25.10.2023 Today’s Insights from Inc.: Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable – Seek Discomfort
I’d bet you’re tired of hearing the advice: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable!” While we’ve all been reading about this concept lately, some of you may be confused about why it’s important, when it’s called for and/or even how to “do” it.
Why is this concept important?
As Justin Bariso, Founder and Principal at EQ Applied and a popular Inc. columnist puts it, “the more comfortable I get being uncomfortable…the more flexible and adaptable [I can become].” And what global employer do we know who isn’t seeking an ambitious international student like you, who also proves him or her-self to be flexible and adaptable?
It’s not enough to simply try unusual cultural foods or take new routes to work. Aspiring talent like you and your friends need to actually “seek discomfort.” Doing so, according to three executives at media company Yes Theory, is grounded in a concept backed by neuroscience, which has been shown to promote personal growth (and thus, professional development, as well).
At a “metaphysical” level, Matt Dahlia, of Yes Theory, gained popularity for spreading a “message of personal growth through challenging experiences.” Paraphrasing him from the above article, “we realize that when we push ourselves beyond our [perceived] limits, we find that life’s most beautiful moments and meaningful connections exist outside our comfort zones.”
When should a young professional like you actually “Seek Discomfort?”
According to Stanford Professor Andrew Huberman, “[pretty much anytime a student] chooses to perform tasks they would rather not do in a given moment.” Why? Because “when they make a practice of doing this…they’re reinforcing skills that give rise to tenacity and willpower” (which are critical to remaining dedicated to, say, completing a frustrating assignment or project or while collaborating with a challenging peer on a professional or university team).
On a personal level, according to Ayelet Fishbach, University of Chicago Business School Professor, “moderate emotional discomfort is a signal that [a student] is developing as a person, and it often happens before [they] can detect the benefits of self-growth.” Bariso adds that aspiring talent, like you, who seeks out opportunities to feel discomfort actually “builds mental strength.”
So, how does a talented international student actually “seek discomfort?”
Ah, if only ambitious international students like you could carefully hand-pick the situations in which you’d be called upon to do so! Yet, the opportunities are myriad and omnipresent. While Bariso offers some great suggestions, here are a few more our coaches have shared, as well:
Approach someone new at school or work who you’d like to know better and/or learn from. Engage them in a brief chat and see where it leads
Test-drive a new software that you don’t really need to know for your current project or work but recognize that others are learning and may eventually be essential
Attend a conference, workshop or lecture on an unfamiliar topic, to assess if you might be able to apply insights from it within a current project
Sign up for a class in an innovative technology that’s on the horizon and challenge yourself with a “deadline” to complete it (while congratulating yourself and celebrating afterward for having done so)
Offer to write and deliver a presentation in English that you don’t really need to, just to get the practice, and elicit candid feedback thereafter
Suggest meeting privately with a colleague or fellow student who seems to be resisting a group’s efforts or not following through, and take a “listening,” inquiring” approach to the discussion
The good news about seeking discomfort, as Huberman points out, is that it becomes a self-reinforcing process in our brain. The more we do it, the more comfortable we become with doing it, and thus, the more effective we are at “becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Thus, we’ve uncovered yet another example of a valuable “power skill” that our Mandarin Consulting coaches can nurture among eager candidates like you, while you are on your journey of professional and personal development toward a global leadership career.