C-Suite Network™

How To Embrace The Discomfort Of Learning

Don’t you wish learning was easy? Imagine speaking a new language fluently within weeks or becoming proficient on a musical instrument after a few lessons.

We all wish things came easily. The pain that comes with learning new skills isn’t something most of us enjoy, but it is necessary to get better at anything in life. I believe the discomfort that comes along with the unfamiliar is one reason we resist trying anything new.

It’s natural to want instant gratification. In my experience, we often desire immediate achievement so much that we typically choose short-term outcomes over making necessary efforts to create permanent change. But quickly does not always equal better. It is in the pain of discomfort that we grow.

One of the biggest issues I experience working with executives is their reluctance to embrace the pain of learning. They think the skills that brought them success are the only things required to remain successful. I disagree. Influence is essential to any leader’s success, and communication skills are essential to influence. Without a continual commitment to improve communication skills, influence won’t grow. Without influence, others won’t act upon what we have to say. When leaders lose influence, they are no longer successful or necessary in their role.

Whether you are trying to influence your team, a prospect or a board of directors, your ability to guide their actions rests on your ability to communicate skillfully. Improvement requires an ongoing commitment to the discomfort of learning.

Here’s how to overcome four common excuses people make to avoid the discomfort of learning:

1. ‘I feel awkward.’

When we learn new skills, we feel robotic and unnatural. What you’re learning isn’t a normal part of your typical behavior. It’s going to be uncomfortable, like when we are learning a new sport. In the beginning, we are clumsy and awkward. Our bodies hurt and our muscles ache. As time goes on, however, we conquer those early skills and become more proficient. We hurt less as everything becomes a natural reflex.

The same goes for improving communication skills. When we learn a new skill, incorporating it can often make our speech feel clumsy. We second-guess ourselves because nothing feels natural about the changes we make. Growth, however, resides on the other side. With practice, our skills become a permanent part of who we are and how we communicate. That’s when we become influential with our ideas, and our words are impactful.

2. ‘I don’t have time.’

Unlike learning a new sport, language, or instrument, improving communication skills doesn’t require additional time to practice. It’s a matter of merely incorporating what you’ve learned into conversations. Day-to-day conversations are less intimidating and offer more opportunities to improve your skills than a high-stakes situation.

 3. ‘I’m already an effective communicator.’

Just imagine if Michael Jordan used this same logic with his basketball skills. What if he looked at his coach and said, “I’m already the best basketball player of all time. I don’t need to get better.” The very best in arts, music, and sports know that with excellence comes a continual need for improvement. When we do the work and commit to practice, we see the most significant benefits.

Temporary stress and discomfort can help us reap the rewards of increased competence. Professional athletes and musicians spend hours each week practicing their skills. This doesn’t count the time they spend contemplating and preparing for their next goal. Imagine how influential you would become if you dedicated yourself in each conversation throughout the 40-hour workweek to improving your communication skills.

4. ‘It’s not getting easier.’

Learning a new skill forces us to evolve. As soon as it becomes natural in our daily behavior, it’s time to push harder and learn more. Practice pays off, but with practice comes more opportunity for improvement. Pain is an indication that you’re learning. The longer you feel it, the more you know it’s working.

Stop expecting to be an overnight success. You are trying to develop new habits and skills that force the mind to remap its way of thinking. This takes time, especially if you want permanent results.

There are no shortcuts in learning or skills improvement. A commitment to continual practice creates the momentum and habits necessary to get better. If you want to grow your influence and make an impact on others, you must do the work required to improve your communication skills.

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