It is my belief that when we learn to become comfortable with discomfort, its is possible to get more out of life. We can experience more, we can create space to grow and we can become a better version of our current selves.
I was recently told a story about how lobsters grow. The story teller described how lobsters become restricted in their shells over time. In order to thrive they then cast off their shell and seek safety underneath a rock while the new shell forms. This analogy reminded me that times of stress are also signals for growth and can be used to understand how humans grow. Like lobsters if we can learn to become comfortable with discomfort and take risks, it is possible to get more out of life. We can create space to stretch, grow into it and become a better version of our current selves. If it was simple, we would already be doing this on a day to day basis. Yet at some point in life we have all opted out of something important on account of discomfort.
For this reason, I felt compelled to address the importance of learning to manage stress in order to allow growth. If we approach adversity or change from a place of opportunity, we will believe that we can grow in the process and ultimately we can have more, be more, and do more. The question that must be asked, why is it that that we often experience anxiety in the face of a new challenge and why at these times, do we tend to stick with what we know?
At some point in our lives we will experience the discomfort of wanting more but feeling uncomfortable about charging forward. We find ourselves making up excuses that keep us thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same feelings, doing the same old thing and ultimately getting what we always got from life.
To make more sense of this, let’s explore the power of our thinking processes a little further. Dr Joe Dispenza describes how to break old habits and strengthen our synapses. Our thoughts, feelings and actions create our personality which in turn influences our ‘personal reality’. Doing something different to the norm means changing your mind and this needs new ways of thinking. This is often where life gets uncomfortable. That inner critic or ‘gremlin’ in our head starts to chatter in the background. Its intention is usually to keep us safe and this often leads us to sticking with what we know and staying put.
At times of stress, we have a choice to avoid the changes that will ultimately allow us to succeed by saying ‘no thank you’ and staying put. We can make things up and rationalise the decision. This usually means that the time was not right for change. It also means that we go back to the comfort of what we have always known. We either play safe or we lean out of our comfort zone and create the unknown.
Alternatively, we can say yes, leap in or even tentatively lean into something new and sit with the discomfort. From this we can learn about ourselves. I put myself in this position on a regular basis and I never regret it. If we can repeat similar experiences till the uncomfortable becomes less daunting we can learn new skills, grow a layer of self belief or at the least develop a ‘fail forward’ strategy. Matt Prior introduced me to the latter and I love it. It reminds me that everything we do, and everyone we meet is an opportunity to learn something.
Coaching is one of the ways that people seek help to heighten their self awareness of what is holding them back and create new and helpful ways to think that will support the change that they want to make. The best chance of success often involves trying on new thoughts and deciding if they belong in your future and trying out new challenges to support the desired change and growing in the process. I love being able to help people do this and to co-create the plan to go forward. I witness them create the outcomes that they want with great success and I consider that to be a privilege.
In light of this knowledge, how do you plan to cast off your shell and lean out of your comfort zone? Try a physical challenge that scares you, then leave you feeling accomplished and exhilarated. Venture into something unknown and enjoy the new found freedom it brings. Do that ‘thing’ on your bucket list that scares you and always ends up at the bottom. I challenge YOU to do something this week that’s outside your comfort zone. Cast of your shell and grow!
When faced with a challenge or a new opportunity that is creating discomfort, here’s some food for thought:
- Be clear and be honest
Ask yourself ‘do I actually want to make this change’? Uncertainty may mean that the timing, your readiness or the challenge is not right.
- Play the consequences game
Ask yourself ‘what is the consequence of saying no to this opportunity, also what is the possibility if I say yes’.
- Tackle your fears
Ask yourself ‘what is the worst thing that could happen’? This will allow you to explore your biggest fears, conclude how you would tackle any worrisome events and create an action plan should they arise.
- Create a safety net
Ask the question …’what would I do if I couldn’t fail’? This takes the fear and worry out of the equation. It lets you embrace the ideal image, and visualise the things that you really want in your life.
- Finally PLAN
What are you actually going to do?
When will you start?
What are the steps that will make this possible?
Who can you tell that will hold you accountable
What can you tell yourself to remind you that this matters?
In the spirit of growth, how do you plan to cast off your shell and find ways to jump, step or lean out of your comfort zone?
A comfort zone is a wonderful place, but nothing ever grows there