3 reasons job satisfaction requires discomfort

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The rule of the human condition that everyone wishes were true is this one: follow these three steps and you will be rich beyond belief, happy beyond ecstasy, and deeply rewarded in your work. Tell yourself the reality: you know this is not true, but you wish for it anyway. I do too.

Yet, reality isn’t something we really do in work lives. We see the handwriting of layoffs on the wall through budget cuts, reorganizations, and bad news about our company on Wall Street and yet think that none of it applies to our job and income. We see the chaos of work or the entrenched interests that will never allow us to do what we think is the right approach to problems and we think if we only do ten more things (or cave on two more issues) that we will finally meet the Nirvana of job satisfaction.

Nope. Not going to happen. The truth is, getting to job satisfaction is hard. It takes work. It requires the right environment for the company, your coworkers and your manager. It means clear thinking on your part about what is really happening with your job and with your company.

Job satisfaction requires the job skill of discomfort in the face of doing satisfying work.

Adding job skills is not a walk in the park

Right now, I’m in the midst of upgrading my job skills by going after the pinnacle Project Management certification: the PMP. I’ve invested lots of dollars in joining the local Project Management Institute chapter, more dollars in taking an 11-week course to help pass the test, and then I will spend even more dollars to schedule the exam and apply for the certification.

Dollars, though difficult, is not as challenging as finding the time to do the studying necessary to get to the certification. Family time comes into play, changes in plans disrupt uninterrupted time slots for studying, and working out all the competing ways to study to match up with my own best method for learning at times is overwhelming.

Every certification, every upgrade in job skills is like this: it is hard work and it is not comfortable consistently blowing up your routine to improve your skills. But the best jobs with the most satisfaction potential are the ones where you have the matching job skills. Getting there is not comfortable and too many of us are reluctant to spend the energy to improve our skills.

Evaluating our job performance requires discomfort

Forget all the “performance review” stuff for your work out there for now. Take a hard look at your job performance. With flinty eyes, condescending looks, and with the air of superiority required to make sure you are really critical of the work you do and how you could improve.

It’s not comfortable doing that. But necessary to show the work required to improve what you do.

Reality sucks — so we ignore it

It’s easy to label oneself as “optimistic” or “pessimistic” or somewhere in-between. But what we too often do is see the writing on the wall — and ignore it. Whether it is in our relationships, our work, or our own internal signals from our brain and body, that little voice in our heads tells us bad things are happening and we ignore it.

We ignore all those signals because they make us uncomfortable. We don’t want to expend the energy for a real job search. We don’t want to face coworkers or our manager to share our viewpoint or get out of our rut to fight for satisfying work. It’s easier to cave. Easier to put off. Easier to delay. Easier to avoid the confrontation.

Getting comfortable with discomfort is a job skill

I’m not asking you to push yourself to be the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. I’m simply suggesting that where you are now requires you to not feel comfortable. The world is consistently changing — and so is your job. Finding and keeping work that is satisfying to you requires being comfortable with discomfort so you will continue to work to find job satisfaction.

How comfortable are you in your job right now?

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