Seek Your Discomfort Zone
Advancing your career is like surfing in overhead waves.
When you first do it, it’s uncomfortable, to say the least.
I’ve surfed for years, mostly in New Jersey and New York, in waves that range from knee-to-chest high. That’s my comfort zone.
Earlier this year, during a trip to Costa Rica, the waves at the end of the week climbed to almost ten feet – way over my comfort zone. To surf those waves, I needed to adapt to being in a new, uncomfortable place.
As retired Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine writes in his book The Way of the Seal, “We must define our comfort zone, and then get the heck out of it.”
When the waves increased in size, the confidence I surfed with earlier in the week in stomach-high surf was gone.
I paddled for waves very tentatively. I let some go by, or told myself that I was in the wrong position or that the wave was going to close-out.
At one moment a fairly clean – and large – right-breaking wave approached and I went for it. I caught it and popped up, only to see two guys on the inside right in my path.
I pulled out of the wave, telling myself that it was dangerous. I didn’t even consider that I could surf around them or that they would duck-dive out of the way.
Back outside, my frustration was growing as high as the waves. That’s when my surf coach, Asher, paddled over and shifted my mindset.
He said, “O.K., Vic, you’re not in New Jersey anymore. You’ve probably never been in conditions like these. The winds are making this pretty difficult, too, and a lot of waves are closing out. But every once in a while a nice, clean one comes through, and you can handle it.
“Remember all the things we talked about this week and remember the training you’ve been practicing. All those things will work out here today. You have to remember the training and dig down and pull up your confidence.”
Asher was totally right. He was telling me that I needed to surf these conditions with a more focused mindset and strengthened confidence. I also needed to use the training.
It’s the same for executives who want to advance their careers, expand their influence and build new expertise.
To reach those kinds of goals, you have to move beyond your comfort zone to your discomfort zone. That’s the place where you may not yet have developed the skills or confidence you need. It feels risky because it’s not what you’re used to.
In my coaching, executives sometimes get stuck in the mental space where they don’t do the work because they doubt that they can do it or that it’s going to make a difference. It’s a classic Catch-22.
Many of them find that if they put their coaching sessions into practice, their skills grow and their confidence strengthens.
This in turn fuels their enthusiasm for more training. Now, we have a virtuous circle instead of a Catch-22.
To get there, you have dig in, charge the wave and go for it.
Here’s a coaching question for you: What kind of training or learning can you take on — right now – to begin moving towards your discomfort zone?
Please send a note below with your best tip for embracing your discomfort zone.