Growth Hurts: Create Positive Discomfort
Doubt and stress describe growth points. “Growth and comfort do not coexist.” Ginny Rometty, CEO of IBM.
Growth feels good after, not during.
Growth occurs when you think or do things you haven’t already thought or done. New feels awkward. The more it hurts – without breaking or defeating – the more you grow.
If growth hurts, why do it?
Grow yourself because…
You are your contribution.
Growth increases impact and magnifies meaning.
Growth isn’t only about you.
Leaders grow others.
The real question is how can you create positive, useful discomfort for someone else?
New opportunities represent opportunities to grow.
“It may surprise you that your job as an open-door leader is to make people uncomfortable, but good opportunities create discomfort.” Bill Treasurer, “Leaders Open Doors.”
Bill offers three components of positive, purposeful discomfort:
Deliver discomfort in doses
Start with small bites. Don’t ask newbies, for example, to give one hour presentations. Enthusiasm for a “high potential” may motivate you to throw them in the deep end too soon. The goal is growth not defeat.
Create safe discomfort
- With. Walk with them and have their back.
- Temporary. Permanent discomfort demotivates.
- Purposeful. Benefits must be obvious.
“The idea is not to get people to do wildly uncomfortable things, just willfully uncomfortable things.” Bill Treasurer
Model: Seek discomfort yourself
“Throughout my career, I’ve always been willing to take jobs that were outside of my skill set. Some people think that’s crazy, but I’m telling you that I wouldn’t be sitting here as president (of a large communication company) if I had done it any other way.
It’s dangerous to be safe.” From, “Leaders Open Doors.”
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What role has discomfort played in your growth?
How can leaders create positive discomfort?
Discomfort has been at the root of all of my personal and professional growth. A number of years ago I made the conscious choice to embrace the discomfort of growth because the discomfort of stagnation was even more painful – to me, and everyone around me.
Discomfort through growth is not nearly as painful. It’s not different than exercise. Too little discomfort and you’re not exercising; too much and you risk injury.
A key has been to find willing partners who will help you grow at a comfortably uncomfortable pace. I use an executive coach – shout out to Tracy Quinton – and a support group interested in my development (includes my spouse, friends, peers, etc).
For the people I coach I try to go one step beyond where they think they are capable of stretching to. That’s usually the sweet spot. Not so far it damages them, but far enough to feel like you’ve truly stretched. Of course, it helps to work with nothing but pros – people strongly motivated in seeing how far they can go; how good they can be.
Finally, it’s important to take time to soak in what you’ve accomplished. Humility is a balance between accepting what more needs to be changed while embracing the work you have already done. Accept what you do well with equal enthusiasm to that which you do not.
Thanks for sharing your insights Alf.
“comfortably uncomfortable” Love that expression. I suppose there are times when we are in a situation that feels like too much. Perhaps something beyond our control, a car accident or bad weather, for example.
I have a coach also…Bob Hancox…he is making a huge difference.
Good insights Alf. In my previous book, Courage Goes to Work, I include a chapter called “Modulate Comfort” – it’s based on the insight that you shared. Too much comfort leads to apathy, too much discomfort and people will be paralyzed with fear. Leaders have to help people modulate between comfort and discomfort. The challenge is, comfort is so dang comfortable!
Great info Dan many thanks!!!!
Hitting bottom admitting complete defeat best thing ever happened to me.
Pain is the great equalizer.
Don’t think anyone can cause pleasurable discomfort, kinda like two opposites existing at the same place at the same time.
Great stuff thanks Dan
Agree with you on pleasurable discomfort…useful discomfort, positive discomfort but not pleasurable.
Have a great week
I find it helpful to remind those growing that it’s supposed to feel like this. I always say, “if you don’t feel like you’ve jumped out of an airplane recently it’s time for a new challenge.”
Make it normal. Love your illustration…thanks and have a great week.
You got it Karin! Growing (and acting with courage) feels uncomfortable! That’s life!
Every sentence is piece of powerful message. The most powerful sentence that I like is ” It is dangerous to be safe”. The concept of small doses is equally powerful. Taking role out of skill sets is eye opening concept. I have seen people tend to be safe. They look for the job, that has more stability over others. They look for predictive path of growth. Such group of people enjoy low level of ambition. They do have ambition but with limitation and limited options. Initially they feel comfortable but later they invite discomfort. And such discomfort invites frustration, desperation because of their inability to invite and accept change. There are other category of people who feel uncomfortable with definitive and predictive growth. They look their growth beyond boundary. They invite and accept changes. Though it is not easy because they compromise with comfort and short term stability, but they develop potential to enjoy limitless options. They create a world of opportunities and flexibility. They tend to suffer in short term but sure enjoy success in long term.
I love to be discomfort. Whenever, I feel that I am comfortable, I sense that something is missing or something is going in wrong direction. For this, I always try to connect with my dream and goals. And this is the way, leaders can create positive discomfort. Connecting with dream is key to create positive discomfort. People may have dream for next promotion. Alternatively, people may have dream to create something new. So, level of dream and capacity to dream under odd circumstances actually determines the discomfort level. And this discomfort level shapes future success.
So true Ajay. It’s strange but true that when it comes to career development, too much safety can be a dangerous thing.
Love the expression from the quote “…willfully uncomfortable…”
If I choose to try something, that’s a much different experience than if I’m ordered or told to do it. 🙂
To be safe, to me, means that the challenge is all gone. Sure, this might be less stressful and percieved more stable, but I think it creates it’s own type of negative stress after a short while of being in this state… Discomfort doesn’t have to equate to more stress.
Good comment David. Someone once told me, “you only coast going down hill.”
Thanks for the post. I am in the midst of leading a change/shift in our church. Right now everything feels uncomfortable. We are learning what needs to continue to exist and what needs to be let go as we walk through the change. You are so right, change hurts, but it hurts so good! My core and committed are looking at me in the eye and saying, “this is working, it is really working!”
Thanks for the insight
Growth means change.
As Stan Lee liked to say in his letters to early Marvel Comics fans, “Nuff said.”
Dan, I like the post. Speaking of church, I have just relocated back to NY after helping lead a change many of the leaders were not prepared to make. So many things were tolerated but when the Bishop removed my predecessor (and the real pastor behind the scenes), they got rid of me.
Sometimes, no matter how safe you try to make change, reaching out is sometimes harder than holding on.
I am reminded:
“Behold the turtle. He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out. (James Bryant Conant)
Successful teachers are effective in spite of the psychological theories they suffer under. (Educational Proverb)
Any time you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help. (Alex Haley)
In every difficulty there is opportunity, and in every opportunity there is a difficulty.
“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” (Max DePree)
and on the other hand,
“Change is good. You go first.” (Dilbert Principles)
Have FUN out There!
Thanks so much for the wisdom in this post, Dan and Bill! I find these words wise, insightful, and very helpful to me. In Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, he talks about the need to prune your business and your life by purposefully cutting off branches that 1. may be good but not the best, 2. sick branches that are not going well, and 3. dead branches that are taking up space needed for healthy ones to thrive. The difficult part, for me, is determining what needs to be pruned and letting go. I am 55 years old and in the middle of a big transition in my professional life. I am very interested in finding a substantive leadership certificate/training program to engage in and would love any recommendations from any of you! Thank you so much!
Barry Wehmiller Unviversity
Google their CEO’s TedTalk. Bob Chapman. You will be glad you did.
They will inspire you.
It is all in the pacing. I had a wonderful mentor who was a master at creating just enough discomfort that you were stretched to your limits but not so much that you became discouraged or failed. And he always had my back. It was a great way to learn and grow. He passed away a few years ago, but I always think of him when I am trying something new and scary.
Thanks for the great post, Dan!
When I went through the Leadership Thunder Bay program a couple years ago, one of the key phrases was ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable’. Growth in my life generally comes from effort or challenge in something, it’s not just a byproduct of living. The more I learn, the more I realize I still have to learn …
Valuable advice, thanks for sharing.
“Growth and comfort do not coexist,” is a spectacular quote. We take risks every day, whether we’re ‘putting ourselves out there’ or not. The greatest risk of all is in not being open to new experiences. The greatest failure is refusing to grow.
Comfort in some areas and in some measure is not a bad thing, but excessive comfort will lull you to sleep every time.
Good leaders invariably focus on bigger goals and new projects. These will drain away the main resources and put existing business operations in a fix for some time. The operational heads are compelled to starve for the required finance and manage with other limited resources to accomplish their target plans. This is done with a deliberate thinking and planned moves.
The existing business flourishes with good innovation and better productivity & cost-saving measures. All these become newer strengths for an organization. Discomfort of the needed resources makes business managers to rise to the occasion and push the button of new research/innovation. It also compels them to think differently and come with alternate solutions.
Lesser focus, low priority and limited resources for the running business will force people to think of cutting down on costs and raise the productivity graph with new creative ideas.
I love the concept of “decomplexification”. Managing others is hard enough. Thanks for sharing this.
As always, I’ve learned a lot.
Loved this sentence:
“Growth and comfort do not coexist.”
I see next sentences like my next step:
With. Walk with them and have their back.
Temporary. Permanent discomfort demotivates.
Purposeful. Benefits must be obvious.
Thank you Dan.
As I’m nearing the finish line of a 1-year leadership development program I’m fully aware of the “no pain, no gain” aspects of growth.