In the early ’90s, I started middle school. At the time, it was still called junior high. I remember it like it was yesterday … the big school … the multiple topics. It was scary stuff! Up until then, I was in one class with one teacher who taught many different subjects. But at junior high? This was the big leagues. We had different teachers for each class, different rooms for each topic, older kids, and electives.
It was terrifying. It was bad. I thought that this was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. And it took me out of my comfort zone because it involved change.
I got really comfortable in elementary school, perhaps even to boredom. But, at least it was predictable. The same thing each day. The same topics at the same time. The same pizza every Friday at the cafeteria. It was a predictable, consistent existence. And that’s good, right?
Well, one of the core attributes of humanity is the pursuit of comfort. We seek it in all that we do. Historically, the search for comfort had humble beginnings. It meant acquiring food, or shelter, or somewhere to be warm … out of the elements … not getting eaten. Even at a more basic level, it meant safety; somewhere to be where we felt secure.
In today’s world, comfort has taken on a far more indulgent position. Now, it is about what kind of car you drive or what kind of sushi you will eat at lunch. Or organic chicken. Or something at the fast food place. The choices are endless. The comfort is pervasive. Now, it’s about an abundance of places to live or work or study or be employed. Now, comfort has become so ingrained into who we are that anything that comes along to challenge it is seen as a threat; a threat to who we are, a threat to our comfort, a threat to our safety.
Change in the workplace is no different. It brings on a whole host of anxieties that I believe are programmed into the basic DNA of who we are. We hate change and fight it any chance we get. Whether it’s moving from one role to another or getting downsized or starting a new job, we fear change. We fear the unknown, the unfamiliar. But most of all, we fear change as it brings us out of our comfort zone.
However, change is the only thing that we can count on and rely on! Year after year, season after season. I often wonder why the old adage that says “the only thing you can count on is death and taxes” never included change because it is a consistent and ongoing story that is as old as time. Change stops for no one. It waits for nothing. It is one of the only things that we encounter over and over again throughout our lives. There is a constant flux of change that is right on the horizon, threatening to break our comfort zone.
It seems that change brings on a protectionism that is as strong a force as anything in nature. We fight change at work as if our primordial lives depend on it, as if we were seeking fire or shelter. Yet, it is just a shift in title or a change in some HR policy. No matter, we fight it as if our lives depend on it.
But we need to begin to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
You see, comfort is overrated. Because what you do with being uncomfortable defines how you succeed. The creator mindset is always looking at change as an opportunity. It looks at the uncomfortable being comfortable, a moment of profound consequence as the road you thought you were on suddenly shifts another way. It is within this shift that you can find an opportunity. And creativity lies in that opportunity. That opening finds possibility. It just takes a creative way of looking at the problem.
When we are stuck looking at a change in terms of what is “good” or what is “bad,” we lose the real meaning in change. That is – there is no meaning in change, no attribute we can define as being either positive or negative. And it drives us nuts! “You mean to tell me that getting fired was good? How will I feed my family or pay my bills?” you might ask. But the road of history is lined with events we might initially view as being negative or “bad,” only to find out later that they were actually a blessing in disguise.
Which is precisely what ended up happening to me in middle school. I was so bored in elementary school that the shift was a breath of fresh air. If it were up to me, I’d have stayed in elementary school forever. But, little did I know, the change to middle school was a blessing. I formed a band! I enjoyed the new and more challenging topics! I relished the freedom! And most of all, I learned that being uncomfortable from time to time was not such a bad thing.