For most all of us, the reality is that we fall short of living out our full promise not because we fail in attempting something ambitious and important but rather because we simply get comfortable. Comfort comes in the form of familiar people, old habits, daily routines, and mindless decisions. In our fast-paced, 140-character, always changing world, seeking out comfort is understandable. Habits, routines, familiarity in all its forms can serve as an important island oasis in an ocean teaming with the sharks of chaos.
But when we only stay in the comfort of our oasis, we can’t complete our journey.
Today let me challenge you to do something new, different, and uncomfortable. It can be big or small. Personal or professional. Take a different route to your workplace. Call an important someone instead of sending an text. Take the time to practice how you might ask well-crafted questions of the prospective donor you are meeting with next week (I find many development professionals do not prepare questions for donor visits, much less practice them). Set up that visit with that difficult donor. Carve out time in your schedule to think – really think – about an important long-term plan. Ask to have the “elephant in the room” conversation with your colleague. Ask for more responsibility at work. Smile when you don’t feel like it. Think through your decisions if you are typically a “quick to respond” type. Or do something spontaneous if you have a tendency to over-think. If a daily plan makes you break out in hives, force yourself to write down a to-do list for the day and stick to it. Or, conversely if success only occurs for you when you check things off your list, tear-up your to-do list and take the time to visit with the people around you. Invite the opinions of others in a meeting if you typically do most of the talking – or share your opinion if you are typically quiet. Push yourself. And push back against your automatic, habitual response. Do something – anything – different. Get out of your comfort zone.
Our habits, routines, and the familiar make life and work easier for us. We need some behaviors, reactions, and decisions to be more or less mindless just to make it through the day. But when our goal is to just make it through the day we lose the capacity achieve great goals. Being on autopilot only takes us to where we’ve been before. Making yourself uncomfortable means making it a priority to explore, question, pay attention, reflect, and respond differently than our habits and routines might otherwise encourage us. You learn more, grow more, and gain new and valuable experiences. It’s exercise for our intellect and soul.
Making yourself uncomfortable today means giving yourself the opportunity succeed tomorrow in ways you didn’t even think possible yesterday.