Before there was Sheryl Sandberg telling us to “Lean In” there was Brené Brown telling us to “lean into the discomfort”. How often do you step out of your comfort zone only to jump back from feelings of hesitation, fear, and uncertainty? It is so often our own selves that hold us back from experiencing new things and challenging ourselves to go deeper into something. What exactly is it that holds us back?
Fear of failure. I am a member of a nonprofit organization committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community. At a recent leadership retreat, our guest speaker, Vicki Clark reminded us there should be “no failure” in our mindset. For a group dedicated to training women to be community leaders, we have to understand that failure must be embraced as part of the learning and growing experience. And, so it goes in all other types of work. If we don’t have the freedom to fail, then we don’t have the ability to risk, to achieve greater things, to get better.
Fear of the unknown. Sometimes you might encounter a situation where you are completely out of your element. It’s unfamiliar and you may not even be sure of how you got there. This is when that voice in the back of our heads tells us it’s ok to retreat, to not even try. It seems pretty easy to make a u-turn, back to familiar territory. And, why not? We’re good there, we’re safe, we have no worries. But, what if there was something even greater waiting for you? I personally believe that opportunities come along for a reason, and it is our responsibility to explore them. We may find that it wasn’t worthwhile, but we may find a path to greatness. It’s worth going there.
Fear of conflict. Today’s political climate is rife with unhealthy and destructive discourse. It seems that politicians are so afraid of conflict that they’d rather stand behind accusations and personal attacks. As long as the world has at least two people, disagreement is inevitable. It’s in our nature. But, we can’t let a fear of conflict keep us from pursuing new possibilities. When coming against opposition, practice active listening in order to respect other opinions, identify areas where you both agree, and search out compromises. These strategies may not eliminate all disputes, but they should give you greater confidence in approaching conflict.
So, lean into the discomfort. Embrace it. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable because that may be exactly where you do your best work.