Stress. Anxiety. Overwhelm. Call it what you want, running a small business can be extremely uncomfortable. (Heck, writing this blog is uncomfortable.) And, if we’re not paying attention, the discomfort experienced prompts us to disconnect from whatever we’re working on. Sadly, this pattern of disconnection negatively influences our ability to perform.
The Angst of Entrepreneurship
What makes a small business owner uncomfortable? Everything!
Networking. Inefficiency of scale. Client acquisition. Cash flow. Too much to do and not enough time in which to do it all properly or well.
Angst is a small business owner’s constant companion until the pain and discomfort — the stress and anxiety — cause us to abandon our optimistic plans of the day. We jump ship for lesser anxiety producing activities…like email. Like rearranging chairs on the Titanic, a new day dawns and we repeat the process.
Growing a business is certainly not for the faint of heart.
The Quest For Our Comfort Zone
My comfort zone is my happy place. It’s where I am least anxious and stressed. It’s also where my ability to perform is muffled.
Author, lecturer, and consultant, Alistair White, defines a comfort zone as “a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”
Some anxiety is good. In fact, I would argue that a little anxiety is needed to fuel performance. Leveraged risk is necessary for business growth. The key is to move beyond our comfort zone without entering the dreaded danger zone that causes us to abandon ship.
5 Ways to Move Beyond Discomfort to Performance
- Understand the comfort-discomfort-performance cycle. To borrow a phrase from NBC, “the more you know” the easier it is to withstand periods of intense discomfort. Sustained time spent in the discomfort zone lends itself to higher levels of performance — and an expansion of your comfort zone.
See? It really isn’t you. It’s the cycle!
- Make confusion your BFF. Many small business owners internalize their confusion and anxiety. Statements such as, “what’s wrong with me” or “this is too hard” or “I’m never going to get this” frequently dot the horizon of our coaching meetings.
Yet, according to Charles Handy, author of The Empty Raincoat, a time of great confusion exists between current performance and new performance. This confusion lends itself to moments of anxiety and fear. Although not yet part of the danger zone (see #1) our desire to seek comfort and equilibrium causes one to abandon discomfort. The rejection of distress and craving for contentment upsets performance.
The human intellect, however, is an incredible resource. Armed with an understanding of the confusion to new performance route improves our ability to endure the discomfort.
Ahhh, the angst and joy of being human!
- Select goals at the edge of discomfort. Not to be confused with pessimism, an overly optimistic expectation of success not grounded in data — or reality — activates panic and angst. It lights up the danger zone (see #1) and drives you screaming into your comfort zone. This is likely the origin of the well-known phrase, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Business planning, by itself, seldom creates fear and anxiety. Rather, it is the implementation that sparks fear, throwing one over the edge of discomfort into the danger zone.
A giant step forward can trigger neglect, failure, and disregard for your goals during implementation. Rather, select goals at the edge of your discomfort and clearly out of the danger zone. Temper your expectancy with 90-day targets, each being 10% more than the previous target. Believe it or not, even at a 10% improvement in performance, results will double in less than 18 months.
- Be crystal clear on your goals. During a recent coaching conversation, I asked my client his goal for the next 90 days. He rattled off several things he was going “to do.” Sadly, the confusion between tactics and goals is the reason many small business owners having too much to do and not enough time in which to get it all done.
Getting things done is not the same as achieving your goals (and getting results that grow your business). So, be very clear on what you intend to achieve, not accomplish.
- Work with a business coach. What do you do when you’re looking to avoid activities that leave you feeling uncomfortable? Perhaps you schedule an unnecessary meeting, get stuck in your inbox, or spend time poking around on Facebook. If you want to prevent learned helplessness from becoming your thing, you want to engage a coach.
A business coach is worth their weight in gold when it comes to providing support, tools, tactics, and actionable advice that moves you into a higher level of performance.
Are you ready to take a journey to move away from comfort and endure some discomfort for greater performance and better results?