Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” – Albert Einstein
Your problems exist because you haven’t yet experienced the growth to overcome them.
Personal growth is about widening your comfort zone, so you develop resiliency and growth to overcome them.
It requires being exposed to what you’ve never done before. This can be terrifying at first but if you reframe your thoughts, you are likely to change how you approach the problem.
“What most people call a ‘problem’ is simply a gap, an open space between point A and point B. And if you keep an open mind, it’s an open space you can bridge,” writes author Jeff Olson in The Slight Edge.
I recall coaching a client, Joe, who played soccer and experienced problems relating to his rehabilitation. After repeated physical setbacks lasting twelve months, he was despondent with his recovery during soccer training. His setbacks arose because he had an expectation of fully recovering after twelve months.
Through regular coaching, I invited Joe to set aside his frustration and accept that when he pushed his physical limitations, difficulties would arise.
I asked him to consider the hurdles with curiosity instead of being a potential problem. A curious mind helps to improve learning and memory. It is an open mind or as Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck calls it, having a Growth mindset.
In his earlier rehabilitation by himself, Joe was dejected about not having fully recovered. In our coaching sessions, I asked him to consider his frustration as a sign of pushing past his comfort zone where he is likely to experience discomfort. In effect, I was urging him to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Author Jeff Olson explains how problems exist in magnitude to which they can be overcome: “Most people, when confronted by problems larger than or of a different sort than they’re already handling, immediately feel defeated or thrown off course. Most tend to see larger or different problems as negatives and infect their own lives with negativity. What they don’t realize is this philosophy: The size of the problem determines the size of the person.”
Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
“Every problem is a gift – without problems we would not grow.” – Anthony Robbins
You won’t know how strong you are until you are tested, because under normal circumstances you are not likely to challenge yourself until it matters.
When life is pleasant why would you want to step out of your comfort zone?
You will remain comfortable until motivation calls you to take action. You might experience inner turmoil because you are not accustomed to the discomfort that accompanies it.
Consider motivational author Brendon Burchard’s view in his latest book High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way: “No one who achieved greatness avoided struggle. They met it, engaged with it. They knew that it was necessary, because they knew that real challenge and hardship pushed them, extended their capabilities, made them rise.”
He says: “They learned to honour the struggle. They developed a mindset that anticipated the struggle, welcomed the struggle, leveraged the struggle into reasons to give more.”
The Navy Seals are accustomed to stepping out of their comfort zone because their job requires them to work in danger zones. If they are comfortable, it is unlikely they will engage the enemy when it matters.
Closer to home, most of us need not get out of our comfort zone too often. So when problems emerge, we do not have the coping skills to deal with it.
You might have read books that promote stepping out of your comfort zone daily, yet how many people follow the advice?
Greatness is something to which you have access, yet it must be engaged for it to be known.
Jeff Olson reinforces this idea by stating it’s a decision made within the moment: “Everywhere, in every moment, you get to exercise choices that will determine whether or not you will become a great person, living a great life. Greatness is not something predetermined, predestined or carved into your fate by forces beyond your control. Greatness is always in the moment of the decision.”
To further illustrate this view, a few months ago I was out shopping for groceries and heard a cry for help from a young girl. As a first aid responder I ran over to find her colleague having an epileptic seizure on the floor.
My first reaction was to stay calm and assess the situation, otherwise I am of no use to the injured person. What took place in the moments that followed was an example of people coming together to reveal their greatness.
Passers-by who were out shopping stopped to offer aid. Some calling the ambulance, others on the phone to her mother and creating a makeshift environment to keep her comfortable so as not to get hurt during the seizure.
After the ambulance arrived and took her to hospital, I walked away feeling confident knowing that when it matters people bring their best selves to the moment. This reinforces Jeff Olson’s point that greatness shows up in the moment of the decision to act.
Larry Weidel writes in Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success: “Fundamentals can be taught, but greatness must be caught.”
Let Go Of What You Can’t Control
“Sometimes problems don’t require a solution to solve them; instead they require maturity to outgrow them.” – Steve Maraboli
It is difficult to step out of your comfort zone and the reason why you must do it often.
Greatness resides within you and can be summoned when needed. The adage use it or lose it highlights the need to engage your greatest self to reinforce your motivation muscle. You can overcome any problem, while feeling confident you are in control.
This involves rising above your initial struggle and having an effective strategy to confront it.
Have you noticed in the hours or days after the problem, it seems smaller in scale? This is because you are less emotionally invested. The key is to bring this same composure when you next experience a problem.
You want to control what is in your power and let go of what you cannot control. It is no use beating yourself up over something you have little control over.
Larry Weidel says: “Problems can crush you or provoke you. It’s a battle and the outcome depends on your response. If you give in, you lose. If you fight back, you can break through and keep moving forward. That’s the only way to stay in control of your life.”
Drawing on my earlier example of my client Joe, it is beyond his power to control the rate at which his body heals. However, he can do the right things such as manage his rehabilitation, nutrition, rest, sleep and hope it is enough to completely recover.
This way, he works within the limits of his healing instead of trying to push things faster than required, otherwise further damage will occur.
For example, it is foolish of him to think he can run 2—4 weeks following an ACL tear. His frustration and anger does little to speed up the healing process, only delay it.
When you next face a problem you consider too big, ask yourself the question in the title of the article: What if every problem I experienced was an opportunity to step into my greatness?
How would I move forward?
What can I do differently?
How will I act?
Who do I need to become to overcome the problem?
Mindvalley founder Vishen Lakhiani writes in The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms about the advice shared by Michael Bernard Beckwith, the American New Thought minister: “Behind every problem, there’s a question trying to ask itself. Behind every question, there’s an answer trying to reveal itself. Behind every answer, there’s an action trying to take place. And behind every action, there’s a way of life trying to be born.”
After all, you must experience your problems with openness and an expanded awareness, instead of using a distorted lens which only keeps you stuck longer than need be.