For me, I think of that uncomfortable task just like I think of the abdominals section of my workout. You see, I hate “abs.” Planks, crunches, leg lifts, it doesn’t matter which; for me they are all equally cruel and unusual punishment. But I’ve finally learned three important things. First, it’s never as bad when I’m doing it as I imagined before I started. Second, since I’ve been doing ab workouts, it’s making everything else easier. I don’t get a sore back while standing in lines. I can lift more weight and do more repetitions. My pants do up. Third, I’ve learned that there is no feeling I like more than the 60 seconds after I finish my ab workout. I feel relieved, fierce, and very proud of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still dislike abs, but I never avoid them, I just get them done.
What is your work equivalent of abs? What is the one uncomfortable thing you’ve been building up in your mind getting more nervous as you go? What is the one uncomfortable task you could do that would make so many other things better? Maybe it’s a conversation you’ve been avoiding that would make a relationship more productive. Perhaps it’s a task that you really aren’t comfortable with, but avoiding it is costing you credibility with the boss. What’s the one thing you could do that would make you burst-your-buttons proud of yourself even if no one else knew? That’s the one to tackle!
Doing Your One Uncomfortable Thing
- Admission. It’s important to admit to yourself that what you’re doing is uncomfortable. That way, when you’re palms get sweaty or your heart races, you won’t be taken off guard—and you won’t give up. You’ll just say to yourself “yup, I knew this was going to be uncomfortable.”
- Awareness. Approach your uncomfortable task being very aware and very mindful of where you’re at. Be open to what you’re experiencing, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling. When you feel something unpleasant, just be honest with yourself. Imagine you’ve psyched yourself up to deliver some tough feedback to a peer when all of a sudden the person turns it back on you. Talk yourself through it “wow, that’s not what I was expecting…that hurts.”
- Curiosity. Avoid judgment and other negative feelings by staying curious. If there’s a disconnect between you and your boss, ask yourself how you could have become disconnected. If something someone says makes you angry, be curious about what nerve they touched that’s making you so upset. Curiosity is the key to doing uncomfortable things…it makes them seem like fascinating mini science experiments.
- Empathy. Many situations become uncomfortable because they feel adversarial. If you approach an uncomfortable situation with empathy for everyone involved (including yourself), you will create a connection that will disarm the negative emotions.
- Humility. A little humility goes a long way. Be vulnerable and be willing to share how you feel. Own up to your discomfort while sharing the importance of addressing the issue. “I have been avoiding this conversation and I realize that I’m doing us both a disservice. I’d like to talk to you about how we’re going to share the credit for this project.”
As I said in my previous post, when there is something uncomfortable that you’re putting off, you are paying the price in a constant drain on your energy: Time to put a stop to that! Make today the day that you will check that uncomfortable task off your list. Be honest with yourself about the discomfort, tune in to how you’re feeling, and stay open minded and curious about what you hear. But most of all, do difficult things with humility and with kindness, that makes it easier on you and everyone else.
Go do your one uncomfortable thing and share how you feel in the comments.