Why there is comfort in being uncomfortable

When organisations get comfortable, breaking the mould becomes difficult over time and they become saddled in routines.

About the author

Prem Bhagat

Prem Bhagat, most recently HR Director of Redmart, is an HR Business Partner, and HR and Organisational Development expert with over 17 years of experience in IT, retail and start-up organisations. 

Human beings are capable of doing the unthinkable, that’s what makes them unique. To live life to its greatest potential, is the basic justice that humans can do for their existence. The biggest threat today as individuals and workers comes down to this: comfort over challenge.

There are numerous instances in our personal and professional lives which proves this point. A child is constantly cajoled before it surprises us. Acquiring a habit and then building on it further and taking a notch higher every time is what we are capable of. A successful regional manager thrives by managing the system, subscribes to a way of working and starts doing it repeatedly, gets habituated and gains a spot on the top right corner of the 9-block.

Getting too comfortable

We have seen examples of Ivy League graduates making a mark and replicating the behaviour to get comfortable. They master the art of winning and ensuring the status quo continues to make them winners all the time in the existing set-up.

On the other hand, we have great examples of people who have constantly challenged themselves and never got comfortable. Elon Musk is one of them, Usain Bolt, Roger Federer and numerous others. Folks above the age of 40 challenge themselves in endurance sports and make a mark. What differentiates them from the rest is their mental make-up.

The fact of the matter is that we get comfortable with consistency, and soon, breaking the mould becomes difficult. It deters us from having a different point of view or trying something new, and that’s the challenge with organisations today.

They get subjugated with the normal – reports and metrics. Innovation starts to take a back seat, making them inward-looking, which is the inability to see the changes outside by being too engrossed within. This has great impact across the organisation, most visibly the talent management system. This is because it fails to question “what’s next” and that is the greatest threat for organisations today.

Another case in point – Tom left a Fortune 500 company after spending 17 years. A loyalist quits to join a start-up. Rings a bell? We all know why: They want to be challenged. Their inherent desire to making a mark takes a toll and the unthinkable happens. Such instances are no longer an exception, they are on the rise. There’s a need to re-look the existing systems and processes. When there is no what next within, there will soon be where next, which is, unfortunately, becoming the new normal.

If you look within, clinging to the status quo reaps benefits for only a short while, before growth stagnates. This is when you need to challenge and build a culture of innovation. This zone of comfort is also the zone of the incumbents, very aptly described by the founder’s mentality.

From incumbent to insurgent

The key is to break this mentality and constantly strive to be an insurgent – one on a look out all the time. 

At an individual level, we know Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; safety needs form the basic level. It manifests from our childhood. How many times has one fallen to stand up again. What makes the impression, is the reaction of people around you while you were trying. The act of falling down and standing up becomes a habit, builds your character.

Unknowingly, the environment around us creates those safety nets which restrict us from living up to our full potential. And this differentiates the ones who get comfortable with the ones who love challenges. The concept of a growth mind-set emanates from this simple principle. In an organisational context, we need to create an environment where talent flourishes in its fullest potential, build a culture of openness, innovation and workplace civility which enables such a mind-set. 

Every individual has the potential to do more than what they are currently doing. A sense of purpose has to be the enabler of this progression. It needs to be constantly reinforced, reinvigorated, and that will set the individuals to unleash their potential for the organisation’s benefit.  

Today, information and opportunities are easy to get. There’s no better time for mankind to take the plunge and start doing what it's destined for. It’s for every individual to challenge themselves, without the constraints of organisational or societal norms and frameworks.

Organisations are missing the beat. If their employees are leaving or have left to make new beginnings, then they have missed the beat already.

Stop, think and do not get embroiled in your norms and frameworks. Distinguish between managing and developing. Do not get comfortable with the status quo, because that will make you perish. 

Stop betting on horses, start betting on humans instead!

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