Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Oct. 12, 2023

This issue of AMT has a throughline of safety running between its pages. I noticed it as we were putting together the issue; it wasn’t something the AMT team planned when we initially put together our ideas for this edition.

Yet, that’s kind of how safety operates in life. I’d wager most people don’t think about safety until it’s in their face, hopefully because it was there rather than not. A bump cap saving you from a bruised scalp, rather than receiving a headache, for example.

Most people, outside of daredevils and thrill seekers, are not actively looking to put themselves in unsafe conditions – particularly not at work. It’s why they’re called accidents and they usually happen when people become complacent, assuming instead of verifying.

I’ve never liked the word “complacent,” though. It has a negative connotation and no one wants to think of themselves in the negative, so we say to ourselves “I would never become complacent.” But complacency only happens when a person has been operating in certain ways or under certain conditions long enough to become comfortable with them, regardless of what is truly safe or not. Comfort is the keyword. Comfort is the root of complacency.

We could all stand to get a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

And that’s hard to do, I’ll be the first to admit. We’re mammals, our biology has us wired to avoid stress and seek peace; we’re all about comfort at the end of the day. But that can mean you avoid the stress of double-checking work, leaning instead into the comfort of routine. It can be comfortable working in unsafe ways. Even more problematic is being so comfortable you don’t want to acknowledge accidents waiting to happen.

Being uncomfortable spurs us to fix and improve conditions so we can be comfortable – so people can be safe.

So, take some time in your day to get uncomfortable. Take a hard look at yourself, what could you improve? Walk around your hangar. What do you see that don’t want to? Open lines of dialogue with your colleagues and employees and be open to the potential of constructive criticism.