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Life Is About How To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Life Is About How To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone. Change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Roy T. Bennett

Ever wonder why some people seem to glide effortlessly through life, handling problems as if they were riding waves on a surfboard? They always appear cool, calm and collected during those intense stressful moments, like college finals or business meetings, while you and everyone else break into a sweat. You wonder if they possess some secret elixir of awesomeness or 24-hour access to a personal self-confidence life coach. Chances are, they do have the formula for success, and some of them may not even realize it. It doesn’t come in powders or pills; it comes through pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone with regular, intense exercise.

Rethinking Your Comfort Zone

Comfort zones are cozy places defined by the familiar things with which you fill your daily lives with.  They are the stuff you don’t question and go through the motions of doing. They are predictable. Unchallenging. Comforting. Like meatloaf and mashed potatoes. And like eating meatloaf every single day, staying within your comfort zone all the time can be bad for your health.

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Athletes who physically push themselves, whether they are training for a marathon or a long distance swim, break through the barriers of that comfort zone, holding on until they reach their goal: that 5-mile run, that 5th lap, the top of the climbing wall. They achieve their athletic goal, but something else happens in the process: they are rewiring their brain to accept physical discomfort.

Society today is geared towards removing obstacles from your life. Remote controls change the television channels from afar, room temperatures are altered with the flick of a button, cars start themselves without you turning a key (some even drive themselves). In the process, you are losing touch with yourself and when faced with a difficult task, it can appear more daunting and stressful than it actually is because you’ve been weaned off of dealing with obstacles.

While interviewing top professional adventure and endurance athletes, Brad Shulberg of Outside Magazine noted in his article[1] that despite their different life choices, from mountain climbing to long distance swimming, these highly successful athletes physically pushed themselves to their limits to reach their final goals—completing the race, reaching the summit. And they had one thing in common: they taught themselves to embrace life outside their comfort zones. They became comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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Change your game, change your brain

If you have ever attained a physical goal like a 10-mile mountain hike, a 3-mile run, or whitewater rafting Class V rapids, a curious thing occurs. When you reach the end, you feel exhausted yet elated. You feel hot and sweaty. Your muscles are aching, maybe even screaming, and your body is shaking. Your heart is pounding. But you feel happy. You came, you saw, you conquered! Yes, it was difficult. Maybe even terrifying. That last part you pushed yourself through, just to reach the end, like Indiana Jones stretching out to grab the golden idol before the temple collapses.

Afterward, you may have high-fived your fellow rafters and chugged a quart of water, feeling like the king of the mountain. It was hard and you survived. Somehow facing the boss on Monday morning doesn’t feel so daunting. And that kid who got your sandwich order mixed up at lunch? You laugh it off. Your perspective on life has altered. Your brain has changed.

Psychotherapist and Counselor, Angela Percival explains[2] that the human brain continuously labels and uploads information. It constantly compares any new information it receives to its “library” of collected data, so when you are faced with something outside of your comfort zone like those finals or the dreaded meeting with the boss, it has nothing with which to compare it, and you get that uncomfortable, queasy feeling—your fear of the unknown.

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Percival goes on to say “the more uncomfortable and new experiences you go through, the more your brain realizes that you will be okay, because you did the unknown before and you survived,” so by all brain-logic, you will survive this too. As a result, you feel less stressed and more confident when venturing outside your comfort zone because you have made that place your new norm.

How to get comfortable with being uncomfortable

The more you wade outside of your comfort zone, the easier it becomes. Partaking in regular exercise to reach an athletic goal—whether it’s training for a marathon or building up the stamina to hike the Appalachian Trail, will improve a plethora of areas throughout your life.

Make a goal and write it down. Set up an action plan to work towards that goal. Use the baby-step process if you are a beginner; in other words, if you want to run a marathon and you don’t jog, start by walking. Download a health and fitness app on your phone to track your progress. Join a gym. Consider hiring a professional trainer. Enlist friends and family to help. And always consult your physician before partaking in any rigorous exercise.

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When you do something on a regular basis, it becomes a habit. If you exercise regularly with a set goal in your mind, you will push yourself towards that goal and it will become easier to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Reference

[1] Science of Us: How Exercise Shapes You
[2] Counselling-Directory.Org: Fear of the Unknown and How The Mind Works

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Sally White

writer, artist & blogger

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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