Embrace “productive discomfort”

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

-Roy T. Bennett

We are always drawn to easier way of doing things. Many of us feel safe in our comfort zones. Convenience and comfort has become our default choice and many times it becomes a driver of our decisions. But the problem with convenience is that it makes us intolerant of things that are not within our comfort zone. It is very hard for us to do things that could be good for us like leaving a bad habit or learning a new skill. We fail to do so and tend to avoid taking action as it might involve a certain level of discomfort and unfamiliarity. We constantly try to avoid facing such situations that cause us discomfort which otherwise could fulfil some of our personal and professional endeavours. Most of the times, we relinquish many of our cherished goals because they fall outside of our comfort zone.

We make new goals, new dreams and develop new passions from time to time. We make new resolutions to change ourselves in order to meet those desired goals. But this desire to change also makes us reluctant to leave things that are familiar. For most of us, leaving our comfort zone is difficult because of the fear of the unknown which coaxes us right back into the known and old familiar ways. We might feel frustrated and annoyed about the fact that we have to leave our comfort zone. We often feel stuck to adapt ourselves to unfamiliarity and avoid anything that is not comfortable. To overcome this pattern of avoidance, it is important to learn to step outside our comfort zones and get accustomed to discomfort.

What is comfort zone?

The comfort zone is a behavioural space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and a pattern that involves less risk and stress. It provides familiarity, security and to some extent some level of certainty. Within our comfort zone, we become comfortable with what is familiar and get used to a steady level of performance. This soon makes us complacent as we easily fall into comfortable habits and begin to avoid those which are not.

We avoid changing most of our habits and behaviours by rationalising our thinking and saying ‘this is not the right time.’ or ‘It’s not important for me to do it.’ We tend to structure our lives to avoid moments and tasks that cause us discomfort. But those are the things that are probably important for our personal and professional growth and to maximise our potential. We hold ourselves back by thinking it is better to stay the way we are in order to avoid the discomfort, stress and anxiety.

Why is it important to come out of your comfort zone?

We are comfortable in engaging ourselves in a familiar pattern, but sometimes they may not be serving your current goals. They may prevent you from making necessary changes and hold you back from reaching your full potential. You may not be open to new challenges, to learn, grow and try new things. You begin to underestimate your ability to make any kind of change by judging yourself and end up convincing yourself that you will never be able to make necessary changes. Such thoughts can influence your actions and keep you from doing things that you might otherwise would like to pursue and can cost you your own success.

But with little awareness, understanding and by making few adjustments, you can break away from your routine and can push yourself to make those necessary changes in order to pursue your goals and aspirations. By learning to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, you can open a lot of new possibilities and discover things about yourself that you could not have otherwise discovered. You might learn things that you are capable of and could achieve things that you could not have anticipated. You cannot be successful in achieving your dreams if you only stick to a comfortable habit pattern and routine. Sometimes you need to take risk of attempting something which is outside of your comfort zone as well.

Outside of your comfort zone

“ Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.” – Shannon L. Alder.

Within our comfort zone, there is little stress and anxiety. We can anticipate things to certain extent and know what’s coming next and can plan accordingly. Whereas outside of your comfort zone, you are open to risks, challenges, and open yourself up to the possibility of more stress and anxiety. But sometimes, a little bit of healthy stress and discomfort is not all that bad and is required to provide motivation for us to achieve desired goals.

“Being slightly uncomfortable, whether or not by choice, can push yourself to achieve goals you never thought you could.”

But it is important to not to push yourself too far and enter the zone of bad stress. This if happens can interfere with your ability to work well, to learn and to plan effectively. Here are some benefits of getting accustomed to “productive discomfort.”

• It improves your performance by opening up to challenges and taking risks.

• Makes you more creative by trying new things.

• Lowers your fear of failure and creates openness to new experiences.

• Improves your curiosity, imagination, and drive to explore.

• You can deal with new and unexpected changes easily.

• Improves your productivity and you will be willing to push your boundaries by adjusting to what was difficult.

We know what we need to do to improve our lives. We say we want to change for the better. But we often are held back by our belief that sameness equals safety and change equals discomfort. The key is to be aware of whether your comfort zones are preventing you from creating change and to be willing to leave what is familiar to make the change you desire. Here are some ways to get accustomed to ‘Productive discomfort’.

Try new things

We have a tendency to only seek out information we already agree with and avoid doing new things. Seeking new experiences, learning new skills and opening yourself to new ideas inspire you to challenge your confirmation bias. You can see old problems in new light and take risks. By challenging yourself to things you normally wouldn’t do, you can experience some of the uncertainty and get used to tackle changes easily. Try changing your daily work routine or try some new activities and be open to new experience.

Decide to take the leap

One of the important factor to break out of your comfort zone is to find your source of conviction about why a task is important to you or why making that change is essential. When you face situations that are not in your comfort zone, even if you feel the discomfort, believe in your convictions. This way, you can fight through the discomfort to take that leap towards the desired change. You may come to realise that what you feared most is not all that true and in a way, slight discomfort becomes normal to you.

Take risks

Every time you open yourself to challenges and risks, regardless of their outcome, they provide you with learning experience and provide you an opportunity to utilise your store of untapped knowledge and capabilities. Even if you make mistakes and don’t get it right, there are always these experiences you have to tap into in future. Taking risks is important for your personal growth. challenges and risks expand the size of your comfort zone and you can cultivate openness to experience.

Do things differently

To stretch beyond your comfort zone, you need to make changes either large or small in the way you do things on a daily basis. For instance, sometimes slowing down is all it takes to make you uncomfortable especially if you are used to speed or quick thinking. If you are one of that conflict avoidant, you must embrace conflict. If you are an introvert, you have to do things which you have been avoiding like meeting new people or having different conversation. By doing things differently, you can expand your comfort zone and open yourself up to new possibilities.

Finally, Start with making small changes.

It is always overwhelming to step into discomfort and into the unknown. But instead of thinking of big picture, it will be easier to break down what you want to accomplish by making small changes. Getting used to ‘productive discomfort’ is to embrace new experience and to reach the state of optimal anxiety in a manageable way.

In conclusion,

Comfort zones exist in every area in our lives. To practice ‘productive discomfort’, be aware of which comfort zone may not be serving your current purpose or which comfort zones are preventing you from making the desired change in your habits or behaviour. If you feel that you are stuck in your routine, challenge your underlying belief and make small changes to your routine to slowly move out of your comfort zone.

Enhance your Psychological Capital.

People are constantly doing things. But usually only when they have to or under fire from themselves or others. Many of them lack organisational capabilities, planning and management of their internal and external agreements. They get no sense of winning or of being in control, or of cooperating among themselves and with others. This dramatically decreases their ability to make things happen and lowers their performance personally or professionally.

Acting out of external pressure or stress

lowers your self-esteem and ends up making you feel not so good about yourself. Disempowerment lowers your positive Psychological Capital or PsyCap. The aim of developing positive psychological state is to build best qualities, to get things going of your own accord, before you are forced to by external pressure and internal stress. This builds a firm foundation for good self-worth and self-esteem that in turn spreads to every aspect of your life. You are the captain of your own ship; the more you act from this perspective, the better things will go for you. This increases your ability and levels of empowerment.

What is PsyCap?

PsyCap is a common resource connected to many positive outcomes such as job performance, psychological well-being and boosting your self-esteem. PsyCap is your overall resourceful state with all your potentially meaningful things clarified, organised and reflected upon. People with high PsyCap, put more effort into a task, are tenacious, have realistic expectations of future success and respond positively to setbacks or difficulties.

Your PsyCap is a combination of following:

Self-efficacy : is the ability to take on and devote the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks. This improves your job satisfaction, commitment and well-being. (By enabling you to create and maintain a complete picture of your commitments to yourself and others in order to make good decisions, automatically builds your confidence, control and well-being.)

Hope: Your desire or ambition to persevere and redirecting paths when necessary to reach goals in order to succeed. (Identifying your valuable goals and generating multiple pathways helps you to consider required resources to pursue them. Discarding unrealistic pathways and adopting smaller and realistic pathways makes you more organised and you can generate multiple solutions.)

Resilience: Ability to face problems and adversity, to sustain and to bounce back to original or to even better state of being. (There will be obstacles to virtually any goal. When you ensure ownership of your goals, you can anticipate and be better prepared for obstacles and can overcome them by implementing multiple pathways. You can respond positively to setbacks.)

Optimism: Ability to believe that you will succeed and involves making positive attributions about succeeding now and in the future. (Greater optimism enables you to draw connection between the successful completion and their purpose goal-directed efforts. This creates constructive thinking patterns and inspiring atmosphere. You can adapt well to change.)

Why is PsyCap important?

Positive psychological state leads to positive organisational behaviour and improves your personal and organisational well-being. PsyCap consists of essential personal psychological resources such as self-esteem, being in control and emotional stability. Empowerment, competence and initiating actions with a sense of having a choice is more possible if you develop high levels of PsyCap. Empowering yourself leads to effectiveness, improves your belief in your own capabilities and can have a positive impact on yourself and others.

Ways to enhance your PsyCap.

What can you do to build up your ability and to enhance your PsyCap? Here are some ways to overcome inadequacy attitudes and learning to practice hope and optimism.

Raise your individual self-awareness.

Self-awareness and understanding your needs is an important key to behaving in a ways that move you closer to achieving your goals.

Accept your strengths and weaknesses. This lets you express yourself clearly and helps in asserting your needs with others effectively. Once you are aware of your area of strength, find ways to demonstrate it. Being self-aware lets you define your valuable goal and ensures ownership and freedom to make choices.

Avoid generic positive affirmations.

You can tell yourself you’re great but if you don’t really believe it, your mind will reject the affirmation. Just telling yourself ‘you can do it’ isn’t enough. Your affirmations should be based on your true strengths. Use constructive and positive statements to avoid negative self talk and to control your inner dialogue. List out your valuable goals and devise realistic pathways based on your true strengths.

Open yourself to feedback.

Self esteem is not fuelled by —‘I’ll be successful any day now’ — or by false beliefs — ‘I am the greatest.’ It is fuelled by authentic experiences of demonstrating ability, competence, and learning from mistakes. True estimate of your ability helps you to make necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks. You can attempt to make yourself better by being open to feedback.

Conquer self-deprecation.

Do not let self-deprecatory thoughts grow into mental monsters. Do not build up obstacles in your imagination. Difficulties must be efficiently dealt with to be eliminated, but they must be seen for only what they are. They must not be inflated by your fear thoughts. Have positive expectations about future.

Keep up with your internal and external agreements.

When people with whom you interact notice that without fail, you receive, process and organise the agreements and exchanges they have with you, they begin to trust. You tend to incorporate a level of self-confidence in your engagements. This prevents a poisonous guilt complex and enhances the quality of your communications and relationships, both personally and professionally.

Remain flexible in the face of obstacles.

Never be too stubborn to change. Seeking out unconventional solutions to problems and keeping an open mind helps you in making your own decisions in the face of problems. Think outside the box to develop tolerance for ambiguity and maintain an openness to change.

Finally,

Create sense of direction in your life and develop a foresight to anticipate problems or needs by paying attention to the details. Be committed and do things that actually make you feel accomplished, appreciated and empowered. Try taking steps that make you feel you’re advancing towards your goals.