Get Comfortable with being Uncomfortable

You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is that you must embrace discomfort in order to grow.

Whether it’s achieving your next million dollars in sales, investing the resources to make critical hires, or having to get up on stage to speak to an audience of prospective clients, it can feel scary to embrace the discomfort required to change.

“Change is inevitable, growth is optional." -John Maxwell

Change is going to happen whether or not you like it. And if you are seeking growth, in most cases, it involves stepping out of your comfort zone. And the biggest thing that keeps people stuck in their comfort zone is fear. Fear of failure, fear of risk, fear of losing it all, fear of humiliation.

In my earlier career, my fear of public speaking held me back. I was terrified of it and, for whatever reason, the companies I worked for often chose me to be the spokesperson. As the VP of Corporate Sales, New York Health and Racquet Club even chose me to go on television to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. I saw that green light and panicked. I got through it, but it was far from a stellar performance, and I never wanted to speak in public again. So I shrank back and said no to any further speaking engagements.

Fast forward to a few years later, the CEO of Equinox Fitness Clubs recruited me to be the VP of Sales. It was a big job where I would oversee a sales team of 100. It also required me to hold a monthly sales meeting and head up the annual kickoff meeting for the ENTIRE COMPANY.

I was terrified and I seriously considered turning the job down. I knew I had to find a way to break through it and step outside my comfort zone so I could have my dream job. I bit the bullet and said, “yes.” But with my first sales meeting just a month away, I needed a plan to conquer my fear, so I didn’t fall apart in front of my new sales team.

I decided to take an intensive 3-day public speaking course called Talk Power. The woman who taught it was an actress and a therapist. During the course, she shared that 97% of people fear public speaking more than death. I wasn’t alone. She taught us that there is an underlying reason we fear public speaking and we needed to get to the root cause. During that course, I uncovered that the root cause of my fear of public speaking was that I didn’t feel like I had the right to be upfront addressing people. I told myself stories like I come from a modest background, I don’t have an Ivy League education, yada, yada, yada.

Who was I to be standing before people speaking? Why me? I didn’t see what others saw in me–that I was a leader. Right there and then, I decided to own it. I do have the right to be a leader. It was a mic-drop moment.

US Navy SEALs exit an aircraft during a training exercise

Top three tips on how to step out of your comfort zone:

When you are faced with a situation that makes you uncomfortable, let yourself feel all the fear and discomfort and ask yourself what is the root cause of this feeling? Then ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen if I take this action? Keep drilling down and ask that question over and over. Write down your worst-case scenario answers. This usually helps to break it down so you can see the root cause of what is actually holding you back and to examine it logically and realize that it’s probably not as bad as you think it is.

The Navy SEALs have a saying: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Just like our bodies build muscle, our emotional intelligence and mental resilience grow when we stretch them. We work out, it hurts at first, but then we get stronger. And the next time, it gets easier. So do one small thing every day that scares you and takes you outside your comfort zone. It’s different for every person. It could be something like making a cold call to your dream client.

Enlist help. Ask a trusted friend, colleague or mentor to hear you out. Many times, when we hear ourselves articulate our fears aloud, they dissipate. You also might get a different perspective from your counsel that can help to propel you forward or even consider a new direction–something that you hadn’t thought of before.

Look, It’s not easy to conquer fears and step out of our comfort zones. It is something I still face every day as I build my business. But I refuse to let fear win at the expense of my dreams. My dreams are far more important than the discomfort I feel at the moment. And yours are too.