How to Fight Through Intellectual Discomfort

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4 Ways to beat that “Damn, this is going to be hard” feeling.

For professional athletes, facing and overcoming pain, adversity, and discomfort is all part of a day’s work. Knowledge workers, the majority of the workforce today, encounter a different type of adversity — intellectual discomfort.

You know the feeling of intellectual discomfort. It’s that gut reaction you feel when you prepare to start a project, and, as you skim the document, you think to yourself, Damn, this is going to be hard.

This will push your intellectual capacity. And that feels challenging, overwhelming and scary. In this moment, you might stall. You might even choose to give up. Or worse – not even give it a shot, delegating it to someone else. This is the work you know you were born to break through to get to your best future self.

Just like how athletes must practice to be comfortable in discomfort, you must as well if you hope to improve your skills and advance your career. The hard stuff, the stuff you’d rather skip or do later is often the stuff that’s most necessary. Every time we choose to play it safe or bypass challenging intellectual prompts, we impede our ability to innovate and grow, waste our own (or our company’s) money, and squander our talent.

Just like how athletes must practice to be comfortable in discomfort, you must as well if you hope to improve your skills and advance your career.

So why do we avoid intellectual discomfort? Because it requires our deepest level of thought, attention, and presence – much of which we’ve lost touch with as a result of full inboxes, the growing number of social media platforms, and media content that updates constantly. Deeply intellectual work is soul work that takes more time and energy. And it goes against the ways we’ve conditioned ourselves to work – on autopilot. We observe life versus engaging in it, whether we mechanically scroll through our social media feed to distract ourselves or use apps to make every step of our day more mindless.

 

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