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Can You Transform Without Getting Uncomfortable?

Can You Transform Without Getting Uncomfortable?

    Here’s one of my theories on success:

    Hypothesis: There is a positive correlation between how uncomfortable an individual is prepared to get and their likelihood of success – irrespective of the field of endeavour.

    I came to this conclusion after decades of incidental and intentional research, exploration and observation.

    The Genesis of My Company

    I remember when I signed a commercial lease for the first time to secure a building and open my first training centre twenty years ago. Yes, I’m that old. I was twenty-six. I had no business experience, no assets (to speak of), owned no property and had zero experience as an employer. I put every cent I had into the business set-up and was left with less than a hundred dollars in the bank. I signed a lease committing me to a rent of six hundred dollars per week for the next three years. To me at that time, thirty thousand dollars a year was almost incomprehensible. I felt physically ill as I signed the papers. It may as well have been six million dollars a week – so nervous and stressed was I. To say I was uncomfortable is a massive understatement. I didn’t sleep properly for weeks. If there was another way, I would have chosen it. There wasn’t, so I got uncomfortable.

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    It worked out okay.

    Speaking

    I remember my first professional speaking gig. I was terrible. And terrified. Some of you have heard the story but the short version is that I sweated so much before my gig (yep before) that I had to dry my shirt with a hand dryer in a public bathroom before I could walk into the room. Classy, I know. I feel sorry for my audience (and the people who witnessed the shirt-drying fiasco) but I could never have delivered my thousandth presentation (which I did long ago) without doing that horrible initial one.

    University

    I also remember my first day of university as a thirty-six year-old who had never used a computer, never sat in a lecture theatre and who hadn’t studied formally for eighteen years. To be honest, I never really studied formally – even at school. I did more study in my first week of college than I did in thirteen years of primary and secondary schools combined. There I sat in an auditorium full of tech-savvy, computer-literate, fresh-out-of-school, eighteen year-olds who had never heard of black and white TV, Jackson Browne or the Eagles. Shameful. In my first class I had to ask the lecturer what a mouse, a hard-drive, a floppy disk (not what I pictured) and cursor were. He thought I was kidding. For two months I typed at the devastating speed of five words per minute. Unless they had more than two syllables – then I dropped back to four words. In the first week I actually paid a kid to give me remedial computer lessons between classes. She thought it was hilarious. And profitable. For the entire first semester I felt like a total fraud who should have been somewhere (anywhere) else. Socially, technically, academically and emotionally I was uncomfortable every day for most of the first year of my degree. Three years later I was a university lecturer. With a published book – typed by me! (Slightly faster than five words per minute too.)

    Being Full Figured. Thick Set. Stocky. Big-Boned… er… Fat

    Then there was my first ever run as an obese teenager. I was in year eight, weighed 90 kilos (198lbs) and was more suited to sitting or shuffling than I was to running. As much as it (and the subsequent hundred runs) hurt, I knew that nothing could be as painful as the social and emotional rejection that accompanied being a fat kid. So running it was. Discomfort it was. Five months after my first (painfully slow) jog and 30 kilos (66lbs) lighter, I was an endorphin junkie; addicted to the high that running gave me.

    Where there’s discomfort, there’s growth. Where there are barriers, there are lessons. And where there is adversity, there is strength to be found and potential to be explored.

    Building a Blog

    Being a person who writes for an audience can be both gratifying and terrifying. Nobody likes criticism but I get it every day. Not some days, every day. Most bloggers with a large readership do. Or maybe it’s just me. Have enough readers and someone will hate you or hate what (or how) you write; it’s unavoidable. While writing for a high-traffic interactive blog like this one can be a stimulating, challenging, exciting and rewarding experience, it can also be freakin’ uncomfortable. Putting your thoughts, ideas and beliefs out there opens you up for all kinds of.. er… feedback. The truth is that, in order to create one of the best personal development resources in the world (one of my goals), I need to get uncomfortable often. That discomfort might come in the form of less-than-desirable feedback from a reader. It might come in the form of physical pain (back and neck mostly for me) which comes with too many hours spent at a keyboard. Or, it might simply be the reality of having to sacrifice certain things (for a period of time) in order to build and maintain the kind of resource that’s representative of my philosophy and consistent with my standards. Is it all worth it? Absolutely. Is it easy? Nope. It is uncomfortable? Often. Do I know why most bloggers throw in the towel before their site is a year old? Yep – because creating a high-quality site (and getting traffic to that site) is more work and effort than most people would ever imagine.

    My Research Centre

    Working on a gym floor for decades has been the perfect ‘laboratory’ for me to test the above hypothesis. You don’t need to be a genius to realise that people who are committed to being ‘comfortable’ (versus productive) in the gym are also the ones who are committed to staying where they are (consciously or not) – metaphorically speaking. I’ve always been amused by people who pay for a membership and turn up at the gym regularly, only to go-through-the-motions month after month. It is their lack of willingness to get uncomfortable (not their genetics, age or physical potential) which stands between them and their best body. Or, at the very least, a better body. Why do you think Australians spend over two million dollars every day on weight-loss pills, powders and potions when they could simply eat less and move more to get the job done? Because they want the results without the discomfort; that’s why. After all, progressive exercise programs and controlled calorie intakes ain’t much fun – so pills it will be. For some.

    Major Discomfort

    And then there are those people who will deal with a level of discomfort that the rest of us wouldn’t even want to consider. Aaron Ralston is an adventure dude who famously cut off his own right arm to free himself after a tragic hiking accident. Here’s a snapshot of his story (as shared on msnbc.com):

    Ralston’s gripping story captured the world’s imagination back in April 2003. Known for being a daredevil, Ralston, now 32, went mountain-climbing in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. And not only did he travel solo – he neglected to tell anyone about his trip.

    Ralston fell into a crevice, dislodging an 800-pound boulder in the process, and the slab pinned him against a canyon wall. After five days trying to lift and break the boulder, he came to an agonizing decision: He had to cut off the lower part of his lifeless right arm. Ralston managed to snap the bones of his arm against the rock, and then used the dull blade of a multi-use tool to cut through the tissue around his broken arm. He used pliers to sever the tendons and finally extricated himself.

    Ralston then rappelled down a 65-foot wall. He had begun an 8-mile (13 km) hike back to his vehicle when a vacationing family met up with him on the trail and called for help. After months of rehabilitation, Ralston returned to an active lifestyle and even resumed climbing. Two years after his accident, he climbed 14,000-foot peaks in his native Colorado with the help of a prosthetic right hand.

    But…

    Now, I know what you’re thinking: “but Craig, he was in a life or death situation”. I agree, the circumstances were extreme but it’s my belief that the vast majority of people finding themselves in a similar situation would simply have perished out there. The prospect of cutting off any limb (especially one attached to our own body!) is simply something that would be too much for most people to deal with.

    Or perhaps I’m wrong?

    In that moment, that place and that situation, success (living) for Aaron meant getting very (very) uncomfortable. And not only did he choose to deal with the physical discomfort (discomfort doesn’t really seem adequate does it?), but can you even begin to imagine the psychological and emotional discomfort that would accompany such a decision and action? It’s amazing what we can tolerate (how uncomfortable we can get) and how much power, strength and ability we can tap into when we believe we have no other option.

    When we take away the safety net (the one we always give ourselves) it’s amazing what we can do.

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    While there are many variables which play a role in the transformational process (vision, planning, preparation, goal-setting, talent, knowledge, support, etc.), it’s my experience that the person with every ingredient except a willingness to get uncomfortable, is the person who will fail. Time after time. Once we acknowledge (and accept) that lasting transformation can only occur when we face our fears and choose to get uncomfortable on a regular basis, then we begin to move from self-limitation to self-empowerment.

    So, what is it you’re after – comfort or transformation?

    Image: mccheek

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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