Why You Should Be More Comfortable Being Uncomfortable


I’m a bit paranoid about work.

My internal and external customers have short memories, changing demands and long expectations. That’s why our senior leadership team’s unpublished philosophy is: “We are always six months away from mediocrity.”

I’m not trying to be a sky-is-falling pessimist, but if you think that “what got you here will get you there,” I’d think about getting a bit more paranoid.

Over the course of any given year, our organization will train and coach thousands of adults in how they communicate, think and lead. The goal is to stretch self-perception and performance toward potential—to get more comfortable doing what was once uncomfortable.

Stretching your comfort zone requires a healthy dose of paranoia—the thought that you always need to push further because if you don’t, you risk falling behind. Still, many people evade the paranoia through arrogance, pride or fear. As the psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud says, “To live in a world that is certain, albeit inaccurate, is more secure.”

But here’s the thing: Those who move beyond the protection of their comfort and excuses are the ones who will succeed.

Dr. Cloud describes this psychological process as continuous assimilation and accommodation: “Assimilation is the taking in of new information. Accommodation means that you accommodate the new information into your view of the world.”

In other words, you become constantly receptive to ideas and willing to change.

Think of it like your wardrobe. Some people take the attitude that they will wear what’s comfortable and fits their personal tastes. There’s a certain defiance or differentiation in that, I suppose. But others continuously monitor external data (weather, style trends, attire of others, formality of circumstances) and make appropriate adjustments. You might be comfortable in your old shoes, but you might also be making yourself vulnerable to the changing elements and environment around you.

And so it goes with the world of change. To stay relevant is to remain paranoid.

How might you use healthy paranoia to push outside your comfort zones? Where might it take you?

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