I am trying to navigate my job, international bosses, an international boyfriend, solo home ownership, family, friends, my mental health….the works. Part of my job means I have to manage workplace conflict and stare down the barrel of business management. At times, I have had to let people go or have some very difficult conversations. I am a person that is very much married to my job. I take a lot of emotional baggage on and put an unfair level of expectation on myself (sometimes to the detriment of myself and others). I have to keep reminding myself that I am only 23. That I do not have all the answers. And that every day is going to be uncomfortable because I am constantly learning and developing. I call these growing pains.
“To continue to grow in your capacity to do great work, you need to regularly challenge that biological instinct by jumping over hurdles that force you to grow.” – Thomas Oppong (serial entrepreneur and author)
When you are going through a difficult event or stage, instinct can be to defer, avoid or shut down. I know because I have done all three.
No one has ever grown as a person living in their comfort zone.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten”
Retreat to your comfort zone to rest and recharge, to process and evaluate. But don’t let that be your default position. Your comfort zone, when used too often, can be a place to breed complacency. I am writing this to myself as much as to you.
And this isn’t just applicable for work. Although that was my initial inspiration for this article. It is applicable across the board, in all aspects of your life.
Don’t be crazy though. Don’t go from living in your comfort zone 24/7 to diving in the deep end of discomfort. Put your toe in the water. Test it out. I was talking to a friend of mine about this topic and he said something that was quite cool (and I am going to completely butcher it). The general gist of it was:
It is good to extend yourself beyond what you are capable of but to only do so when you have the energy and headspace to do it. If you fail, it’s okay. Jump back into your comfort zone and take a moment to rest, recharge, process and evaluate. Then you can go again. If you are living in a constant state of discomfort and stretched beyond your capabilities 100% of the time, of course, you are going to fail and get caught in some sticky situations – what did you think would happen?
Hi James, if you are reading this… that was the general takeaway, right? But also, get off my blog. You know I am super self-conscious about work-life reading my blog.
Like any muscle, you must stretch your mind otherwise it will just tighten up and you will become unable to move. But you must ease into it. You don’t just go from never stretching to air jumping into the splits. That’s how you do serious damage.
Same goes for personal development, so start with simple things; pick up a book you would usually ignore, take a different route home, go to a new restaurant, watch a movie you typically avoid (mine would definitely be SciFi, vomit).
It is funny. I am someone that is very much goal-oriented and focused on growth. But I am also someone that is, for a lack of a nicer term, a control-freak and I really struggle with letting go. These two things feel like they are in constant conflict with one another. My comfort zone is where I feel most in control, everything is known. But to grow I must step out of my comfort zone. It can be hard to reconcile the two.
Find your perfect comfort zone to personal development ratio
For the second half of last year, I spent 90% of the time out of my comfort zone. I had no time to rest, recharge, process and evaluate. Well, to be fair, I gave myself no time to do those things. I literally felt like I was on a train but the train was going to fast and couldn’t keep itself on the tracks. I was moving at a pace that was not conducive to sustainable and healthy growth.
The Christmas break came at a perfect time. It forced me to stop and take stock of my life. And I am so glad it did otherwise I would still be heading at lightning speed towards burnout and potentially a pretty severe relapse in my mental health and to be completely honest, it would have blown up in a pretty spectacular fashion.
I am telling you this to really reinforce that personal development is a long game. Personal growth has no ‘express shipping’ option – you cannot overnight it. You have to strike a balance between time spent in comfort zone and time spent outside of it and that ‘ratio’ is going to be unique to you.
90% discomfort did NOT work for me. When you spend that much time outside of ‘your zone’ and what you know your fail rate is much higher. It destroyed my self-confidence and self-belief but as a result, I learned a heck of a lot about myself, my motivations (even the misguided ones), my strengths and most importantly, my weaknesses.
Look for the rainbow in a storm of failure
When you step outside of your comfort zone you are exposing yourself to more opportunities to fail. Sorry if that sounds blunt, but that is the nature of the beast.
“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” – Ellen DeGeneres
Once I was forced to give myself time to rest, recharge, process and evaluate I was really able to see the rainbow form from a series of failed decisions. And better yet, I don’t think I would change anything. There is no point in me over analysing the past six months and kicking myself. What I can do is extrapolate the lessons and pay greater gratitude to my strengths; the things already living in my comfort zone.
I would love to know what is something that is causing you some real ‘growing pains’? Send me a message over on my Instagram (@thechroniclesofcarly).
Do you want to read more on this subject? I found some great articles to help you:
- Embrace Discomfort. Your Long-Term Personal Growth Depends on it
- 5 Ways Discomfort Can Explode Your Personal Growth
- 7 Harsh Truths They Don’t Tell You About Personal Growth
- Personal Development Discomfort: Changing When Everyone Around You Is Staying The Same
Thank you so much for reading,