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A Growth Mindset: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

When was the last time you found yourself in an uncomfortable situation?

I recently attended a community meeting where most attendees would be meeting one another for the first time. Upon arrival, I found myself among a group of seasoned leaders gathering in a hallway outside of our designated meeting space as we waited for the room to become available. It was obvious no one knew each other. One by one, attendees arrived, lining the walls of the hallway. Most avoided eye contact, looking down at their phones, searching for something in their work bag or nervously fumbling with their keys in an effort to avoid pre-meeting interaction. The awkwardness was apparent as the uncomfortable silence grew. It would be another ten minutes before our meeting room was available.

I looked around to gauge the group. Despite my own reservations, not knowing how well it would be received, I spoke up and broke the silence. It was uncomfortable, but I put myself out there. I used a little humor to ease my own nerves, then suggested we use this time to go around and introduce ourselves. I went first. Guess what? It worked! One by one, attendees came out of their shells, broke away from their distractions and introduced themselves. It lightened the mood. The conversation grew, and it created an energy we carried with us into our meeting room and throughout our boardroom discussion.

For some, this story is underwhelming and may not resonate. This would not be an uncommon or uncomfortable situation for them. It may not present a learning or growth opportunity.

For others, this story resembles the stuff of nightmares, like the feeling of being lost, aimlessly wandering the halls of high school, late for class with a backpack of unfinished homework.

Okay, that’s extreme, but you get the point. It’s uncomfortable!

Regardless of which camp you might fall into, the question to ask yourself is: When was the last time you were intentional about putting yourself out there and making yourself uncomfortable, in the spirit of personal or professional growth?

I am not sure who should be credited for coining the phrase, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” It’s been around for years and may seem trite to some, but if it has stood the test of time and is practical and powerful enough to be referenced by the U.S. Navy SEALs, then it truly has merit to make a difference to most.

Admitting we are uncomfortable, in and of itself, demonstrates courage and vulnerability, which is an admirable leadership trait that can inspire others. Taking it a step further and intentionally seeking situations, interactions, projects and goals that stretch us and make us uncomfortable is what leads to the most meaningful learning and growth, both personally and professionally.

When we put (or maybe push) ourselves out there, beyond our comfort zone, and we do it consistently, we create magical muscle memory that develops competence, builds confidence and broadens our capabilities.

At FTI, we encourage our team members to take on stretch assignments as a key component of their continued growth and development. We encourage them to be curious, to ask questions and seek opportunities that push them safely outside their comfort zone and align with career goals and interests.

We have realized notable success by incorporating the DiSC assessment into team building to help improve collaboration and productivity. We encourage team members to learn about their communication style and get comfortable being uncomfortable by stretching beyond their natural tendencies and flexing their style to enhance team communication and connection.

Likewise, we encourage and expect our leaders to get comfortable being uncomfortable by intentionally taking a less familiar or unknown path and engaging with cross-functional teams to solve a strategic challenge or opportunity that broadens their knowledge and influence in areas of the business outside their normal, everyday area of responsibility.

When we stretch ourselves personally and professionally with purpose, what once was uncomfortable becomes comfortable. What once was unknown and unsettling, becomes more engaging and rewarding. What once seemed impossible, becomes possible.

Take on a growth mindset. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Stretching ourselves to face the fear of not knowing might just be the nudge we need to start doing and continue growing.