Growth is discomfort!

I think this is clearly true – so what are you uncomfortable about right now? Maybe that’s what you should be doing?


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“In many instances, the likelihood of an individual succeeding (no matter what the goal) will be dependant on how uncomfortable that person is prepared to get and for how long.” C.A.H.

The Application of the Information

This morning I coached someone who asked me to expand on the ‘growth comes through discomfort’ theory. It’s something I’m always teaching and it’s a concept my client was having trouble getting her head around – from a practical application point of view. As the concept is relevant to most of us, I thought I would expand on it a little today.

What’s Growth?

In the context of this discussion, growth could mean a range of things: learning, improvement, adaptation, skill development, greater insight, better understanding, less fear, more confidence, greater productivity, less anxiety, more patience, fewer destructive habits and even something as practical and measurable as greater physical strength and improved health.

For an athlete, growth might mean more points per game, a higher vertical leap or a faster time. For a shop-aholic it might mean eliminating debt and changing spending habits. For the person with a social phobia, it might mean looking someone in the eye and initiating a conversation. And, for the chronic people-pleaser it could mean saying ‘no’ to somebody, taking a stand and not backing down. In simple terms, growth means creating positive change in some area of our (personal) world.

What’s Discomfort?

Discomfort, on the other hand, could be anything that (in a general sense) we’d rather avoid. It could present itself in the form of a work problem, a financial situation, a conversation we’re always deferring, a fitness challenge, a health issue, a habit we need to break, a fear we need to confront, a relationship we need to end, a dynamic we need to change or even (as many people have experienced) an unexpected illness. It could arrive in the form of an emotional, physical, psychological, sociological, financial or professional challenge. Or, a combination thereof.

Individually Uncomfortable

The interesting thing about the discomfort/growth paradigm is that it’s completely personal in terms of how and when it works and what it means to us. By that, I mean one person’s discomfort (and, therefore, opportunity to grow) will be another person’s minor event. There is no universally relevant discomfort scale because we all think, feel, experience and react differently. A scale like P.R.E. (a widely-used scale which gauges an individual’s Perceived Rate of Exertion while completing a physical task) tells us that comfort or discomfort, hard or easy is all about the individual. Which tells us that learning, adaptation, change and improvement are also about the individual.

Standing on a stage and talking is simply part of my job. For me, that task is about as stressful as driving a cab might be for a cabbie. That is, not very. For someone else, it might be an exercise in anxiety or maybe even terror. And, at the same time, a major opportunity for growth. Knowing that things only have the meaning we give them, we can safely assume that there is no single experience, process or situation that will produce consistent or equal results in terms of positive or negative change across the board.

Naturally, not all discomfort serves a positive purpose (standing in front of a moving bus for example) and, of course, we need to be wise and discerning about how, when and why we ‘get uncomfortable’. Having said that, it’s important that we find the awareness, courage and understanding that allow us to see problems, hurdles, barriers and catastrophes for what they really are: opportunities to grow and learn.

Is it time for you to address that thing you’ve been avoiding?

Don’t get mad at me – you keep putting it off. I’m just reminding you.

Image: Jeff Black


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Who did you create value for today?

Robin Sharma writes on his blog about success how it isn’t something you can strive to achieve but rather a bi-product of making lives better. It is a short, but good post and I relate it to what I wrote previously about Work and Life balance, I recommend it and I agree with him that it’s all about delivering value – to all your stakeholders.

In his post he quotes Studs Terkel who is an American historian and radio broadcaster:

“Work is about daily meaning as well as daily bread: for recognition as well as cash; in short for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying…we have a right to ask of work that it include meaning, recognition, astonishment and life.”

So, take those words and make this day about daily meaning and not a Monday to Friday sort of dying

The Zone…

Fear the known

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” – Joseph Campbell


The candy-coated feared house of the known

Yesterday (21st of July) was Belgium’s birthday, and unlike in the Flemish parts of the country, there was a big celebration in Brussels. They had probably one of the biggest fireworks (at least longest) I have seen and me & Alsu even manage to spot some royal handwaving.

This got me thinking about nationalism and its evil cousin xenophobia. For those who don’t know Belgium has recently been in a flux becuase of the inability of the currently elected parties to form government. This resulted in relatively timid displays of nationalism – at least in Brussels where a lot of people still want Belgium to stick together as one country.

Nationalism isn’t always as peaceful, and spurred on by destructive forces it can turn really bad, even in Belgium. Probably why it can be so destructive is because it stems from such a basic human emotion – the fear of the unknown. Almost all of us can recognize this feeling – when we find ourselves in a new country, or just in a different part of town.

I live in the borders of the maroccan and turkish parts of Brussels (in total between 100 000 and 200 000 people, about 50% of the inhabitants of these districts), which I think is great. There is a mix and an energy I love – but most of all, what you realize, is that it’s just the same as anywhere else.

However, a lot of people are afraid of these districts – I recently met a girl who just moved in to this area and she was genuinely afraid of walking from the subway after dark. The fear itself doesn’t stem from any factual experiences – she had never heard, nor seen, nor experienced any unsafety. Rather it was all about a sense of not understanding or not regonizing what was going on around her.

Instead of fearing this, the unknown, I would say the opposite holds more danger to you – fear the known. It is when you are surrounded by the known that you are stifled, your creativity goes bust and you stop developing. In the known you are not forced to think new things, to react to unexpected situations – to learn.

For me – I use the fear of the unknown as an indicator that I am on the right track – that I am challenged and developing. Whereas when I feel that comfortable, warm, fuzzy feeling of the known – I try to urge myself to run, a bit like Hantzel and Gretchen should have done. Because behind that candy coated house of the known there is a witch – and all she wants is to stifle your personal development – so get out of there as quick as you can!

“Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

3 competencies needed to be successful online…

I have somehow repeatedly over the last few years ended up working with promoting stuff/places/services/peoples online, and it has caused me time and time again realize that there are some competencies that anyone who thinks internet will be a big part of their lives needs to handle:

  • Being offline

    You need to be able to create attention, contacts, networks offline. Some of the most successful people online also possess great respect offline. This encompasses everything from networking, presentations, negotiations etc.

  • Being searchable

    Search engines control the user experience of most regular users of the Internet. Spend some time and money on learning how to position and advertise yourself online. Learn about SEO, SEM, Adwords, Facebook advertising or whatever ticks you. Start a small webpage and promote that.
  • Being social

    Learn how to interact with the Internet, don’t just be a visitor of websites, interact with them. Start a small blog, comment on others, develop a good MSN/Facebook/LinkedIn/whatever account with your contacts. Stay in touch with them, communicate and then allow your network to enable what you do – from gathering input to promoting your product.

Even if you’re not going to work in the search engine marketing industry, or going to blog-for-profit, I find these skills to be useful for any project online – the amateur as well as the professional.

Now I should get back to work honing my own competencies in these areas 🙂