"If I am comfortable, then I am part of the problem." This is a quote that has stuck with David Taylor, CEO of P&G ever since he first moved to Cincinnati (where P&G is headquartered). Taylor attributes his success to his willingness to take risks and embrace uncomfortable situations.
In an article that Taylor published on LinkedIn, he encouraged all to grasp uncertainty by the horns and be intentional about seeking out challenging work. In his eyes, the work that makes us nervous is key to our continued growth. He also issued a warning -- don't let yourself get too comfortable.
"When we're comfortable, we start to get relaxed. We accept things the way they are, and we do not feel motivated to change. I'd go so far as to argue that if you're not a little uncomfortable, you're probably not being challenged enough.... To be at our best, each of us needs to challenge ourselves whenever we start feeling comfortable."
If we're not careful, comfort can lead to complacency, and nothing will stifle innovation and hinder career progression faster than idleness.
Taylor was braver than most. He took big promotions, moved four times in nine years and even left his job as a successful plant manager to learn a new area of the business.
That level of discomfort may be too much too fast for most. Here are a few simple ways to build up your stamina:
Little by little.
Start small and work your way up.
I am a terrible reader. Literally, I would drink a pot of coffee and still fall asleep 15 minutes after cracking a book. But, reading is critical to my development as a professional and a columnist. Rather than breaking into a cold sweat thinking about reading a whole chapter, I forced myself to spend just 10 minutes reading every day. Everyone can endure something for 10 minutes, right?
I'm not going to lie, it was brutal at first. But, as you can imagine, every time I did it, it became easier and easier. It reminded me of a great quote by author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, "Consistency trumps intensity."
Brushing your teeth for 10 hours once a month won't prevent you from getting cavities. It takes small, consistent one-minute rituals twice a day -- same goes for anything else.
I'm happy to say that I can now sit down and read for 11 minutes. Joking aside, I now have a goal to read 30 books in 2018.
Pick something that's not so scary.
Taylor made major moves. At one point, he almost started his career all over again -- from engineering and plant management to brand management.
Rather than diving straight into the deep end (with a strong undertow), try something that's less intimidating.
Think of handling discomfort like learning how to dance. First, you check out some YouTube videos on how to moonwalk. Then, you try it a few times when no one is looking. You eventually graduate to asking friends to show you their moves, and before you know it, you bust out a massive glide at your wedding -- hypothetically speaking.
Start with something that you're comfortable being uncomfortable with and work on conditioning yourself to handle distress.
Practice emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the process of recognizing your emotions, practicing self-awareness, and effectively managing your feelings to ensure appropriate behavior.
Specific to discomfort, EQ is recognizing thoughts of fear, anxiousness, or doubt as "normal" and putting them into perspective. If not, your knee-jerk reaction will take over and you'll immediately avoid opportunities for the mere fact that they're uncomfortable. (For some reason, the saying "check yourself before you wreck yourself" just popped into my head.)
Learn to acknowledge emotions as emotions and not as viable reasons to avoid challenging situations. It will be scary at first, but your future, more accomplished, self will thank you.
I'll leave you with a final thought from Taylor. "There's a big space between uncomfortable enough and too uncomfortable, and that's where growth and innovation thrive."