Becoming Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

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A couple of years ago, I was working with a fast-growing tech company quickly growing out of their space, hiring like crazy and evolving into a much larger company than they likely ever imagined. I asked the CEO his advice for someone looking to get in on the ground floor with his company or a similar organization. He said, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

I had forgotten about that conversation until recently, when I found myself feeling uncomfortable and unsure what to do about it.

Change is uncomfortable

In early March, I found myself on the hunt for a new home. I’ve been in my current house for nearly 10 years — the longest I have ever spent in one place. It’s where we brought home our two children and a crazy Labrador Retriever puppy. And, through the years we’ve replaced flooring, knocked down walls, built a deck, repainted the exterior and countless other homeowner tasks to make it ours. When we decided to move, I felt sick.

We returned from our first home search optimistic and hopeful we would find something “just right” for our family of five. Then, one week later, news of COVID-19 turned everything on its head and we found ourselves like many other families quarantined in our homes, taking on the roles of school teachers in addition to our occupations and other responsibilities. I felt defeated.

Point is, change (whether it’s planned or not) is uncomfortable. It can make us feel a spectrum of feelings from elation to depression. And, when there’s no end in sight or deadline to the interruption, the emotions multiply potentially resulting in loss of sleep, increased blood pressure, and a myriad of other reactions that range from reasonable to extreme.

This too shall pass

In times like the present, I’m reminded of my grandfather who was an eternal optimist. He would tell stories about his time in the Philippines during World War II, and smile recalling that he knew he “wouldn’t have to eat bananas forever.”

I once asked him how he was seemingly always able to keep his cool, even during a war. His response was simple but made a lasting impression on me:

Accept the reality around you and make the most of it.

He then went on to tell me about a day during the war when all the soldiers set up a makeshift baseball field and played a game in between the air raids and attacks. He said he felt good to be “normal” in those moments. To my astonishment, he shared the Japanese soldiers were hiding in the trees during this game — not with weapons at the ready, but to watch and get in a few moments of “normal” too.

Our sense of self is so incredibly important in our ability to manage through change. Knowing what gives you energy (and what zaps it) is critical.

I’m grateful for the normal activities we participate in at ADVISA (like our regular monthly Zoom meeting, that existed before COVID-19 was a thing). Because it’s during these times I’m able to feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s like any other month. These calls leave me feeling appreciated, respected and heard, which gives me an incredible amount of energy and satisfaction. It’s not a baseball game, but it’s close.

Adapt and take control

If the pandemic (and apparently the murder wasps?) can teach us anything, I hope it’s that as a society we can find solutions — save lives, keep jobs, create jobs and offer assistance to those who need it, and be stronger for it when we get to the other side. Then, we can take a collective sigh of relief and bask in the accomplishment of survival while learning from our mistakes and working to prevent something like this from happening again.

I’m willing to bet you’ve adapted in some way, shape or form to the uncomfortable reality surrounding you, your business and/or your family. Consider the following questions and you might be surprised with your own ability to get comfortable with the uncomfortable:

  • In what ways have you adapted to your uncomfortable reality? Personally, it took me a few weeks but I now feel like we have a good schedule set up for the kids that allows my husband and me to be productive throughout the day. It requires ongoing communication, calendar sharing and shifts, but it works.
  • How have you created moments of normal during this time of change? Our family still has pizza on Friday nights and watches our regular shows. It sounds simple, but it gives all of us something to look forward to and celebrate after all our work is done each week.
  • Have you been able to take back control and make the most out of the situation? I had to come to the realization working from home doesn’t mean I’m “on call.” I now live by my calendar (and no one has noticed any difference in execution). Further, I’m able to better separate work from school and family. Everyone is happier.
  • Have you been able to assist others by inspiring and motivating them to stay the course or change direction? My actions have spurred my husband to approach his work in much the same way. I feel like we’re more of a team now, which benefits our whole family unit as a result.

Perhaps you have adapted well and have taken back control but could you be doing more to assist others? Are you empathetic to their distinct concerns and challenges?

As our country goes back to work in the coming weeks and months, our ability to get comfortable with the uncomfortable will continue to be tested. Will you continue to adapt and create moments that energize you or will you let the changes drain you of your motivation and confidence?

I hope it’s the former.


If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like “Manage Your Time, Not Your Energy” by Leadership Consultant Mandy Haskett.