A couple months ago I began work on a new project. I have never led anything like this, so it is a great opportunity for growth. Of course because this is something new for me, the learning curve is steep. In the first few weeks, I was constantly uncomfortable. I couldn’t rely on previous experience or my own knowledge to know what needed to be done, and I only understood about a third of what was being said in meetings. (I began to think I needed to learn a new language.)
After a few weeks and risking embarrassment countless times by asking questions like, “What is a BPD” or “Why do we need a charter?” I began to feel more comfortable. When I walked into a meeting, I could tell from my slightly less elevated heart rate and a somewhat shallower pit in my stomach that I was beginning to settle into my role. But that settling left a bad taste in my mouth. For some reason, I was disturbed that I was getting comfortable, and after a little reflection, I have come to the realization that I don’t want to be comfortable.
Being uncomfortable creates an environment for growth. Discomfort is fertilizer for growth in life. When I am uncomfortable, I am open. I am willing to ask questions. I am willing to let others in, and I respect their opinions.
When I am uncomfortable I am acutely aware of what I lack. In a word, discomfort makes me humble. I know that I need to ask questions and lean into the understanding of others. I know that I don’t have all the answers; I don’t even know some of the questions. I need the help of those around me.
When I am uncomfortable and humble I focus on myself a lot less. I don’t think about my status, and because I am not trying to impress others, I am free to ask questions. I am also (perhaps most surprising to those who know me well) more willing to be quiet and simply listen. When I am uncomfortable and humble I don’t feel the need to prove myself to others. I speak and act based on what is needed from me, not based on what acclaim I can win in others.
When I am uncomfortable and humble I am more open to the opinions of others. If I disagree with someone, I can’t judge the idea. There is a very, very good chance that there is something I don’t understand, and perhaps if I understood more, I would not disagree. I can’t assume that I know better than others. I am forced to lean into them to grow in knowledge and understanding. I assume I have something to learn from others.
I’m not sure I am still writing about the new project? What if we were more willing to embrace the discomfort of life? Do you think that would lead to greater, deeper and more authentic growth?