Imagine this. You are in a bookshop. There are two books before you. The first is The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien and the second is 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Now let’s say you’re a huge Lord of the Rings fan. Obviously, the very sight of The Hobbit makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. On the other hand, 1Q84 with its strange cover and even stranger premise (a city with two moons, huh?) is seductive but fills you with a vague discomfort. What is this book about? Just go with The Hobbit. Correct?
But if I were you, I’d go with 1Q84.
Because I believe the discomfort the book brings is not a warning sign, but a wake-up call. It’s your mind telling you, ‘There is something for you here. Something new. Open it.’ But our physiological brains are so hardwired for self-preservation that we adopt a knee-jerk reaction to anything new. We shut new things out. Because new is capable of hurting us. If you go with 1Q84, Murakami’s bizarre imagination and tedious descriptions might bore the daylights out of you eventually. Or maybe the book will blow your mind. But one thing is certain: where The Hobbit will only add to what you know, 1Q84 will give you new ideas, new systems of thought, and a new vocabulary.
And yet, day after day, in the vast libraries of our lives, we choose The Hobbit, not 1Q84 – at work, in relationships, everywhere. We choose the known and avoid the unknown.
But do this exercise for me.
List down 3 things you have accomplished in your life that you’re really proud of. I mean things people know you for and talk about till this day.
Done? Now read them. Remember the circumstances that birthed them.
You will see that all those things did not come from comfort zones. They came from wild ambition, doubts, setbacks, nervous energy and the profound, maddening desire to do something ‘else.’
When our best work comes from a sense of discomfort, a vague sense of possibility, then why do we crave order and familiarity so much?
Because of the way our brains are wired.
Because of in-built stories: This is how people before me did it. This is the logical, globally cool way of doing it. If I don’t follow the rule, I will fail. My spouse and kids and parents will be disappointed. I won’t be able to live with myself.
But these stories are not ours. They are evolutionary by-products. To continue to live under their spell is, as the Buddha said, ‘to carry a boat on our heads long after we have crossed the river.’
Put down the boat.
Lean into what’s uncomfortable.
Your worst fears will not come true. In fact, they never come true.
Do one every day that makes you uncomfortable.
Use the right stories when you lean in.
This is a difficult conversation. He is very mad right now. I don’t like it. But I have to find a way to have this conversation so we can grow as a team. I can’t keep living in fear.
What the client is asking me to do is a pain. But it is a chance to create something even better than what we have now.
My kid is going ballistic again but she is not a bad person. I am not going to shout. I am going to stand here and talk reason and talk it calmly until she either understands or cools down.
It’s human to crave order and predictability. But only by leaning into what’s uncomfortable do we grow and pave the way for chapter two.
So the next time you hear the call of the uncomfortable, don’t fight or run. Lean into it. Something new will arise. And if you’re in doubt, remember your best work and what drove it.
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a leadership & transformation coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.
Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, business coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.