I can practically hear the retort with my own two ears, even though you’re merely thinking it: No way! My job is where I earn my paycheck. How could it be ruining my life?

Because your paycheck is much smaller than it could be, and because you and the executives above you are resistant to change.

Why are you and the leaders above you resistant to change?

Because it’s uncomfortable.

The sad part?

Discomfort is the only way companies and individuals can grow.

Discomfort is the only way we can progress—not just in our careers, but as parents, spouses, siblings, and friends. Given that the average American spends more time at work than he or she does with his family, impinging growth at work sets the same tone for all other facets of our lives, resulting in us having ourselves boxed in to mediocrity.

No matter what your objective, only your ability to endure discomfort will give you the desired outcome. But discomfort needn’t be feared. Rather, regularity should be feared—after all, it’s what keeps us from growing.

Bill Eckstrom recently delivered a brilliant TED Talk on the downfalls of comfort, and it’s remarkably applicable to not just our lives, but how we operate on the job or in our office.

Although Eckstrom begins the talk by recounting an instance of his career where he was fired from a cozy position as an executive at a large company, the tenets of this talk can be woven into our office routine to maximize our own potential and growth as professionals, primarily when it comes to adopting new technology to optimize desired business outcomes.

As unfamiliar with technology as we may be, it’s a crucial component of the numerous changes organizations must make to grow the aptitude and skill of their employees. Additionally, through Eckstrom’s instructive talk, we can learn how overcoming discomfort with technology can develop our professional growth.  

Eckstrom’s Growth Rings

These represent working environments that promote or hinder growth—from a place at work to a fish bowl. Just as the size of a goldfish is dictated by its environment, the size of our skills as workers is dictated by the environments in which we work.

While this goldfish lives in an extremely safe environment, it’s also limited by living in a fishbowl. Put the fish in a small pond, and it will grow and adapt to its environment.

However, it also means that fish can be eaten—certainly not possible in a small fish tank. And just as a fish can be eaten, a person can be consumed by his or her office environment. Most paper-dependent offices, in fact, consume their employees’ skills, squandering their talent on tasks that require no more than a third-grade education.  

Stagnation Growth Ring

Eckstrom maintains that in this growth ring, there are too many hindrances to independent thought and action. Although this ring of existence is conducive to comfort, it is impossible of facilitating growth. If you work in a job where comfort and routine is the norm, no promise of upward mobility from within the company will give you the skills you need to accept the promotion with confidence, as you will be no different 2 years from now as you are today.

If we learn to use technology like a document management system to break free of stagnation and increase productivity, we will grow our skills in our occupation and free up the resources necessary to do so, which can put us in the correct mode of discomfort.

The only reason that using paper documents to complete work related tasks doesn’t lead to recognizable discomfort is because most workers aren’t aware of how huge their role in ruining their jobs is. The average knowledge worker employee wastes 30% of his or her day searching for, storing, and handling paper documents.

Once a document management system is implemented, it can help employees create the kind of discomfort that will sharpen and hone their skills, instead of the discomfort that just wastes their time.  

Complexity Growth Ring

Complexity is just changed order according to Eckstrom. But when that order is altered, you can no longer predict outcomes and this unpredictability fosters growth.

If we seek complexity over order and chaos, it’s the only way we can grow in dramatic and meaningful fashion.  

Complexity Trigger 1: Coercion into Complexity

If you lose a job, complexity is forced upon you. And how much you grow depends on how you respond to the circumstance. This is truly reminiscent of a “flight or fight” response. Sometimes these scenarios are blessings in disguise, as they can force us to grow even though we aren’t willing to.

If we force ourselves to change our habits while on the job, either by risk of losing that job or through a poor performance review, we are more likely to summon the mental stamina we need to overcome complexity and succeed in our careers.  

Complexity Trigger 2: Rely on Others to Push You

This is what turns a mediocre employee, athlete, manager, coach, or friend into the greatest of their kind—the ability to push and inspire others to attain greatness.

When we are in this stage of complexity in our goals, it’s imperative to have someone to continually push us in this stage.

Although some people are intrinsically motivated enough to accomplish this on their own, most people need an advocate or trainer to push them. This is why when eFileCabinet works with new companies, we employ trainers to help businesses adjust to the use of an electronic document management system.

Simon Sinek, another TED Talk speaker, has mentioned that he even hires someone to “babysit” him while he works. This way he can more easily ensure he is productive and growing.

Sinek even mentions in an interview of his own that most of our attitudes at work today and lack of toughness are the byproduct of failed parenting strategies, and that these failed parenting strategies stem from parents’ inability to push their children through complexity.

Instead, most parents default to restoring order in the lives of their distressed children—hindering their growth and limiting their potential. The same relationship is manifested in the workplace through managers and their subordinates.

Insomuch, it’s so important to fail and learn from failure, and not let the experience of it damage our ability to expose ourselves to greater degrees of complexity.

If we can manage to do this, it will take a far greater degree of complexity to push us to our breakdown tipping point, and the cycle of growth will continue.  

Complexity Trigger 3: Trigger Complexity Yourself

This is the holy grail of self-empowerment. Eckstrom advances in his talk by illustrating what makes his idea of growth so powerful—the fact that anyone can trigger complexity to stimulate growth, and at any time.

Finding motivation to do this isn’t as hard as it may seem. All that it requires is realizing that after a lifetime of self-imposed complexity, very little will be able to shake you and you will be better equipped to handle the challenges of life and help others overcome these challenges, too.

If we are ever to become competent and reach what psychologist Abraham Maslow called “self-actualization,” we must set complexity seeking events in motion to not only demonstrate our locus of control, but also grow to become the best professionals possible.  

Order Growth Ring

Most people spend the bulk of their time in this circle. This is when you know what you do will lead to a specific outcome.

However, this is dangerous because every time you do something the same way, you’ll stop growing and becoming better at your job, and or smarter altogether. Most people will remain in this growth ring for their entire lives.  

Chaos Growth Ring

Chaos can c be created by all kinds of conditions—whether internal or external. This can occur during a merger or adjoining of companies or natural disasters. In this growth stage, there is no predictability. Although it fosters great growth, jumping into this deep end without having swum in uncomfortable waters can be debilitating and incur negative effects if not handled properly.

Our ability to not just accept, but seek out discomfort as a growth facilitator will determine how much we and those around us will grow, and this will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of our organizations in reaching their broader objectives.

If we can learn to delay gratification, we will also learn to embrace discomfort, and we have Eckstrom’s incredible TED Talk to thank for this.