Have you ever been in a situation where you feel really uncomfortable? I’m talking toes curling in shoes, teeth clenching, flushed face kind of uncomfortable… Have you ever felt in that very moment in time – that the challenge you’re facing is actually shaping you to become more successful and confident that you had imagined? Most of us just want to ignore our problems (in work particularly), find a ‘quick-fix’, satisfy the person in need, move on and never look back.
It’s unquestionably easier and far less stressful to ignore these situations, instead of dealing with them head on. But if you could look to a future where these situations were sparse and you were a confident and determined person who could deal with anything thrown their way - because you made a conscious decision to start facing these stressful situations; would your world not be a calmer, happier and less stressful place to be?
I don’t know many people who wouldn’t want that – do you?
This isn’t a profound idea I’ve drawn from my own life decisions unfortunately (or I’d surely be the next great modern day philosopher) It’s actually a culmination of some of my latest reading material and a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me (a slow burner), that I wanted to share.
I first came across this simple notion whilst I was reading the Hiut Denim 2014 yearbook (please buy next year's book – it will change your outlook on so many things) It was a quote from Alice & Ross Beese - two surfers and environmentalists from West Wales and owners of ‘In Pursuit of Outstanding’.
It said this: -
It’s something that my boss Paul is a huge advocate of in our office, if you ‘don’t like’ doing something – tough. You have to do it, for you more than anybody else. If you really think about it – it’s a very simple concept, but it changes things doesn’t it? You sort of realise that feeling uncomfortable for a short time is actually worth something to you, something valuable.
My second ‘moment of realisation’ if you will, came when I was reading a new book. The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck, I know I know, it’s been around for ages and I’m super late to the party, but all the same I’ve found this book to be a real embracing of every day life (and I’m only on page 112!). This time the notion is presented differently but with a similar meaning.
Peck’s first chapter is called Problems and Pain, it’s the introduction to where the book will lead and how it all begins - with problems. He says “Life is difficult” – ok that’s not excessively profound, but he goes on to say that
“Once we truly understand that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters”
Now, I don’t expect this whole quote to change anybody’s life (unless you have the book! Which I would happily quote for the entire blog), but its basic principle is that life is a series of problems (there’s that word again), and that the course of confronting these problems is a painful one, they can create feelings of anxiety, grief, frustration and a general plethora of unpleasantness.
It’s the process of solving these problems that we learn and grow in the process, as Benjamin Franklin once said
“Those things that hurt, instruct”.
The third and final time I came across this notion, was in the September issue of ELLE magazine. Elle’s Acting Commissioning Editor, Georgia Simmonds wrote a wonderful article on ‘Women in Tech’. Georgia spoke with two of the industries finest examples of success and explored what we could learn from them. Kathryn Parsons, Founder of DecodedCo and Nicola Mendelsohn, the Vice-President of Facebook, Europe were the subjects of the article.
Georgia notes that both women deliberately do things that make them uncomfortable, they point out problems, put themselves in the firing line and make themselves vulnerable.
Kathryn asked Georgia what she took away from their time together, to which she replies: -
“First: to succeed, you need the courage to make yourself uncomfortable. Beyond determination, confidence, being rigorous in organisation and unemotional when decision-making, you absolutely have to do things that scare you”
I’ve never found confrontation easy – has anybody, truly? But maybe if we all started to consider the reward to be had by challenging ourselves more in unnerving situations, particularly in the workplace – we’d find we actually have so much more to give.