How to deal with discomfort

I still remember my first workday at an innovation consultancy here in Sydney. It was a team-building and at the same time rebranding and brainstorm session off-site. All of us were sitting in a meeting room, flip charts and post-it notes were all over the place. We had to come up with a new tagline for our business. Something fresh, something new and something, yes – innovative. First, we played around with some ideas but nothing stuck. Then, as time passed and we realised that we just couldn’t come up with something original, the atmosphere changed. Frustration was in the air and you could feel the tension. We all wanted to escape the discomfort and have our lunch break. This was a critical point for our CEOs to stay persistent: “Nobody leaves for lunch until we have found our tagline.” First, we felt pressured by that statement, but after another half an hour of brainstorming one of our coworkers had an idea that worked. We could finally go for lunch. Later on, I asked my boss why he didn’t let us out sooner.

“You have to sit through the discomfort. That way you will not only achieve your goal but also feel a great sense of accomplishment afterwards.”

Gavin Heaton, CEO Disruptors Co.

As it turns out, life is similar. I love to use the metaphor of cleaning up your room. First, you pull out all your things. Everything is on the floor and as you go through things you realise how long it will take you to organise everything. Hours have passed and you feel like giving up. You either wished you would not have started at all or you just want to put everything back where it was and postpone your clean up to another day. And this is an important moment! This is when you have to pull through. And suddenly your room is clean, you feel lighter because you decluttered and you know that you won.

Being impatient and not dealing well with discomfort, I struggle in life as you can imagine. But I realise how much power lies within perseverance in moments or even months of discomfort. Sometimes it almost feels like I’m walking backwards rather than progressing at all. Still, that’s where the magic happens. I believe that while we feel like nothing is happening – everything is happening to get you ready for what’s next. It is just a matter of time until change comes along. Life will always find a way to challenge us, so we might as well enjoy the times of uncertainty and struggle.

Let me know how you deal with discomfort!

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