Most of us need an external stimulus to do our best work.
It helps to have an alarm clock if you want to get out of bed before dawn.
A presentation. A deadline. A live performance. The threat of foreclosure, an upcoming review or some sort of crisis.
We can use these pressures to dig deeper, find new resources and overcome our self doubt.
The challenge is that sometimes, we pick the wrong stimulus. We choose a prompt to serve us, but we end up serving it, in a situation that hurts us (and others) instead of fuelling the work.
It’s essential to realize that our discomfort zone is a choice, there isn’t a pre-ordained roster. If you need a deadline, for example, but have discovered that those deadlines are costing you money (because shortcuts are expensive), then it’s worth doing the hard work to find a new form of discomfort.
The problem with a drop-dead deadline is that if you miss it, you’re dead.
If you need to make huge promises and add all sorts of hype, but that hype is hurting your reputation, again, it’s worth investing in a new way to poke yourself to dig deeper.
When we hear about divas, or dysfunctional managers, more often than not we see a situation where someone who should know better has chosen the wrong form of discomfort.
The argument can be made that the biggest difference between a professional, an amateur and someone who’s not even participating is their choice of discomfort.
Give it a name, call it out. Your discomfort zone is a choice, and if it’s not serving you, fix it.
Like all tools, the right one serves the professional.