You can’t be a successful entrepreneur if you’re afraid of being uncomfortable. Strange as that may sound, it’s a reality you’re going to have to face if you want to own and grow a business. Countless entrepreneurs, from Richard Branson to Mark Zuckerberg, have professed the importance of taking chances and pushing yourself past your “comfort zone,” but what does that actually mean?
And how on earth are so many entrepreneurs able to tolerate immense mental discomfort and do things that scare, intimidate or otherwise cause them distress?
The power of discomfort
First, you have to understand why “discomfort,” specifically, is so powerful. It’s not necessarily the discomfort you feel that has any measurable impact on your life; instead, it's usually a symptom associated with positive entrepreneurial practices. Here are some examples:
- Trying new things. Most people aren’t comfortable trying new things; comfort is a result of familiarity. But trying new things is vital if you want to be a seasoned, informed entrepreneur. You have to understand how the world works and how people’s minds work; and you need to be aware of competitors, potential partnerships, and variables that could impact your work. Any “new” foray will give you some kind of experience -- whether it’s bungee jumping or the spiciest wings on the menu about either the world or yourself. The more diverse your experiences are, the more you’ll be able to master your product's and business’ designs.
- Moving past fear. You’ll experience significant fear before and throughout your time as an entrepreneur. You could lose some important funding, or a major client, or you could push yourself to the financial brink. Being able to move past that fear requires some acceptance of discomfort; otherwise, you may cave in to an easier choice, like quitting and walking away.
- Calculated risks. Starting a business is a risk in itself, but you’ll also face smaller risks throughout your tenure. Being able to take those risks (when they are calculated and carefully considered) is necessary to become more than an “average” business owner. Taking risks is uncomfortable, but over time, they’ll pay off.
- Meeting new people. Going new places or interacting with strangers is an easy way to meet new people who exist outside your current social bubble. Why is that important? For starters, meeting new people is a way to learn new perspectives, and improves your ability to relate to others, which is enormously helpful when designing a product or pitching a business. Plus, every new person you meet is another potential follower or connection in your network.
How to get more comfortable
So, if being uncomfortable is important and is such a frequent feature of entrepreneurship, how can you make yourself more comfortable with it? Here are some possible approaches:
- Embrace the power of discomfort. First, try to see discomfort as a motivational tool or a reward for doing something new. Thrill-seekers find enjoyment in those pit-of-your-stomach feelings that many of us find uncomfortable or unsettling; try tapping into that mindset and remind yourself that discomfort is a sign you’re doing something right.
- Find short-term coping strategies. Discomfort is purely a mental feeling, and in time it will pass. If you’re experiencing it acutely, you need short-term coping strategies to help you move past it. Try breathing exercises, stretching, positive visualization or even brief periods of meditation. Different things work better for different people, but you need something to help you get by.
- Engage with your peers. You aren’t the only entrepreneur out there, and you aren’t the only one struggling with discomfort. Find solace in the other people around you, and share stories about how you’ve managed to get through discomfort on your own. Together, you’ll be stronger, and more willing to push past your limits.
- Find people to challenge you. It’s hard to accomplish anything on your own, so go out of your way to surround yourself with people who are going to challenge you. Find partners, mentors, employees or even friends who want to see you succeed and aren’t afraid to tell you to move out of your comfort zone.
- Take baby steps. Finally, don’t try to go from being passive to being a thrill-seeking risk-taker overnight. You aren’t going to change your personality, and you can’t change your mind that radically. Instead, work on taking baby steps. Start with confronting your discomfort in minor situations, and scale up your efforts from there.
If you want to become a successful business owner, you'd better get used to being uncomfortable. It may not come easy, but it is an obstacle that can be overcome with willpower and determination.
Discomfort is purely in the mind, and if you ignore it in favor of your intelligently calculated risks and commitment to diversifying your experiences, you’ll wind up benefiting from the endeavor.