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2020 and being comfortable being uncomfortable

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

The concept of being comfortable with being uncomfortable is one that I value and teach in learning and growth. If we stay with what is comfortable for us, we limit our ability to progress, and embracing discomfort can push us forward. Resistance to change can also overlap with this, although it's not necessarily the same thing.

I've been thinking about both reacting to change and being uncomfortable in the context of 2020 — a year that most of us looking forward to wrapping up and putting behind us. I had been in France in early March as part of my studies at INSEAD and returned to San Francisco on a Sunday as the virus was accelerating globally, landed to an email from my company suggesting to work from home, and then two days later the city of San Francisco issued its "shelter-in-place" order. I distinctly remember thinking "hmm, it's going to be a little tough being restricted at home for a couple of weeks."

As airlines then started cancelling routes, I thought of my family in Australia and my fear grew that I could be separated from them for a long time, that any of us could get sick, and the worse possibilities that could entail (at the time cases were ballooning in Australia as much as everywhere else). But I had an employer I was responsible to, a home and life in San Francisco, and no way to know how any decision to stay or go could play out — for my work, my health, and for those I loved. In the end the decision was resolved by a simple question: what would I regret more? I booked a flight to Sydney to depart in a week's time. The next day I brought it forward and was on a flight that night.

I said I was going for a month — I knew it would be more. It ended up being six. As someone who likes having my own home and space and comforts around me, I think the gravity of what was happening around the world helped me let go of that, and recognize that my discomforts were insignificant in context. It's a realization I want to remind myself of going forward, when I encounter those moments where I want to stay with comfort rather than lean into discomfort: in the grand scheme of things, how significant is the risk really? It's putting that discomfort in perspective, which for me helps minimize my fear and reluctance. It can even turn it into a positive obligation: simply put, if I can, I should.

I returned to San Francisco in October somewhat reluctantly, but somewhat on a roll, motivated to embrace further change, step out of comfort, and launch The Potential Space. That's the thing about getting comfortable being uncomfortable: the more you do it, the easier it is, and the more you progress.

As you reflect back on your own 2020, did it get you more comfortable with being uncomfortable? If it didn't, what are some smaller steps you can take? What perspectives can you apply to. make those risks less intimidating? And if it did get you more comfortable with being uncomfortable, where will that take you next?

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