you uncomfortable? I’m not talking about doing things that are dangerous or stupid – I’m just talking about getting outside your comfort zone.
Being uncomfortable isn’t something to run from. It’s something to run to. Be intentional about finding challenges, about finding opportunities to feel uncertain. Without the growth that being uncomfortable brings, you gradually just wither away.
It is by constantly challenging yourself that you grow in capability, experience, and confidence. Drawing on the energy of discomfort provides the momentum for continuous improvement. All this questions the concept of retirement?