Our ability to grow is directly proportional to our ability to entertain the uncomfortable.
–Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life
A recent email exchange within one of my coaching groups addressed our discomfort with being stretched outside our comfort zone. One of my colleagues, Carole, shared this recent story, which I share her with her permission:
“A few weeks ago my 97+ year old father-in-law died after the loving attentions of my mother-in-law could not sustain his life any longer. Although attempts by my husband and his numerous siblings have been made over the last few years to set up an alternative living arrangement, my mother-in-law was not ready to leave her home but has always been insecure about being alone (you can get locked out of the house just going out to your car to get something when you’re visiting because the doors are always set to the locked position).
Her daughters (one local, the other about an hour away) had been spending a lot of time at the family home as Pops’ days wound down and, for the first several days after the funeral, one daughter literally slept in the same bed with my mother-in-law to allow her to be comfortable staying in the house. Then, the following week, the day came when no one was available to spend the night (several in a row, in fact).
After the first night alone, I called my mother-in-law to see how she had fared. What she said was, “I did all right.” She talked about how she had gotten herself to sleep and how she had handled awaking in the middle of the night. And then, after a pause she said, “I had to prove to myself that I could do this.”
I was instantly struck by the fact that she had probably never anticipated that, at age 89, there would still be new challenges to face and to learning to experience!””
Carole’s story has been sitting with me for over a week, and I recently revisited it when one of my clients, a 30-something manager who just finished his MBA and has been promoted into a senior manager role, spoke of his discomfort with the frequent change in his workplace, saying, “You worked in Corporate America for a lot of years, Jim. What’s your guess on when this is going to level off for me?”
I just laughed. Yes, I’m sorry, it was very uncoach-like of me, but I just laughed maniacally for a minute. And when I could catch my breath again, I managed to squeeze out one word in between my spasms of laughter: NEVER!
And then I told him this story about Carole’s mother-in-law. “this is not about work,” I promised him. “It’s about life. Your experience in the world depends very much on how you view change — is it the enemy, to be resisted and fought at every turn…. or is it, simply, the Way Things Are?”
He withdrew the question. 🙂