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Personal Growth Through Discomfort

Delivering a full day’s worth of education to a 25-strong class of 13-year olds is definitely NOT my day job but that is where I found myself one bright day early in June.

I had signed-up for some volunteering with Junior Achievement, a charity which delivers programmes on the topics of work readiness, understanding business and entrepreneurship to school children.

It seemed like a great idea at the time. As a Business Analyst I have gleaned plenty of bits of information about structures and methods of successful companies and as a consultant I had plenty to share about differences in various workplaces and how to add a bit of entrepreneurship to extend your offering.

But now I was faced with at least 5 hours of educating teens in workplace behaviours, job choices, pay checks and budgeting.

Why did I do it? I can’t pretend that it’s for selfless philanthropy, no, it was to expand my comfort zone.

Why is important?

My current read is a book by Professor of Psychology Jordan B Peterson, 12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos. In it he discusses two states; “Order” the known, the structured, the disciplined, almost habitual part of our existence and “Chaos”, the unknown, the unfamiliar, the blind-siding situations that make us uncomfortable, anxious, scared even. From that description Chaos is something we would want to avoid at all costs. However, our existence spans both Order and Chaos at any time to a greater or lesser degree. Peterson writes: “To straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced: to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos, possibility, growth and adventure.” “Order is not enough. You can’t just be stable and secure, and unchanging, because there are still vital and important new things to be learned”

In order to grow and to learn we need to push ourselves, temporarily be in our discomfort zone, embrace just the right amount of Chaos.

This is especially important for Business Analysts. We are constantly learning. We need to learn in order to represent stakeholders well, to find new ways to work, to be more effective, to increase our knowledge base and skillset. We grow in our knowledge of our business domain, our soft skills and our technical understanding. This will naturally happen just by performing our day job, but it will be exponentially enhanced if we actively pursue things outside of our comfort zone.


How do we go about it?

Be a bit courageous. Aristotle wrote “An individual develops courage by doing courageous acts.” The more we venture into brave new worlds the better we will be at doing it. We will expand our comfort zone.

Some ideas for moving out of or expanding our comfort zone might be simply to “speak up”. If we’re not the sort to share ideas, concerns, proposals for solutions in a group situation then giving ourselves a little nudge into the unfamiliar might yield much benefit. We will feel the satisfaction of having contributed and could learn much about ourselves and what motivates us. On the subject of assertiveness, Psychology Today notes “Being assertive is associated with a number of benefits, ranging from less anxiety and depression to a greater sense of agency and better relationships.”

A further step might be to share our skills. I delivered a number of “lunch and learn” sessions on the subject of using games in the workplace. This had interested me after reading Gamestorming – A toolkit for innovators, rule-breakers and changemakers by Gray, Brown and JMacanufo. In order to deliver the session, I had to do plenty or research, learn new skills in a presentation package, develop some vaguely interesting content and organise the events. Maybe this is an endeavour that we could embark upon; to organise something to share our abilities, interests, experience or knowledge with others?

We could also volunteer for activities that are a little (or a lot) outside of our normal role. Inevitably there are always “all-hands-to-the-pump” situations at critical moments of our projects. Maybe we could try triaging defects, allocating work, producing data reports, floor-walking at post implementation, covering Project Manager holidays or similar if we haven’t done that before.

It might be that we don’t normally delve into a highly technical realm; how about we take a course or read that highly-specialised document?

Pick something, a little something, and test it out. Analyse what benefits you have got out of it and how you have grown.

All of this might make you feel anxious or it might make you feel excited, maybe both. That’s no bad thing. A 2017 Study entitled “Must We Suffer to Succeed? When Anxiety Boosts Motivation and Performance” indicates that anxiety, when positively viewed, increases energy levels and results in improved performance.

As Eleanor Roosevelt purportedly said: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

How will you grow today?