As I run my own company I have to juggle things around a bit to make sure I spend my time earning money as well as investing time in exploring new avenues with new clients (some people would call that marketing but I’m not going to compare my activities with those of true marketeers as I know there are very few similarities ?.
Marketing makes me feel uncomfortable. Networking makes me feel uncomfortable. Infact anything that requires me to sell myself makes me feel uncomfortable. Most of my work thankfully comes from repeat business (~50%), with referrals probably around 30%, leaving a somewhat generously calculated 20% for uncomfortable marketing activities that I have to partake in and which this year I have to say I’ve seen greater success. You see just because something makes me feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean I can’t, or don’t do it.
Competence versus preference
When I last held a leadership position in the corporate world I had a global department but I was also the site head for the UK and that role involved having to present in front of hundreds of people on a pretty regularly basis. That experience also made me feel very uncomfortable. I repeatedly received very positive feedback on my leadership presence and how I presented on such occasions and it led me to experience how being comfortable feeling uncomfortable links to competence versus preference.
Let me explain myself. I have the skills to stand up in front of a few hundred people, be authentic and engage with them. I am competent at it. However, when asked to do so I can feel myself literally fill with dread. On the day of such an event I feel physically sick. Without a doubt I am uncomfortable. It is not my preference BUT because over the years I have mastered being comfortable feeling uncomfortable I can still act, still move forward, still do it.
A very common problem
I know that I’m not alone with feeling uncomfortable. I have worked with different clients over the past few years that all share similar feelings be it because of a lack of self-confidence, a fear of failure, over-thinking or other barriers.
It isn’t a dramatic goal like throwing themselves out of a plane, or a rare event like talking in front of hundreds of people that makes them feel uncomfortable and connects them with my mentoring sessions. It is always more day to day experiences and events like networking at work, speaking up, being worried about having less knowledge or less experience as others, preparing for interviews etc. Feeling uncomfortable is petty common.
Going to extreme
The U.S. Navy SEALs use the same saying: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Believing that it prepares them to handle whatever situation comes along. During their rigorous training, SEALs link arms and lay down in cold water until the body reaches early stages of hypothermia. They do this daily before taking on whatever other tasks are required of them. The point is for them to stay focused on what they need to accomplish, despite how uncomfortable they feel. Now clearly none of us would want to subject ourselves to such extremes but the morale of this example is that you need to find ways to be focused and accept whilst on occasions life will make you feel uncomfortable, it doesn’t ever have to stop you. You need to adjust your mindset to believe it’s a good thing to feel uncomfortable. It means you’re moving forward and exploring new things.
I often explain that I don’t have magic fairy dust that I sprinkle during mentoring sessions that will make people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. In fact, I go one step further and explain that my solution lies in the mentoring sessions themselves being uncomfortable to begin with so that I can help people with tools and techniques to manage the cause of their discomfort. Firstly, you have to identify WHAT makes you feel uncomfortable and then see how you can develop skills or use techniques to help.
Life is life so the potential to feel uncomfortable in certain situations or with certain people will always exist for many of us and this is why talking about and embracing the feeling and getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable is so critical.
Everyone knows that staying in your comfort zone, however appealing, doesn’t move us from the status quo, it doesn’t help us grow as an individual, it doesn’t build relationships and it doesn’t solve the problem. By being comfortable feeling uncomfortable and accepting this is how you feel ensures that it isn’t going to define or stop you. You can still move forward in the direction of your choice.
One approach I like to take is to introduce people to their negative self and talk to them about mine. A gifted coach took me on a similar journey years ago and since then I’ve probably had more conversations with my negative self (Devil Dave) than I have with any living person! I explain how much joy that self finds making you feel uncomfortable so you can’t feed their ego – you must face up to them. Accepting they exist is the first step towards getting comfortable.
It’s amazing what you can achieve once you’ve mastered being comfortable feeling uncomfortable – trust me anything is possible ?.
If this blog stimulates any questions or if you’d like to chat more then feel free to send me a private message or email me at email@example.com.
As always thanks for your time.