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Intro

Hello. Thanks for tuning in to learn, grow, succeed. The leadership podcast with me, Tom Hallett. This podcast is all about providing you insights and tips to help you on your journey towards exceptional leadership.

Tom

Hello, and welcome back to the Learn, Grow, Succeed Leadership podcast. It’s Tom here and thank you so much for joining us yet again and letting us play a small part in your professional learning journeys. Hopefully a lot of you out there listened to last week’s podcast where Alex from the team joined us.  Alex is our, blog writer and Mr. Creative at Excel and the new formats went down really well so we’ve invited him along again. Say hello Alex…

Alex

Hello I was happy to accept the invitation.

Tom

For those of you that didn’t listen, in the new format what we’re trying to do is bring the blogs that we create every couple of weeks to life by discussing them between Alex and I, so that they can really hit home.

And if you’ve read the blog, that’s great. It will build on it. If you’ve not, that’s also great. We’ll stand alone. And it also depends also how you consume your information as to which one you prefer or indeed do both. So this week’s blog and podcast is about how to improve your relationship with discomfort and regularly break out of your comfort zone.

And I think it’s a very hot topic at the moment. One, because of everything that’s happened with Corona in the global pandemic that we faced, people have been forced out of their comfort zones more. So I think it’s a good thing to discuss how to embrace it if you’re feeling uncomfortable being out of your comfort zone.

The second is I think it’s become a very fashionable topic to talk about, not having a fear of failure  and pushing yourself out of your comfort zones for professionals as a way to develop. This is not something that’s new. It’s been around for a very, very long time.

Franklin Roosevelt said decades ago that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, which is all about this desire to move out of your comfort zone. So Alex, tell us a little bit more about your thought process when you were creating this blog.

Alex

Yeah, I think you put it wonderfully. If I can add anything, I think this is, like you said, it’s about addressing your own fears.

Having the self-awareness to, to look at why things exist outside of your comfort zone and addressing them directly.  But this is also about the process of doing that. You know, obviously if there’s something that makes you uncomfortable, you have to be okay with feeling uncomfortable, but at the same time, you don’t want to make the first time you try something, that’s a bit uncomfortable, the worst thing ever. You want to steadily step into it and make it comfortable. So, this is all about the process of doing that and also about facing those fears themselves and understanding why your comfort zone is what it is in the first place.

Tom

Yes, absolutely. And I think, when I was reading the blog, not only is this part of personal development but also, you know, we work with so many companies where a fear of failure or failing fast has been built into their company values. And I think for many businesses, this is something they really live and they do encourage people to try things no matter whether they’re going to be great or not quite right the first time.  Others maybe give it a little bit more lip service than reality. So whatever situation you find yourself in listening to this, thinking about how you can implement this on your teams and your business is also going to be beneficial.

So let’s explore how we can make you feel more comfortable being uncomfortable.

Alex

I like that!

Tom

So the first point in the blog on being comfortable with being uncomfortable is to ask yourself why. So tell us a bit more about what you mean by that Al.

Alex

So, I think last week we spoke about positivity and we spoke about why you need to know that having a more positive mindset is important.

And basically you need to know why you’re going to do anything before you do it, if you’re going to build a good amount of motivation to see it through. However this week is slightly different, I’ve got a two for one for you. So I’m not gonna hit you with one, I’m gonna hit you with two why’s instead.

So, first of all, you need to figure out if something’s uncomfortable, why are you fearful of it.

Make some sense, is there some logic behind the emotion, but then secondly, you need to actually figure out why, why are you going to be motivated to do something that feels incredibly awkward and that doesn’t feel like you should do it. What are you going to gain from it? Because by answering these two questions, you’re going to have an idea of, what is it actually that you’re scared of? Cause it might not be as much as you think it is. And secondly, what is this going to achieve by doing it?

By having those two things, then you’re going to be much more likely to actually go ahead and face it than if you weren’t.

Tom

Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. And I know personally, when I’m feeling uncomfortable with doing things, particularly at work actually, you know, sending that email to a client that maybe is pushing back on a point, or I don’t know, whatever the case may be small or large.

I always ask myself the question. What’s the worst that can happen? Because generally when you ask yourself that question, you realize it’s not that bad. The benefits massively outweigh the worst that can happen. So you just need to crack on and do it.

Albeit last time, I vividly remember saying what’s the worst that can happen a few weeks ago when I was adjusting the Excel communications website and not only did the website then crash, everybody’s emails then stopped working for nearly 24 hours! Which is fine! I will never do again. I learned from that experience.

Alex

I would say you asked what’s the worst that could happen and then immediately found out what was the worst that could happen.

Tom

Exactly and it wasn’t that bad! I mean, I had a minor panic at the time, but it really wasn’t that bad.

I know last week, like you say Al, when we were talking about positivity, we talked about outcome thinking and that key question of what’s in it for me. And I, again, I didn’t think you really do anything much in life that challenges you and helps you grow unless you understand what it can give you at the end of it.

Alex

Yeah. And I think in these blogs, it’s always a point that we bring up, probably not in great detail every time, because it is a constant thing, but if you’re looking to change or develop anything, having an end goal in mind is, is hugely motivational. So always worth doing beforehand.

Tom

So the next tip that you’ve got is don’t dive too deep. Probably not as, as obvious as the first one. So what do you mean by that?

Alex

So if we think about, if you were thinking about learning how to swim or even if you were afraid of water or something like that, how would you learn? I mean, would you go into the deep end and dive in headfirst and just kind of hope that you rise back to the surface and pop about?

Or would you kind of start with some buoyancy aids, learn how to float and then build the knowledge and confidence to actually then swim. It’s about don’t just do the thing that you’re scared of doing and hope that it goes right. Set some steps, set some, some groundwork to then. Build some knowledge on, so that next time you’re, you’re confident that you actually have the ability to do it and that you’re not just gonna throw stuff into it and hope for the best fingers crossed.

And obviously, some people do like that approach. Some people do like to just go into things and, and just, yeah, hope that the best thing comes out. These guys are dare devils if anything.  But sometimes, especially if it’s something you’re incredibly fearful of, actually just planning a little bit can really help.

I’m not going to the biggest thing straight away, I’ll build up to it and then eventually I’ll have the knowledge so that when it does come to going to that bigger aspect of this I’m ready.

Tom

Yeah. And I guess that’s a situational thing, as well as a personal thing, you know, if, if it’s the fear of the swimming thing, you don’t want to dive straight into the deep end, because if you asked that question, what’s the worst that can happen. You could drown. So in that situation, you want those incremental steps before you get there. But for others you might be going head first into into a situation because the worst that can happen is not very bad. And personality as well we’re not all Elon Musk, earning millions of pound from selling PayPal and then investing every penny the next day into a new business and going bankrupt.

The other thing I thought of when I was reading this one is about fitness. When people approach fitness, what they tend to do is, on the 1st of January, say they are going to get fit and go down the gym. They’ll spend two and a half hours in there and really smash it.  But the next day you’re aching and you feel terrible, which removes motivation to ever do it again. And you don’t. Whereas if you start by, going for a nice walk. And do that for a few weeks. And then you build up to maybe a light jog or whatever, your building up that ability to handle the discomfort.

Alex

Yeah. Muscle memory. I think you hit the nail on the head there, because it is about if this thing is a bad thing or you think it is a bad thing or something that you don’t want to do, then if you dive in and it’s a negative experience, you risk making that worse. So yeah, it’s, it’s about preparation and about building that muscle memory to make sure that when it happens or even if it doesn’t go as you planned, you’ve got actual things that you can take from it and try again.

Tom

So the next point you’ve got is don’t make excuses.

Alex

Yes.  So this one does require quite a lot of self-awareness. I think, we’ve all made some good excuses. I’ve definitely made some good excuses as to why I can or can’t do things in the past. Social things, not work related things (be careful what I say!), but this is just about understanding when the reasons that you’re making to yourself as to why something isn’t possible understanding when they’re valid and when they’re not. And when you’re maybe not even realizing it, but maybe when you’re trying to just go for the easier option, the one that might not necessarily get you where you want to go, but it’s comfortable.

And it’s just about acknowledging when you’re making those excuses as to why you can’t challenge yourself. And, and again, understanding why, because quite a lot of the time it’s a safety, it’s a coping mechanism for something that isn’t actually as bad as you think it’s going to be, and it’s going to be a positive thing.

Tom

Yeah. Such an easy trap to fall into you don’t realize you’re making excuses sometimes. You know, I do it as much as anyone, if there’s a, I don’t know, I’m trying to write a tricky proposal and I’ll put it off and put it off and all of a sudden it’s Friday afternoon. And then I do it in about an hour and realize, oh, it wasn’t that bad, but I make it an excuse saying I’m busy with other things and putting it off to tomorrow.

Alex

Yeah. My dog ate it.

Tom

Maybe not that extreme although your dog eats pretty much anything.

Alex

Yeah. Not emails! Wouldn’t work for a proposal!

 

Tom

So, yeah, I guess if you find yourself making that excuse that’s, that’s the exact point where you should say to yourself no, I’m going to do it all right now, because that’s what pushes you out of your comfort zone.

So the next one is a discomfort and that it’s a feeling worth feeling which maybe is counter intuitive. So Alex, tell us a little bit more around your thinking.

Alex

It’s weird because obviously when, when we’re growing up, we’re told to avoid certain things. So, you know, eating unhealthy food regularly. We’re told to look both ways when we cross the road because you don’t know what’s coming the other way. And we’re told to avoid a lot of things and the things that often we can be scared of or uncomfortable about not those things. They’re not things that we were ever told, oh, this is going to be really bad for you. They’re just things that we maybe don’t feel that we’re capable of doing, or that we we’ve never tried before.

So. You know, it’s, it’s important to recognize that any time where you’ve learned something new, you’ve had to start somewhere and you’ve had to, you’ve had to start with something that maybe is if you were a beginner at, or the, you know, you didn’t have the greatest amount of experience and if you fail, it’s fine.

But you’ve, you’ve got to, you’ve got to start somewhere and you’ve got to feel uncomfortable in order to grow because growth doesn’t come without a bit of discomfort.

Tom

Yeah.  Just a caveat though. We’re not suggesting you cross the road without looking both ways.

Alex

No, the important thing I was saying those things were told to be afraid of for good reason, but yeah, don’t do, don’t dive in a sea full of hungry sharks. That’s never going to end up well or going well at all, but there’s certain things I think we put in that category of things that, oh, no, I should never try that because I might fail. This won’t go well when actually, even if you do fail, it’s, it’s not, it, it’s not an end. It’s not something where you should be going, right well I’m never going to try that again. It’s just something where you can take the lessons from and actually improved from and make yourself better at that thing.

Tom

And I think what’s important is the feeling of success is so much more pleasurable than the discomfort you feel from things that didn’t go right the first time in my humble experience.  You know, you might put in 10 proposals to clients and you’re going to lose some of them probably more than you win, but the ones you win are the ones that are going to make you feel good. And once you’re you realize that you want to start chasing that feeling of  uncomfortable success, it becomes your body’s quest to, to get that buzz again. I think, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a buzz it’s like,  probably like addiction or something. The more you feel that buzz of achieving something new, the more you want it, and you’ll become more and more comfortable with discomfort.

Alex

And this, this might be a slight tangent, but sometimes things do feel much, much better when they go right after they’ve not gone right the first time. I was having a chat with a friend the other day about driving theory tests, I was very jammy and passed mine first time. And obviously, maybe I didn’t quite feel how special that is because I did it first time. Whereas someone that’s been there,  taken the journey to the test center, failed, had to come home, had to revise how to go back, failed again, come home again. Then finally going on to pass, it felt much better for them than it did for me. You only had one, not very eventful experience.

Tom

So moving on to the last couple of points, Alex, surround yourself with go getters.  What do you mean there?

Alex

Yeah. So again, last week we spoke about having people in your circle that are positive and are ‘why not?’, rather than ‘why should I?’, and this is exactly the same point. There’s people out there that are willing to go and try new things and throw themselves into different activities and basically seek to develop. And if you’re surrounding yourself with these people, then you’re much more likely to say ‘why not’ to things and to give things a go rather than a bit more pessimistic and stay on the fringes.

Tom

Yeah. It’s interesting how many things in this topic of moving out of your comfort zone do relate to the positivity topic that we covered last week. And, I guess there’s an intrinsic link between being positive and then therefore being comfortable, being uncomfortable.  And I completely agree being surrounded by positive people. Personally, I know my wife is always the one who’s encouraged me to do new things when maybe I have a little bit of self-doubt.

Also for those listening in managerial and leadership positions, if you can be that kind of leader that, that encourages people to do stuff, whether you or they know whether it’s going to work or not, that is creating an environment also where discomfort is normal and encouraged.

Alex

When you’re feeling self-doubt or when your, maybe there’s no logic behind some of your fears that having other people’s perspective on some of the feelings you’re feeling is, is so crucial to actually taking the next step.  So yeah, that’s a that’s a pretty good point.

Tom

This is also where a coach can be really helpful because coaches are great at pushing you and asking you though those questions.

Alex

Absolutely.

Tom

So the last one is about being curious and I think this is a good way to live your life in general. And we we’re in a learning industry. So by definition, we need everyone to be curious because that’s how you learn. But, in the context of, moving out of your comfort zone, what did you mean here?

Alex

Open-mindedness. Being curious about being uncomfortable. How did I feel when I felt uncomfortable? What did I feel like when it started to feel less uncomfortable? How do I feel now I’ve done it? What’s the next step. Be curious about the whole process. If you’ve done something that’s uncomfortable, reflect on everything about it and know the next time these things happen, it might feel slightly different, but you’re working more logic into some of the feelings you’re feeling. And it’s also crucial for planning what’s up next and where you’re going to go from there.

Tom

Yeah, I think the key word you said there is reflection. By being curious and reflecting on everything. That’s, that’s the growth, that’s the learning. That’s where it’s coming from. So super important.

Alex

Absolutely

Tom

Awesome, well I’ve really enjoyed that chat, Alex, and I hope for everyone listening it’s given you something at least one little thing that you can take away today.

I would challenge everyone listening to go away and before you go to sleep tonight, do something small that makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable. Maybe that thing that you’ve been putting off.  And I promise you, it won’t be that bad. In fact, I can’t promise you that. But do ask that question. ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ But you can just do something small and realize that that’s where excitement and enjoyment and growth can come from in life.

Alex

I want to hear about them as well. So anyone that does. Look us up on the socials and let us know. I’m always interested to hear what, what journeys people are going on and what they’re trying, so look us up and tell us what’s happened.

Tom

If you like what you’ve heard today give us a subscribe and go onto the social channels and follow us,  and know that on the Excel website, there is loads of other learning content for you, blogs, podcasts, webinars, you name it. There’s loads of content on there. And if there’s something that you want, that’s not on there, let us know, because we can create it.

So thanks for joining us again, and we will speak to you again in a few weeks time.