When you hear the word “uncomfortable”, what comes to mind? I’m guessing you have thoughts or feelings with some sort of negative connotation associated with the concept of being uncomfortable. I know that is exactly how I used to feel about being uncomfortable. Not anymore. A few months ago, I began actively seeking-out decisions, tasks and other situations that were intentionally uncomfortable. In doing so, my personal productivity, effectiveness and confidence has shot through the roof! Let me explain…
I recently read two books that have made a huge impact on me in many ways. The first book is Linchpin by Seth Godin and the second book is 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss. Both books are amazing and packed with gems of knowledge and inspiration. Of the many ideas and concepts from these books, there are two ideas that I have combined that directly relate to this concept of being uncomfortable.
First, in Linchpin, Seth Godin introduced me to the concept of Emotional Labor. Emotional Labor is bringing guts, ideas, passion and love to work when you and others don’t feel like it. Godin writes about making your “work” your “art”. Seth Godin proposes that we embrace the fact that the only thing we get paid for is doing Emotional Labor. To become indispensable to your organization and become a “Linchpin”, do Emotional Labor the best and you will keep getting rewarded for it.
Next, in 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss advocates intentionally embracing discomfort and uncomfortable situations as a method for making positive change in your life. No doubt, Ferriss crafted the idea of purposeful and voluntary discomfort from his admiration of the ancient Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca. Tim Ferriss quotes Seneca throughout The 4-Hour Workweek. Ferriss wants us to expose ourselves to fear, to potential embarrassment, to risk. Mentally go to the place of the worst-case possible scenario. Doing this helps us very clearly recognize appropriate courses of action. Tim Ferriss has a great video talking about these principles.
By combining these ideas from Godin and Ferriss, I come up with Uncomfortable Emotional Labor. I have found that during times of discomfort… when we feel most uncomfortable… that the most meaningful, forward progress is achieved. Identifying and attacking an uncomfortable issue, task or situation is Emotional Labor. Put another way, the most effective Emotional Labor is the type that feels uncomfortable. This Emotional Labor is hard, it takes guts, it fully engages creativity, and ignites passion and love. And the payoff is amazing! Think about it, how satisfied are you when you accomplish something routine and safe? Compare that with the level of satisfaction you feel when accomplish something hard to do, something scary, something possibly embarrassing or risky? Big difference, and not just for your personal satisfaction, but also for results you are driving for your organization.
How do you engage Uncomfortable Emotional Labor? Identify uncomfortable tasks and decisions and put them at the top of your daily action list. Have you been putting-off holding a colleague, employee, a vendor, a relative, or (hardest of all) yourself accountable for something? Do you see something in your life or business that needs to change, but you postpone action in an effort to not “stir the pot”? Take a look at your task list and decide what is the most uncomfortable thing on your list. Then make that item the top priority. The task list approach is good place to start, but it tends to be very tactical. Also, think more strategically and holistically by forcing yourself to think of Uncomfortable Emotional Labor in the context of quarterly or annual objectives you are driving.
Put yourself out there. Get uncomfortable.
I’d love to hear how you apply Uncomfortable Emotional Labor in your life. For me, the more I focus on these concepts, ironically, the more comfortable I am engaging Uncomfortable Emotional Labor. Quite an interesting paradox… but, I’ll save that discussion for another time. ;-)
[Image credit: Rick C.]