I’m a self-confessed type A personality. I like to do things in which I excel. I thrive on well-planned initiatives and tend to take charge when disorder strikes. Several years ago I realized my Type A self had gotten rather comfortable. So for the past few years I’ve set goals to do something uncomfortable.
This year I’m learning to cross-country ski. For many this alone may not sound like a significant under taking. For those who know me well it comes as a bit of a surprise. I’m active but not an athlete. I’m 41, don’t particularly like the cold and while flexible, coordination isn’t my strongest asset. So why have I chosen to torture my poor skis? It’s simple – I wanted to challenge myself. So far I’ve master the art of getting up from a fall through lots and lots of practice. Soon I hope to learn how to avoid a fall! I’m not graceful, but that was never the point.
Doing something uncomfortable proved a valuable way to stretch myself personally, but also professionally. After working for almost two decades in the same profession it would have been easy to fall into a comfort zone. Take a comfortable position, hire young talent to keep up with technology changes, and do what I knew best. I probably could keep making good money just doing what I had always done. But I’d also have lost the chance to gain the adrenaline rush that brings with it new drive, creativity and a renewed sense of satisfaction gained by doing something uncomfortable.
Sometimes doing something uncomfortable is small. Sitting down at a table with complete strangers while trolling a trade show, or speaking out during a tense meeting. I encourage you to do those things in measured ways. But here I’m talking about doing something much bigger – taking a big, giant leap outside your comfort zone.
You may not overcome a long time fear or even master a new skill. But you might be surprised how quickly something that makes you uncomfortable today could feel natural tomorrow.
When I get lost in all the reasons not to do something I try to remember how much I’ve gained from my visits to the uncomfortable zone. Here’s a list of some of the things I would have missed if I didn’t do something uncomfortable:
- I would never have started my own consulting practice. A business that allows me to do the work I love, have dinner with my family almost every night and learn something new each day.
- I would have missed the chance to ride a camel, named Mickey Mouse, in the desert on my way to the Great Pyramids.
- Without going into my uncomfortable zone I would never have started my professional life doing door to door sales learning for life what it’s like to live by commission and the challenges of selling. A basis to which I credit much of my success in marketing.
- My boys would never talk with pride, and a smirking smile, about the time Mom went on space shot and “screamed” most of the ride!
- I couldn’t look back on all the mistakes I have made and learn from them.
- I wouldn’t have learned that even several glasses of wine cannot help me hold a tune.
- A regular outlet for my writing wouldn’t exist because I never would have committed to a blog.
- Without lots of practice, initially uncomfortable, I would never have learned to love public speaking. A practice that today helps me every day in my work.
The next time you’re sitting down to write goals I hope you won’t forget to add something a bit uncomfortable. I can’t promise you’ll master a new skill or even enjoy the experience; but I can guarantee you’ll feel glad you tried.