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Getting comfortable with discomfort in the workplace

Getting comfortable with discomfort in the workplace

19 May by Deborah Wilson

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While many people are guilty of avoiding discomfort like the plague, finding a way to manage these feelings is the key to success.

Think about something in your working life that makes you uncomfortable. Chances are, that something challenges you. So, how can we get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable?

Simply starting and showing up is often half the battle. A lot of what I do involves speaking with executives and professionals and often, there are times when people feel challenged and uncomfortable. Having faith in your ability to work through challenges and respond appropriately is important and in my view, self-belief is like a muscle. If we want our muscles to grow, we have to use them more and more over time.

While feeling uncomfortable can be unpleasant, I don’t believe discomfort is a bad thing. The well known saying, ‘no pain, no gain,’ comes to mind. Remember, discomfort is different to long-term stress or pushing yourself to the point of burnout. Self-awareness is another key ingredient to success.

Sure, it is true that personal growth can be organic but discomfort can be a great catalyst for change. If we want to work on something specific, we almost always have to push our own boundaries to experience true progress. Cast your mind back to the last time you felt genuine discomfort in the workplace. Perhaps you made a mistake, were called out in a way you haven’t been before or something else. Whatever the experience, don’t ignore it. Ignoring the issue won’t make it go away.

I’ll give you an example that most of us can relate to: public speaking. You’re not the most confident public speaker and avoid speaking in front of people at all costs. However, sometimes, you can’t avoid it. As each day goes by leading up to you delivering a speech, you become more and more anxious. You replay your last experience with public speaking, which you feel was underwhelming, over and over again in your mind. Worse still, even when you get over this upcoming experience, eventually, you’ll have to engage in public speaking again in the future. It never ends.

Now, imagine if this same individual recognised that they’d like to work on their speaking skills. They signed up for an online course about body language, they practiced their speech in front of colleagues, they even had a couple of sessions with a speaking coach. I’m certain that this person will go into their next speaking experience far more confident than if they’d sat back, wishing it away. Making an effort to address a problem also means we’re doing everything within our power to improve.

The lesson is to constantly and consciously work on yourself. Reflect on the areas that make you feel uncomfortable and make small tweaks, talk to someone else about the issue… there are many ways to tackle any challenge. Often, it’s our mindset that dictates how we feel. Most of us are destined to encounter discomfort at some point in our careers. Instead of focusing on how you feel well out of your depth, embrace this moment as a growth opportunity. Don’t waste your time chasing perfection. Remain open and receptive to feedback and don’t forget: we’re all human, we all feel these emotions at times.

If you’re having trouble with specific challenges and need support, reach out to a professional and invest in your future.

Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and career transitions, mentoring and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose. Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746.