Comfortable being Uncomfortable
We always talk about the importance of stepping outside of our comfort zone, but rarely, do we end up taking the plunge and delve into the deep end of the unknown. It is this unknown territory that often compels us to retreat back to what is familiar — that is the very essence of our comfort zones.
By: Josephine Chang
A comfort zone is a conscious guide that serves to structure our own environment in a way that we don’t put ourselves in failure situations. This is why routines can make you feel at ease and in control. In reality, a constant routine can dull your sensitivities. That is, when you are on autopilot, you find yourselves tuning out much of your life on a daily basis. That is when we decide to become too comfortable within this zone — and that is exactly where we stop growing.
Therefore, the challenge is to get past that initial feeling of wanting to return to the norm, so you can grow and benefit from that discomfort in the long run. To do so, there are 3 steps to consider when managing discomfort:
- Declutter the mind.
When you are feeling uncomfortable about something, your mind can start to go into a haze. The first thing you need to do is to divert your attention to something else. In a 2015 study at Brown University, neuroscientists confirmed that the key to “optimal inattention” lies in finding alternative sources of stimulation to preoccupy your mind. Whilst, you can’t ever completely clear your head, you can focus your attention to bring clarity of thought. The best way to do this varies across individuals, however, it could take the form of listening to calming music, quiet meditation or getting your ideas out by talking it out with a friend or writing it onto a paper where you can physically see them.
2. Pinpoint the source.
Whilst it might be completely evident to you what the source of your discomfort is, it is more-so important to recognise why you are feeling the way you are.
“It’s not our failures that determine our future success, but how we explain it to ourselves.” — Dr. Martin Seligman
What is it about the situation that’s triggering the feelings? Are you afraid of receiving that rejection letter from your first internship application? Are you scared of raising your concern because you think others might think it is not worth considering? Or is it the speech you dread so much because you know your peers and colleagues will be critiquing you?
Once you have identified what is and why exactly these sources are holding you back, try to recall upon another time when something you did brought up similar feelings of discomfort. How did that play out for you? Take this time to celebrate the small wins you previously had, and remind yourself of the growth that came from that uncomfortable situation. At the same time, think about those situations where similar feelings and actions led to what you might deem as a failure.
The key is to recognise where it’s coming from so you can legitimise it and act accordingly. That leads to a greater reward.
3. Just do it.
More often than not, there is so much you want to do and want to explore, that you struggle to take action on any of them. That discomfort, fear, or uncertainty paralyses you. Your mind then begins to make excuses for yourself in the form of doubt and that voice eventually becomes a breeding ground for negativity.
Here, you have 2 options: either continue to dwell on your problem or acknowledge your situation and take action. Whilst the latter can be stressful, know that under these circumstances, you will always have a “choice” — a choice between taking constructive actions and a choice on how to perceive it.
“The less time you can spend dwelling on your mistakes, the more mental energy you can devote to doing what you need to do in that moment.” — Christian Wheeler
Of course, not all discomfort serves a positive purpose or will contribute to your growth. No one said, “go big or go home.” You don’t have to dramatically jump out of your comfort zone and make drastic changes. Baby steps are key. Find situations that allow you to take small risks that prepare you for the real challenge. Therefore, you should also be selective about how, when, and why you’re embracing the discomfort of a given situation and how it can benefit you.
With that being said, it is only through failure, can we recognise its true value: we are, in fact, more capable than we think we are, and more importantly — we have the opportunity to grow and learn.
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